Little White Sac Discovery

Little White Sac Discovery

Photo by Tig Tillinghast.

Recently I found something odd in the grass, and so of course I took it inside to examine under the kitchen microscope. I thought it was some sort of moth cocoon – perhaps a candidate for the next family hatch and release project. It was a couple centimeters long, roughly tear shaped, and it left faint white powder on my fingertips.

It was bird poop. Specifically, what I had found was a fecal sac – the tidily packaged waste of a baby bird.

Many species produce these sacs, which are essentially dry mucus baggies around the other stuff. Parents may carry them away from the nest, or – brace yourself – ingest them, but either way, it’s an adaptation that promotes sanitation and reduces smells that could alert predators. (A fun side note: according to a blog post by the science writers at Annenberg Learner’s Journey North, grackles naturally drop these sacs over water, so “the flowing water would carry the droppings far away.” Which is why, when you encounter unwelcome additions to your swimming pool, it’s wrong to attribute unfriendly motives.)

What I have discovered is that these summer objects are a bit like invasive plants; once you learn to identify them, you see them everywhere. Or perhaps I’ve at long last discovered my one special gift. Whatever the reason, little white sac discovery has been an ongoing theme, and a reminder of the many new lives hidden up there in the old maples and apple trees around our house.

And on the ground. Here’s a fun video that my husband took recently at a neighbor’s home of a dark-eyed junco attending to all aspects of the chicks’ digestive endeavors. It’s a remarkably efficient process.

  1. Ann Courcy → in Deep River, CT USA
    Jul 20, 2018

    I love your post! A great reminder to be open to new discoveries. And that the more you know the more you see.

    Thank you,

  2. Bill Risso → in South Strafford, VT
    Jul 20, 2018

    Elise, Tig;

    Absolutely phenomenal. Loved the white sac!

  3. Elise Tillinghast → in Lyme, NH
    Jul 25, 2018

    Thanks, Ann and Bill!

  4. Linda Gomeau → in West Gardiner
    Jul 26, 2018

    I discovered this some years ago in our own yard when I caught a little wren dropping a “bomb” that hit a limb in a pine tree. I investigated and soon discovered the magic of how birds deal with kids bedroom messes. And you’re right about seeing them everywhere once discovered.

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