Coprophagia by Java Sparrows

on 30th July 2019

“Coprophagia, the consumption of faeces, is not uncommon among birds. Some will consume the faecal sacs of chicks they are rearing as it contains partially-digested food items. But heterospecific coprophagia, eating the faeces of other species, is less common.

“In the past I have posted observations of a number of bird species eating or exploring the dung of other animals. I have seen White-headed Munias (Lonchura maja) eating cow and dog dung LINK. On this occasion I saw a pair of Java Sparrows (Lonchura oryzivora) feeding on dog dung (above).

“I am sure some of this activity is feeding on seeds in the dung or insects attracted to the dung, especially when it comes to the dung of animals that feed on vegetable matter (cows/horses). But having now seen two finches feed on the actual dog dung material (and apparently not insects) I am considering other possibilities. This activity is not described for these two finches in the authoritative work by Peter Clement, Alan Harris, John Davis; Finches and Sparrows; Helm Identification Guides; 2010. There is an interesting article by Jacob Brogan in the Smithsonian in 2016 LINK describing coprophagia in animals.

“The possibilities for the behaviour observed (feeding on do dung) include:
1.There are some insect prey attracted to/in the dog dung that we cannot see and the bird are feeding on the dung to get to the prey.
2. Are they trying to gain some nutrient they deficient in?
3. Or ingest some bacteria that aids their own health?

“Note that at these sites there was an abundance of seeds and food in the environment, so the behaviour is not for a lack of food. As always, happy to learn from others and explore different possibilities.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
21st June 2019

Location: Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Fringe of city
on the dung to get to the prey.

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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