Large Niltava – pellet or food regurgitation?

on 3rd April 2015

“We had an opportunity to watch a pair of nesting Large Niltavas (Niltava grandis decipiens). We saw an odd behaviour by the adult male and would appreciate any opinions.

“The pair was cautious of our presence so we kept our distance. On one occasion the male came to ‘check us out’ (above). While we were watching it suddenly had an odd jerking movement and regurgitated a large blue object (Composite of 6 serial images below).

“There are two possibilities to explain this behaviour:
1. My wife, an astute bird watcher for >30 years, thinks the bird regurgitated a feed it was bringing to the young and then swallowed it back. I have seen many birds do this when their nest is watched to try and fool the observer into thinking the food is for themselves, not the young.
2. The other possibility is that the bird is regurgitating a pellet.

“There are problems with both possibilities.

“Regurgitated a feed: The item regurgitated looks like a blue-purple berry. But prey brought to young are generally insects and invertebrates. The adults will take berries but I have not seen any records of fruits given to young in the nest. I have seen a number of birds regurgitate feeds and so consider fruits still a possibility.

“Regurgitating a pellet: I have not seen any records of Large Niltavas regurgitating pellets. My personal belief is that most bird can regurgitate pellets and our knowledge is only limited by our observation. The jungle was too dense around the bird to go look for any pellet but my impression from watching was the item was swallowed back.

“Finally this could be a food bolus. Small insect items collected by aerial sallies kept in the crop where they form a ‘ball of insects called a bolus’. In that case it is not a not true regurgitation as the bolus is not mixed with digestive juices. (

“I have limited knowledge of the alimentary tract of most birds and no specifics on the structure in the Large Niltava. Appreciate any sharing or articles/reports, experience or views.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
25th March 2015

Location: 1500m ASL, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Habitat: Public road along primary montane forest

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.

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