Faeces disposal


This posting about the disposal of a bird’s faeces was prompted by an observation of Cliff Swallows dealing with nestlings. That treatment will be left to the end. Incidentally, many of these pictures, although taken, were never used before.

Every living thing poops. That includes fungi and plants and, of course, mammals and birds — everything living. Mind you, most of this goes unseen, but a few examples are given. The concentration will be on birds, and in particular, the disposal of the faeces of nestlings.

The leaves of deciduous trees produce food during the summer, but come fall they are waste and are discarded. Even non-deciduous trees lose their leaves (needles) but often do so incrementally.

This is not dew; The large drops on the tips of the grass is guttation. It is excess water taken into the roots that are promptly expelled as waste. 

Mammals have two openings for the disposal of solids and liquids. Birds have just one.

Most large predators, such as this Great Blue Heron, pay scant attention to where their waste is deposited.

However, some predators, such as this Osprey, do lighten the load before flying off.

Likewise, and Bald Eagle lightens it load.

Particularly visible is the parents’ cleaning the faecal pellets from their chicks’ nests. This is a Black-capped Chickadee and it takes the pellet far away from the nest to prevent predators from identifying a nest by its droppings.

Similarly, a male Northern Flicker carries off the faecal pellet and hides it.

The fact that I have often seen the Tree Swallow carry the pellet away from the nest made me assume that this was also a characteristic of all swallows.

But, not so for this is a Cliff Swallow. Formerly they did build their mud nests on cliffs, but have spread to a wide variety of  buildings and other human-made structures. 

Having fed the chick inside the nest, the Cliff Swallow now removes a pellet from them and brings it the the mouth of the nest. There, it simply dropped. This may be because the nest itself is highly visible, so there is scant need to hide the droppings.

The sidewalk below the nests is littered with faecal pellets. The store owners had previously removed all the nests at the end of the season. Given the sidewalk mess, this is understandable. Mind you, this year, the Cliff Swallows merely rebuilt their nests.


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One Response to Faeces disposal

  1. Trevor Goward says:

    Wonderful pics, fabulous story line, finely tuned sense of humour. Thanks Alistair

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