Saturday, 14 January 2012

Noisy Friarbird Nest

It is important to the study of birds to have records of breeding activity.  It is also usually difficult to find nests to record since many species are very careful to conceal their nests.  So today I was very pleased to find a nest of a Noisy Friarbird in a very obvious position where I can keep an eye on it and take the odd photograph or 50.

The nest was revealed to me by the noise generated by the chicks - presumably being fed.  The nest is about 3m above the ground in a small Yellow Box tree, and quite exposed to view from the West.  I'd like to say I was able to identify the ownership of the nest by looking at its materials, style of construction, position etc, but that would be telling large porkies.  I identified it as a Friarbird's nest as I saw an adult Friarbird fly away from it!

Before getting to photos a brief pause for background.  The Atlas of ACT Birds shows this species having nests with young from October to February.  This is confirmed by the COG Garden Bird Survey as shown by this chart.
Looking at the Chart I judge that this is a slightly late first brood (a fair call as Carwoola is about 200m higher than the bulk of the ACT and could thus expect things to be 2 weeks late) rather than a rather early second brood.

This first image shows a pair of chick's heads poking up above the nest.
I returned a little later with a tripod and found the adult was in position.
It stayed in this gaping position for the 5 minutes over which I observed the nest.  Although the nest is a tad exposed, and the sun was in the NW by this time, the day was not particularly hot.

One further thought is that the location of the nest probably explains why the Friarbirds have been quite so enthusiastic in driving a Brown Goshawk away from the area.  It possibly also explains why the Goshawk has been visiting so frequently in recent days.

I was unable to spend much time watching the nest on 15 January and when I put in a few minutes looking at the nest early on 16th there was no sign of adult or chicks.  Had the Goshawk got lucky?   Fortunately, if I may be allowed a little bias in favour of ugly passerines, no.  I heard the chcicks calling about 11am and on positioning myself with my camera saw an adult bird moving cautiously  through a series of trees towards the nest.  It then fed the young:

The beak of one of the chicks is just visible above the rim of the nest.  As the adult seemed aware of, and a tad uncertain about, my presence I didn't hang about but left the area a soon as I had taken the pictures.

On 22 January I was showing a friend the nest and we could clearly see 3 beaks protruding from it.   I was however unable to get an image of this.

It is pleasing to report that on 24 January two of the chicks were out of the nest and posing well.
In this image note that these very young birds don't have the 'bump' on the beak.  That can be a trap for young players since it makes the birds look somewhat like Little Friarbirds.  The following (less zoomed) shot shows these two birds in the upper portion of the image with the head of the third bird just visible still in the nest in the lower left corner.


Denis Wilson said...

Nice work.
Do you get Koels coming in to use these birds as host parents?

Flabmeister said...

Thanks Denis.

An interesting question. It is really only in the last 10 years that there have been a lot of Koels in the Tablelands and they are still very unusual out of Canberra (not enough plum trees for them!). Also, they were first recorded breeding in Canberra about three Summers back (but it is already becoming a common event).

I think every host we have had reported has been Red Wattlebird: from memory, Friarbird breeding is much less common in this area that red Wattlebird which has been the host in every instance of which I am aware in this area.