Feeding of Pied Fantail nestlings

posted in: Feeding chicks | 1

“Less than 2 months after my first encounter with fledglings of the Pied Fantail (Rhipidura javanica) LINK, I had a pleasant surprise. There was another nesting from the same parents – their second brood. Apparently, they reused the same nest that was built on a fork of a plant over a pond. The nest was about 1.5 metres above water level and about 5 metres from shore.

“The chicks were lying low in the nest most of the time – making it appeared like an empty nest. It was only when an adult returned, usually with food, that the heads of the 2 nestlings that resided in the nest could be seen. The nestlings, probably 1 or 2 days old, barely had any feathers and eyes have yet to open.

“Sharing here an interesting observation during feeding. With both chicks competing for food to be fed with their wide opened gapes, the adult would seem hesitant at times.

“Which chick shall it feed?

“This sequence of pictures [top to bottom, left to right] showed a moth being transferred to-and-fro from one chick to another. It was inserted into the mouth of the chick on the right (Chick A), then removed to be inserted into the mouth of the chick on the left (Chick B). It then reverted to Chick A, and back to Chick B before it was removed from its oral cavity yet again.

“The moth finally ended up in Chick A’s oral cavity. Is this to-ing and fro-ing of food from one chick to another a way for the adult to see which chick needs the food more? Or is it to tease the chicks to stimulate or train their motor skills?

“As for sanitation of the nest, the nestlings’ fecal sacs will be picked up by the adult (below). How are they treated? The adult simply swallowed the fecal sacs when the nestlings were young. When the nestlings grew older (one week later), the fecal sacs were no longer swallowed; they were observed to be removed elsewhere. Unable to determine whether to dispose or to be eaten out of sight.

Kwong Wai Chong
5th August 2013

  1. Thong Chow Ngian

    Great observation of feeding routine over some weeks and removal of fecal sacs.

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