Pied Fantail: Adult eats chick’s faecal sac

on 27th July 2018
Adult Pied Fantail picking up faecal sac – video grab.

The video clip below shows the adult Pied Fantail (Rhipidura javanica) eats a faecal sac excreted from the chick in the nest. Now why did the adult do this?

Faecal sac is a gelatinous capsule containing the excreted droppings, or faeces of a nestling (Erritzoe et al., 2007). Immediately after feeding, the chick will turn its posterior towards the adult and a faecal sac will emerge from its vent (external opening of the cloaca). The adult will pick it up and dispose it some distance away LINK. If there is a running stream, the adult will drop it there. If a swimming pool is nearby the sac will end in the pool.

Faecal sac removal is a matter of nest hygiene. Furthermore, leaving the sac at the bottom of the nest will attract attention from potential predators.

During the first few days of a chick’s life, its digestive system lacks the necessary bacteria to complete digestion. The droppings are thus rich in partially digested food. Thus the adult will swallow the faecal sac to benefit from the nutrients they contain – see HERE.

MeiLin Khoo
17th July 2018

Erritzoe, J., K. Kampp, K. Winker & C. B. Frith, 2007. The ornithologist’s dictionary. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. 290 pp.

This post is a cooperative effort between Birds, Insects N Creatures Of Asia and BESG to bring the study of birds and their behaviour through photography and videography to a wider audience.

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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