Ba­sics of drop­pings

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents -

All birds pro­duce drop­pings, which com­prise undi­gested and waste ma­te­rial, mixed with urine (usu­ally as a white paste). Drop­pings can oc­cur at ran­dom, but also on, un­der and around well used perches, for in­stance roost sites or hunt­ing sites or nest sites. So, al­though dif­fer­ent types may not be species spe­cific they may still be use­ful in track­ing nests or roost sites etc. There are sev­eral types of drop­ping, which of­ten re­late to the diet of the bird in ques­tion. Seedeaters usu­ally pro­duce small, well formed drop­pings with ob­vi­ous seeds and per­haps some fruit flesh within. Some may be con­fused with re­gur­gi­tated pel­lets. Plant eaters of­ten pro­duce cylin­dri­cal pel­let like fi­brous drop­pings, which in some cases have a white urine cap (eg Red Grouse, be­low left). Other plant eaters, es­pe­cially those with a less fi­brous diet, pro­duce semi-liq­uid masses. In­sect-eaters may make cylin­dri­cal drop­pings with in­sect hard parts en­cased in white urine (clas­si­cally Green Wood­peck­ers do this, be­low cen­tre) or smaller, more glob­u­lar drop­pings such as those of House Martins. Fi­nally, many car­niv­o­rous and fish-eat­ing birds (eg Grey Heron, be­low right) re­gur­gi­tate most of the undi­gested hard parts (bones, fur, feath­ers etc) as pel­lets, and their drop­pings con­sist of white liq­uid, of­ten jet­ted out to form ‘white wash’.

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