“A non-birder would pay no notice if ever birds coughing up anything.
“A birder, on a very lucky day could witness a bird regurgitates what we called pellets-indigestible parts of foods or castings. Such observation opportunities are few and far in between to perhaps, be counted on birders’ fingers in the many years of bird watching.
“A bird photographer/Digiscopist with correct equipments and ability to take distant shots, to catch those moments of pellet castings at the right time, right place and a huge dose of birding luck is most memorable.
“This rare opportunity finally came and came indeed in huge doses and in extravaganza style.
“These Common Hill Mynas (Gracula religiosa) have graciously provided a window of opportunity into their personal lives; amidst their many vigorous preening and other comfort behaviors, like wing and feet stretching commonly seen in birds.
“Let’s call the pair….. Jack and Jill.
“Jill (rear) was first observed to be regurgitating a pellet onto its bill. She decided to store pellet in its throat or gullet (upper oesophagus) as shown in these three sequential shots (above).
“More mutual preening with partner Jack followed (below left).
“Jack (front) subsequently equalled Jill. He too held a reserved pellet in his gullet (above centre and right).
“It appeared to be a warming exercise to a game of pellet casting and to witness the winner with the most number of pellets expelled.
“Let the games begin!
“Jack began by hacking up a pellet- under the watchful eye of Jill- and expelled the 1st pellet. This was followed through with consecutive images showing 2nd pellet being regurgitated by Jack, for a juggling and balancing act and returned to gullet (above and below).
“Jill stretched her wing… ‘I can do that too!’ (below left).
“She hacked up the 1st pellet again to equalize Jack and swallowed the pellet possessively (above centre and right).
“I had my camera switched to video mode and extracted two blurry images that followed. It showed Jack casting his second pellet and Jill finally discarded her first (below left and centre).
“The macho male was more of a pellet juggling, exhibitionist trying to show off his prowess (above right, left and below left and centre).
“With Jill refusing to concede defeat, she hastily discarded her 2nd pellet (below right).
“What was interesting enough were images taken and seen with Jack. Having regurgitated and stored pellet in his bill, he leaned forward to pass pellet to Jill. (A pity…. only rear opportunity views to be had) (second row from bottom).
“Bill contact was made and Jill spitted the 3rd pellet (bottom left).
“I presumed the pellet was generously provided by clever Jack to pacify a competition draw to win Jill’s approval- she probably had run out of pellets. The game concluded with Jill discarding a total of three pellets to match similar with Jack.
“A video extracted poo shot of Jack lifting his tail for a final clean out signaled the end of competition (below centre).
” Jack had lost interest in his own game of pellet casting- having seen his neighbouring pair began casting theirs (below right).
“Total observation time – 7minutes. (1038-1045hs)
“The storage capacity of pellets in these birds surprises me.
“To find birds such as the Common Hill Mynas seemingly use pellets as play things for their past time- to perhaps include reinforcing their partnership bond is quite a remarkable behavior…”
Avian Writer Daisy O’Neill
Copyright Article and Copy Images:
Courtesy of Daisy O’Neill’s Bird Conservation Fund Penang Malaysia
23rd July 2012