Welcome Swallow adult picks up faecal sacs from chicks

“The video clip above captures the moment when two of the Welcome Swallow (Hirundo neoxena) chicks LINK produced faecal sacs seconds after being fed.

“Immediately upon receiving food, each chick turns around and protrudes its rear upwards. A white membranous sac extrudes from the cloaca of the chick and the parent bird picks it up and flies off with it (above).

“This inbuilt behaviour, common in passerines, assists with nest hygiene and possibly reduces predation of the chicks.”

Note the prominent light yellow oral flanges in the three chicks LINK.

Teo Lee Wei & K.
Singapore
19th December 2013

8 Responses

  1. I read this article with interest as I had encountered quite different behaviour with chicks of the Pacific Swallow (Hirundo tahitica) when I observed their nesting a few years ago at my office (http://www.besgroup.org/2009/07/25/pacific-swallow-feeding-chicks-i/#more).

    Unlike their neat and hygienic cousins which produce a faecal sac to contain their waste, the Pacific Swallow chicks had a filthy nest littered with droppings below and around the nest (http://www.besgroup.org/2009/08/14/pacific-swallow-chicks-have-fledged-2/)

    Does anyone have any insights as to why there seems to be markedly different behaviour by 2 species within the same family?

  2. Where do they discard the sacs? Do they have a fixed “dumping spot”?

  3. Faecal sacs are disposed away from the nest, otherwise they may attract predators. Some birds seek out nearby streams to dump them. In the absence of streams, they may drop them in swimming pools. So should you be swimming in a pool and notice a tiny floating white sac, it is wise to swim with your mouth shut!

    • Lee Wei & K

      There is a big fresh water pond near the nesting site. It never occurred to us to look for tiny floating white sacs on the pond surface.

    • Wow, did not know this. Thanks! Interesting that they choose a body of water rather than ground to discard the sacs.

  4. Lee Chiu San

    A number of animals are known to prefer defecating in water. Locally, these include the Common Palm Civet Paradoxurus hermaphroditus and the Water Monitor, Varanus Salvator.

    In captivity, they will defecate into water bowls. I suppose that in the wild they prefer to do this in water for both hygiene reasons and to dissipate their scent so as not to attract predators.

  5. That is interesting, I had no clue that birds do that. I will definitely watch for that now. Thanks for sharing!

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