Pellet casting by a Blue-throated Bee-eater

posted in: Bee-eaters, Pellets, Videography | 1

We first encountered William Tan‘s two images below of a Blue-throated Bee-eater (Merops viridis) casting a pellet HERE and decided to make them available to a wider audience.

He captured these excellent images at Singapore’s Tampines Eco Green Park in July 2014 using a Canon EOS-1D X. He modestly claims that anyone who was there will probably get a better shot. We beg to differ.

Most birdwatchers will invariably miss this precious moment as it takes patience and perseverance. Birdwatchers are after all impatient people, moving away immediately after spotting a bird and noting it down in his/her checklist.

Photographers are a different breed. They will stay a little longer to get a perfect shot before moving on. But a few who are aware of pellet casting will wait patiently, especially after a bee-eater has caught an insect on the wing, to bring it back to its original perch for eating. The digestible parts of the insect will be passed through the gut while the indigestible exoskeleton, etc. will be compacted in the gizzard and regurgitated. This saves the bee-eater from carrying extra weight should it allow the indigestible part of the food to pass through the gut for ejection at the other end.

At the same time when photographer William Tan obtained his images, videographer Jeremiah Loei was busy documenting the same bird. In the video clip below, the bee-eater is busy preening itself after a meal. It is only towards the end of the clip, the last three seconds to be precise, that the pellet appeared.

Our earliest post on pellet casting was in April 2006 when a Blue-tailed Bee-eater (Merops philippinus) was caught in the act of casting a pellet LINK. Another account of a Blue-throated Bee-eater casting pellet can be viewed HERE.

Other species of birds similarly cast pellets. A PDF of the publication “Pellet casting by non-raptorial birds of Singapore” can be downloaded HERE.

William Tan (images) & Jeremiah (video)
July 2014

Follow 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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