Welcome Swallow adult picks up faecal sacs from chicks

on 8th January 2014

“The video clip above captures the moment when two of the Welcome Swallow (Hirundo neoxena) chicks LINK produced faecal sacs seconds after being fed.

“Immediately upon receiving food, each chick turns around and protrudes its rear upwards. A white membranous sac extrudes from the cloaca of the chick and the parent bird picks it up and flies off with it (above).

“This inbuilt behaviour, common in passerines, assists with nest hygiene and possibly reduces predation of the chicks.”

Note the prominent light yellow oral flanges in the three chicks LINK.

Teo Lee Wei & K.
19th December 2013

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.

Other posts by YC Wee

8 Responses

  1. I read this article with interest as I had encountered quite different behaviour with chicks of the Pacific Swallow (Hirundo tahitica) when I observed their nesting a few years ago at my office (

    Unlike their neat and hygienic cousins which produce a faecal sac to contain their waste, the Pacific Swallow chicks had a filthy nest littered with droppings below and around the nest (

    Does anyone have any insights as to why there seems to be markedly different behaviour by 2 species within the same family?

  2. Faecal sacs are disposed away from the nest, otherwise they may attract predators. Some birds seek out nearby streams to dump them. In the absence of streams, they may drop them in swimming pools. So should you be swimming in a pool and notice a tiny floating white sac, it is wise to swim with your mouth shut!

    1. There is a big fresh water pond near the nesting site. It never occurred to us to look for tiny floating white sacs on the pond surface.

  3. A number of animals are known to prefer defecating in water. Locally, these include the Common Palm Civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus and the Water Monitor, Varanus Salvator.

    In captivity, they will defecate into water bowls. I suppose that in the wild they prefer to do this in water for both hygiene reasons and to dissipate their scent so as not to attract predators.

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