Unusual feeding behaviour of Barn Swallow

on 19th October 2015

“Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) are recognised aerial insectivores and their superb manoeuvrability aids this. Most authorities consider insects as the only item in their diet. Most of us would have seen them feeding low over the ground in open areas and often over a body of water. I find that a freshly ploughed/cut field and water are their favourite feeding environments.

“They are also known to pick items off the water surface but this behaviour is less commonly seen. Drinking, by scooping water while flying low over a body of fresh water, is often seen.

“I watched a flock of 30-40 Barn Swallows feed on items in the water of an ex-mining pool that is being used for fish farming. The flock consisted of adults with first year birds. Most were in some degree of moult and the majority had no T6 streamers (some had a single streamer, others unequal length streamers).

“I had difficult identifying the prey. There was no vegetation in the large ex-mining pool and much of the feeding was closer to the ‘shore’. There were some small items floating in the water but I could not reach them to determining what they were.

“Action was fast and I tried to capture some feeding episodes. I considered the unlikely possibility of fish-fry, but could not find any evidence for it in most of my images (except for one blur shot, above).

“I suspect that they are feeding on fish food that has been thrown into the pool. But having said that, the feeding technique puzzled me, and did not fit with floating fish food. The birds would fly over the surface, often banking hard and turning here and there, before plunging down. Many episodes were not productive.

“Appreciate any opinions.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
17th October 2015

Location: Malim Nawar Wetlands, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Extensive ex-tin mining area with extensive pond/lakes, wetlands, fish farming

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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