Regurgitation in Birds

Rana & Sugandhi Belur
Rana & Sugandhi Belur

Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'

Birds often regurgitate undigested matter, like bones, feathers, fur, skull and hair. Birds of prey, as well as many other species of birds, regurgitate pellets a few hours after a meal. Here a short-eared owl is caught in the act.

There are several reasons why birds and animals regurgitate. Sometimes, adult animals regurgitate food to feed their not-yet-mobile young ones. Classic examples of this behaviour can be seen in a pack of Wild Dogs (Dholes) and, more commonly, in birds. The crow feeds its young with regurgitated food from its wide-ranging diet, while a pelican would regurgitate fish to feed its chicks.

Some birds also regurgitate undigested matter, like bones, feathers, fur, skull and hair. Birds of prey, as well as some other species of birds, regurgitate pellets a few hours after a meal. Wildlife biologists analyse these pellets, usually found at a bird’s roosting or nesting site, to understand the bird’s diet.

This is an image of a migratory Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus), regurgitating a pellet. We saw the bird in action in one of the grasslands at the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK), Gujarat.

About the author

Rana & Sugandhi Belur
Rana and Sugandhi are Bangalore-based nature and wildlife lovers.


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