Category Archives: Bird breeding

‘Sitting duck’

This Grey Teal duckling was all on its lonesome, paddling happily on a small dam on the plains … no sign of its parents or siblings … I don’t like its prospects.

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Grey Teal duckling, Moolort Plains, 25th March 2021

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Residents and visitors

Mistletoebirds are with us year round. Extensive areas of Yellow Gum around town are replete with mistletoe and the birds breed happily from early spring into the autumn, feasting on the ripening berries and then feeding the fruits to their youngsters. From time to time they’ll visit one of the bird baths – the immature male pictured below was in the company of a female. The young males have a pale gape and traces of the bright red adult plumage on the breast.

Silvereyes on the other hand are more complicated. This species can be observed throughout the year but not always the same population of birds. A confusing array of subspecies have been described from across Australia and beyond. Buff-flanked birds, like the one pictured in the first two images below, are generally regarded as belonging to the Tasmanian sub-species lateralis, which migrates to the mainland in autumn. This seems to be an early arrival.

Silvereye, Wyndham Street Newstead, 8th March 2021

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III – this individual appears to lack the buff flanks of the bird in the first two images

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Mistletoebird (immature male), 7th March 2021

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Tipping into autumn

It’s been a terrific summer … softened by La Nina, with a good dose of post Xmas rain followed by a cool February.

This was my last summer visit to the Mia Mia and I was well rewarded. There were lots of Rainbow Bee-eaters assembling before they head north, their acrobatics amongst the Yellow Gums a sight to behold as they feasted on flying insects.

The begging call of a juvenile Sacred Kingfisher led me to two youngsters, their parents keeping a watchful eye at a safe distance.

Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters are making ‘hay while the sun shines’. As I photographed one gathering nesting material a Chestnut-rumped Heathwren bobbed past in the background. It then proceeded to unleash a short burst of song, including some mimicry that included snippets of ‘tufty’ calls.

Juvenile Sacred Kingfisher, South German Track, 28th February 2021

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Yellow-tufted Honeyeater gathering nesting material … wallaby-grass seeds I think!

Chestnut-rumped Heathwren

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III … mimicking Yellow-tufted Honeyeater

More robins … a good thing

A mild and favourable summer has extended the breeding season for bush birds.

As I was strolling in the Mia Mia during the week a small bird exploded from near my feet to alight on a branch above me … secreting itself motionless in the shade against the trunk.

A juvenile Eastern Yellow Robin, one of two youngsters accompanied by their parents that I had heard piping moments earlier. The young would be from eggs laid early in the New Year – incubation is around 14 days and then about the same until fledging. Juvenile birds often leave the nest early from where they will be fed by the parents for perhaps a month or more until they become independent. This youngster is well advanced, traces of the yellow emerging from the spotted cloak on the throat and belly.

Juvenile Eastern Yellow Robin, Mia Mia Track area, 25th February 2021

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One of the parents

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Fuscous domination

Not much to report in recent days, apart from the preponderance of Fuscous Honeyeaters pretty much wherever I go.

This species is a ‘sucker’ for water and along with the more aggressive Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters will tend to dominate small bushland water sources. Adult Fuscous Honeyeaters in breeding fettle have black bills while younger birds and non-breeding adults have quite a deal of yellow on the bill and gape.

Also seen and heard in the Rise and Shine – Brown Treecreeper, Mistletoebird, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Eastern Rosella, Sacred Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eater, Eastern Yellow Robin.

Brown Treecreeper, Rise & Shine Bushland Reserve, 9th February 2021

Fuscous Honeyeater

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Learning the trade

It’s been a good season for Sacred Kingfishers and post Xmas I’ve observed a number of juveniles in the local bush.

Sacred Kingfishers tend to be wait and pounce hunters, a technique that I saw this one use a number of times from nearby perches. The dirty bill on the fourth image was the result of a foray to snare a frog (I suspect) from the edge of the dam.

One one occasion though it expertly chased a dragonfly, weaving in a series of sharp turns over the water, in what proved to be an unsuccessful pursuit.

Juvenile Sacred Kingfishers are typically darker-scaled below than the adults with buff-scaling on the forehead and crown – otherwise they look very much like their parents. This species will be with us for a few weeks more before migrating north in mid-autumn.

Sacred kingfisher (juvenile) with dragonfly, South German Track, 6th February 2021

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Clean bill

Not so clean bill

Mistletoe backdrop

A summer deluge

I’ve just tipped 60mm from the rain gauge, perhaps the best summer rain we’ve experienced for a decade … and it’s still tumbling down!

The set of images below were taken in 40C heat earlier in the week. Today’s rain will be enough to kick off a burst of late summer breeding which will be terrific.

Rainbow Bee-eater, Muckleford State Forest, 24th January 2021

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Juvenile Dusky Woodswallow

Juvenile and adult Dusky Woodswallows

Stand-off … Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters and juvenile Dusky Woodswallow

Diamond Firetail

Grey Shrike-thrush

Red Wattlebird

Three … no less

As I suspected the Spotted Harrier clan on the plains includes no less than three juveniles – a wonderful result.

The youngsters are doing well it seems , chasing food on the ground and from the air. The adults have been absent during my visits … I suspect they are watching their offspring and the photographer from a distance.

Spotted Harriers lay two to four eggs in a clutch, although to raise three healthy juveniles is, I reckon, a little unusual and a sign of an abundance of food this season.

Juvenile Spotted Harrier, Moolort Plains, 15th January 2021

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Juvenile #2

Juvenile #3

Constant calling is a feature of young Spotted Harriers

That ‘owl-like’ face!

Spotted success

Back before Xmas I reported a pair of adult Spotted Harriers hunting on the Moolort Plains. In a pleasing development it looks like this pair has raised two, and possibly a third, juvenile.

Young Spotted Harriers have quite different plumage to the adults, rich buff is the overall impression. They do, however, share the same distinctive features as their parents that makes them instantly recognisable – long slender legs, extended narrow wings, barring on the tail and flight feathers and the owl-like facial disc.

Juvenile Spotted Harrier, Moolort Plains, 11th January 2021

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The waiting game

Sitting by a pool of water with the camera is one of my favourite pastimes.

The ‘trick’ is to be observant and patient, as many species of birds will soon become accustomed to your presence and resume their natural patterns.

Honeyeaters, of which we have a multitude of local species, are without doubt the most frequent visitors and locally its Yellow-tufted and Fuscous Honeyeaters that tend to dominate proceedings.

From time to time something special appears, perhaps a Yellow-plumed Honeyeater or Black Honeyeater if you’re really fortunate. In the sequence below I’d estimate that over a period of two hours there were 200+ visits from Yellow-tufted and Fuscous Honeyeaters before the Black-chinned Honeyeater dropped in. It was well worth the wait! This species is by no means rare locally, I hear it on most visits to the bush, but it is seriously outnumbered by other honeyeaters and always a delight to observe.

A couple of days later at the same spot, a real highlight – a juvenile Black-chinned Honeyeater – evidence of successful local breeding.

Fuscous Honeyeater, South German Track, Muckleford State Forest, 3rd January 2020

Yellow-tufted Honeyeater

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Black-chinned Honeyeater

Juvenile Black-chinned Honeyeater, 5th January 2020