Large Niltava eating snake

on 26th August 2009

Connie Khoo documented a juvenile Large Niltava (Niltava grandis) catching and swallowing a snake at Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands in August 2009. The bird caught the snake, whacked it several times before attempting to swallow it. The bird had some initial problems in swallowing the snake which was as long or longer that itself. Once the snake was swallowed, the bird flew off and disappeared into the undergrowth.

Kelvin KP Lim of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, National University of Singapore, identified the snake as a species of the harmless mountain reed-snake, Macrocalamus – either M. lateralis or M. schulzi. Both species are found at Cameron Highlands, often in the tea estates. Unfortunately there are not enough details in the images to allow for identification to the specific level.

According to Wells (2007), the Large Niltava eats insects including cricket and even an earthworm-sized snake. But a snake of this size has not been reported. The bird is about 20 cm long and the snake can grow up to 40 cm or more long.

Images by Connie Khoo. Thanks to Seow Boon Eu who alerted us to Connie’s encounter.

Wells, D.R., 2007. The birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsular. Vol. II, Passerines. Christopher Helm, London. 800 pp.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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