Feasting on a dead Common Flameback

posted in: Feeding-invertebrates | 4

“On 18th April 2009, I decided to check on the dead Common Flameback’s (Dinopium javanense) condition (see HERE for the earlier post). On arrival at about 10.00 am at my favorite forest patch, the carcass was still hanging by the neck, the bill still firmly stuck to the branch of the Casuarina tree (Casuarina equisetifolia).

“The carcass attracted two Common Flamebacks. They arrived calling out loudly in a very excited manner, hopping about and checking the carcass closely.

“Darn it! My equipment was still in the boot of my car. So things came out in double quick time. Just then the female flameback attacked the carcass (above). White maggots were extricated from the carcass (below) and ants got onto the female bird’s body, which she quickly shrugged them off in a very vigorous fashion.

“The male did not participate in the attack of the carcass. It just hung around looking at what the female was doing. The continuous plunging of the very sharp bill into the carcass was so vigorous that the carcass got dislodged from the branch and fell to the ground.

“With the carcass on the ground, the male flameback went to check the hole where the dead bird had been stuck. No, it did not try to peck into the hole, it just looked very closely into it and then moved off.

“The two flamebacks followed the carcass to the ground, pecking away at the dead bird. I was not able to document the ground action because of the thick vegetation. Only after clearing the vegetation was I able to take some shots of the dead bird, covered with flies (above).”

KC Tsang
19th April 2009

Note: The flies seen in the last image are blow flies (F: Calliphoridae), looking like house flies but larger, with large red eyes and metallic looking bodies that are bluish or green. They lay their eggs in the mouth, nostrils or any shaded crevices on the carcass. The larvae or maggots develop within a few days and actively feed on the dead tissues, soon completely stripping the flesh, leaving only the feathers and bones. The female flameback that visited the carcass was obviously picking on the maggots. Check out what happens to a dead bird HERE.


4 Responses

  1. If you could retrieve the beak and have a close examination, it might help explain the inextricable truth? In nature any freak accident can happen to the most endowed, I guessed. This could be a death by broken neck arising from a panic and the combination of an off-balanced slip from the branch while the bill was still stuck in it, I would think.

  2. I’m very curious as to what the thin white coils are. To me it appear to be made of plastic but if I’m not wrong, one end seems to be originating from the dead bird’s throat and another appears to be coiling around the tree branch that the carcass had fallen next to. What can it be ?

  3. I have consulted my guru… Personally, I think the coils round the dead branch are creepers, of plant origin. That thing coming from the dead bird’s throat can well be part of the hyoid apparatus, the bones and cartilaginous structures forming the skeleton of the tongue. However, I stand corrected.

  4. […] ossification of the hyoid bone. The presence of this ossification was previously thought …Bird Ecology Study Group Feasting on a dead Common FlamebackThat thing coming from the dead bird’s throat can well be part of the hyoid apparatus, the bones and […]


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