Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Birds in our Garden Journal 2006

by artycat

Our family of feathered friends has grown and it could now almost be a part-time job! We go through a lot of mince and bird bells every week but we would miss the birds if they didn't come down.

It was actually my husband, who about two years ago, decided to feed a group of magpies who congregated on the telephone wires in the street. He noticed that there were quite a few young magpies and that's how it all began. The young were very tame and used to walk right into our front yard.

Trevor & Junior Magpie © All rights reserved

The magpies started to come into our back yard and when we started feeding them here, other magpies joined them and we had side-yarders, front-yarders and back-yarders as we called them and they hated each other. We became particularly fond of the back-yarders who we called 'Trevor', 'Crow' and 'Skitsy'. Skitsy got his name because he used to run away from the mince when we threw it to him and he was very wary. Trevor was very bold and used to fly right up to the fridge or window sills and we could hand feed him. We later discovered that Trevor was female because they had young and Trevor was the one who used to feed them. Trevor went missing about six months ago and we will never know what happened to her but she was our favourtie magpie, so gentle when we hand fed her.

We got another group of young magpies from the front-yarders who were hilarious. There were three of them with skinny little legs, as bold as brass, who ran over to the fridge and screen door when they saw us. We could hand feed them and they got very boisterous and aggressive with each other, squabbling over food. When Trevor, Skitsy and Crow saw them, however, they used to attack them so eventually they didn't come back. We currently have two magpies from the back-yard who come down and we don't know if one of them is Skitsy or even Crow - they look different but it's hard to tell them apart. I've named them Billy & Ben. We can't hand feed them but one of them runs up to us when he sees us - very comical.

One day a family of pied butcher birds came down and at first there were three of them then they had one young who we called "Junior". We can't hand feed any of them but they sit on the pool fence, clothes line or hanging baskets and catch the mince in mid air. They come down frequently and have the most beautiful song when they are in the mood.

Adult Pied Butcher Bird & “Junior” Pied Butcher Bird
© All rights reserved

These butcher birds still come down and they have just recently had two or three more young ones who are very noisy and constantly demand food. We have witnessed the mother butcher bird feed the squawking young ones but unfortunately I haven't been able to capture it on camera. This makes a total of seven in the family now!

The next group of birds to come down to feed were a family of grey butcher birds who come over from the side-yard and they hate the pied butcher birds and dive bomb them. They fly at lightning speeds when they do this and they snap their beaks only narrowly missing the rival birds. The grey butcher birds are cute and smaller than the pied variety. They are also on to their second batch of young - two last year and we think two this year as well. All the young butcher birds are a brown colour which turns black when they mature. We can sometimes hand feed them but the new young ones are very tame and allow us to hand feed them and they are so cute. That makes about six of them now as well to feed!

Adult Grey Butcher Bird & Young Grey Butcher Bird
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One day when all the feeding was going on, about a year and a half ago and much to our delight, a Kookaburra flew down. I couldn't believe my eyes when I first saw him and we could hand feed him right from the start. He has a deformed right foot and very tame and we call him "Dudley". His partner also appeared, but much shyer and she, "Denise" who used to sit up on one of the high palm fronds so we used to throw the mince on to the roof of our shed and she would fly down and eat it when the coast was clear. Over the past year Denise has lost her fear and she comes down with Dudley to be hand fed.

Dudley & Feeding Jack © All rights reserved

Probably the most exciting time ever with the birds was when we noticed that Denise & Dudley were coming down a lot more often and taking small amounts of mince away at a time. We suspected that they had young ones and sure enough, when they were old enough to leave the nest, they brought them down. Three young ones who we called "Jack", "Jill" & "Jenny". Jack was the bold one out of the three young ones and we could hand feed him. He is a beautiful bird and I got some great shots of him but the three young ones did not hang around in the area long. We're not sure if Dudley & Denise have young this year or not. We also think that Dudley is female and that Denise is male as Dudley had much more to do with the young ones. It's only Denise who laughs to announce their presence and he also flies into our study window with a loud thud to get our attention.

Last but not least of the mince eaters is crazy "Neville", the young noisy Miner who has the knack of appearing when food is around and proceeds to annoy every bird around him. He even tries to grab the mince from other birds' mouths and he is like a little orphin who doesn't know what kind of bird he is with an identity crisis. We're not even sure that Noisy Miners eat meat but Neville will have a go at everything - even the seed bell. He is hilarious and very clever. He knew I was in the study one afternoon and sat announcing his presence noisily on a branch outside my window.

Neville, the Noisy Miner & Crested Pigeon © All rights reserved

We wanted to attract the lorikeets into our garden and there were lots of them in the trees around us so we set up some feeding trays and put bird seed in them and we waited and waited and waited ... no luck. We ended up buying a bird seed bell from the supermarket on the advice of a neighbour and after a little while the lorikeets came down and we now have lots and lots of them. I have managed to get some really fantastic photographs of the lorikeets who are quite tame and will let me get very close to them with my camera.
My favourtie time is when they come down in the rain, completely drenched and they then huddle next to each other, snuggling in and grooming one another - gorgeous. They are extremely acrobatic and can hang upside down on the clothes line while munching the bell at the same time. They are extremely noisy and the young ones make a really annoying soft screech which is constant and gets on your nerves. They are very aggressive birds and will always win the battle for the bell when other birds are trying to feed.

The gorgeous rainbow lorikeets © All rights reserved

When I first saw a pale-headed rosella I was in awe at the beauty of this bird. They are extremely timid but will come down and feed when the lorikeets are not around. They always lose the bell when the aggressive lorikeets are around and the pale-headed rosellas are so gentle in comparison. Many of them have a bit of red on the tops of their heads as they are closely related to the Eastern Rosella. The young ones are dirty looking and their plumage brightens to full glory as they mature.

Pale-headed Rosella & Eastern Rosella © All rights reserved

We have only ever seen one eastern rosella and they are very rare in our parts. Again, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I actually saw this bird for the first time. The red head is a magnificent scarlet colour and they are much more striking than the pale-headed rosellas. Luckily, I was able to take a few photos of this one but one day he just disappeared and we haven’t seen another one since, unfortunately. I noticed that the other birds seemed very intolerant towards him and the pale-headed Rosellas used to scare him away which is strange as I thought that they were closely related.

Shortly after the lorikeets came down, we were visited by the beautiful galahs. At first there were only two, who we called “Gary and Gayle” but soon the word spread, and we had lots of others. The Galahs are very gentle birds and they are always intimidated by the lorikeets when it comes to who has rights to the seed bell!

Galahs and one who is drenched in the rain
© All rights reserved

Just when we thought that we had seen every seed eating bird, a couple of sulphar-crested cockatoos swooped down on the bell one day. That cleared out every other bird in the yard and these guys make an impressive entrance, strutting their stuff with their yellow crests up in the air, heads comically nodding up and down, warding off the enemy. These birds are huge and have to be seen to be believed. Once they get their claws on the bird bell it doesn’t last long and I even witnessed one grab what was left and then fly off with it. They are very intelligent birds and they devise ingenious ways of grabbing the bell in their feet so that they can eat more of it at once. Extremely noisy birds as well.

The impressive sulphar-crested cockatoos
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