Did you know? Fecal sacs

Birds don't wear diapers. But in some songbirds, babies expel their waste in a membrane-filled sac, which is then removed from the nest by a parent.

House Wren with Fecal Sac (Cleaning the nest)
Fecal sac removal by House Wren; photo by Mike's Birds

Keeping the nest clean isn't just about good hygiene. Removal of waste reduces the chances that predators will find (by scent) the vulnerable nestlings. It may also help to prevent illnesses developing in the baby birds. Fecal sacs are removed from the nest, sometimes right as they are being produced! Some baby birds give a 'signal' to indicate they are about to eliminate (poop). The below video shows a baby American Robin shifting around in its nest to expose its backside. The adult waits for the sac and then removes it immediately.

Parent
Blue Tit carrying fecal sac away by hedera.baltica

Some baby birds leave their fecal sacs along the outer edge of the nest for later removal, as can be seen in this video of a Carolina Wren nest, though the adult happens to remove the sac immediately in the clip. Sometimes the need to eliminate comes immediately after feeding, which can be seen in clearly in this video. Most people aren't even aware that this amazing baby bird "diaper service" exists. But if you live among Common Grackles, and you happen to have a swimming pool, you just might be painfully aware of fecal sacs. Grackles are naturally inclined to deposit fecal sacs in water - streams, ponds or rivers, traditionally. However, if a swimming pool is convenient, it might just end up being a favorite "sewer service" for neighborhood grackles!

Comments

Jeri Simmons on June 5, 2016 at 9:53 AM wrote:
Y do my robins place the fecal sacs along the top of my fence?
Meseret Hailu on June 8, 2017 at 5:50 PM wrote:
Jeri I know what you mean and I have the same question ha ha. Thanks and peace to all creatures.
Jo Oddie on May 29, 2022 at 2:43 AM wrote:
Yesterday, I noticed a baby magpie sitting in the middle of the road, I would normally have placed it well into the verge for its parents to take care of it, but it was literally covered from head to toe in dried poop, it looked extremely dishevelled and had blood on its wing….I put the little soul away from the road, then waited a while for it’s parents, but I didn’t hear or see any, so rightly or wrongly, I have brought it home. I am very concerned that the dried Pooh on the babies feathers may cause harm if ingested, but the little bird was already in shock, so I didn’t dare risk a warm bath yesterday. I have fed the baby magpie ( now called Salvador 👀) with bits of chicken and soaked cat kibble, I have managed to open the birds beak then gently push the food to the backbit it’s mouth with the tip of my little finger, then he/she swallows….rightly or wrongly I have also gently given water which I have carefully dripped from a syringe, he/she seemed to perk up after water. The last time I fed the little bird was 10 pm, I am going to look at him/her now. The bird is in a large cage with a cover over it, in the dining room, I have put wrapped a hot water bottle in a towel and put him/her next to that, with a small cuddly toy next to him/her, and put straw and hay underneath and around the bird. The bird appears to have a hard facal sac, but he did a big sloppy poop after feeding, he/she has done a few. Sorry to be longwinded, but I’m concerned…I live out in the countryside, and I’m very busy, but I will do my best for the bird, and will endeavour to find a bird rehab person/ organisation. Why do you think the bird was coved all over in Pooh? Any advice is welcome please?

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