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Black-capped Babbler – Do birds of one species eat the faecal sacs of another species?

on 2nd May 2022

I was watching some Short-tailed Babblers (Pellorneum malaccense) on 28th April 2022 at a mixed primary-secondary forest location at the outskirts of Ipoh when this Black-capped Babbler (Pellorneum capistratum nigrocapitatum) walked out of the undergrowth. What was unexpected was the faecal sac it was carrying. I am used to nesting birds either eating the faecal sac of their juveniles or disposing of it some distance away from the nest. But this bird’s behaviour (and demeanour) appeared to be purposefully taking the faecal sac somewhere rather than removing or disposing of it. The bird was surprised to see me but after a brief pause, it carried on its way and disappeared into the undergrowth further down, still carrying the faecal sac.

I could just be mistaken and the bird is just nesting and this is the ‘conventional’ faecal sac removal. But it got me thinking – do birds of one species eat the faecal sacs of another species? Do birds of one species collect faecal sacs of another species and feed them to their offspring? Especially as we know that the faecal sacs of younger juveniles contain undigested food that may be nutritious.

There are reports of brood parasites like the Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater), which do not care for their own offspring, eating the faecal sacs of nestlings of their host species (Stake, Cavanagh 2001).

I would appreciate any opinions.

Reference:

Stake, M. M.; Cavanagh, P. M. (2001). “Removal of Host Nestlings and Fecal Sacs by Brown-headed Cowbirds”. The Wilson Bulletin. 113 (4): 456–459.

https://bioone.org/journals/the-wilson-bulletin/volume-113/issue-4/0043-5643(2001)113%5b0456%3aROHNAF%5d2.0.CO%3b2/Removal-of-Host-Nestlings-and-Fecal-Sacs-by-Brown-headed/10.1676/0043-5643(2001)113[0456:ROHNAF]2.0.CO;2.short

 

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS – Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

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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