Large Niltava eating snake

posted in: Feeding-vertebrates | 1

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.

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