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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Ruddy Kingfisher: Eating a snail, then casting a pellet

Ruddy Kingfisher: Eating a snail, then casting a pellet

The Ruddy Kingfisher (Halcyon coromanda), an uncommon passage migrant and winter visitor to Singapore, made a brief appearance of a few days towards the end of October 2006. Once news got around, birders and photographers congregated at Jurong, near the Chinese Garden, to get a glimpse and/or to take a picture of this rare bird.
Allan Teo was among the fortunate few who witnessed the bird manipulating a snail. After it got a firm hold of the mollusc in its bill, it expertly removed the shell by smashing it against the perch, first against one side, then against the other (above). It then used the horizontal force of its head swing that resulted in the smashed shell pieces flying apart, leaving only the meat. Happy with the shell-less snail, the kingfisher swallowed its prize catch (above: note damp patches on either side of the bird's perch where the snail was whacked).

After having their fill with the kingfisher, most of the people moved off to look for other rare birds. The few who patiently remained witnessed an usual event, the casting of a pellet. This came more than an hour after the kingfisher consumed the snail. The bird first made some sort of retching action, giving the appearance as if it was about to vomit. Then the bill widened substantially to show the large gape and equally large opening into the throat (above). At the same time the body bent forward - and suddenly out popped the pellet (above). Unfortunately the actual moment when the pellet appeared was not caught on film.

The pellet ended in the undergrowth below the tree and it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack to try retrieve it.

Input from Allan Teo, images by Allan (top three) and Chan Yoke Meng (bottom three).



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The most endangered bird species in this country

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