Over recent months we have had several visits from Rufous Whistlers in our garden. The most frequent of these has been a juvenile male. In the photo above one can see the streaking on the front indicating a young bird. The next photo shows the back of a juvenile with more definite marking. This could well be the same bird because the photo was taken a few weeks later.
The third photo (below) shows the young bird developing more definite markings and colours on the front. The rufous belly and breast-feathers are starting to take on the colour of a mature bird. Interestingly, at the same time I also managed to get a great backside shot of a Spotted Pardalote drinking from the bird bath.
In the final shot we see a side on view of the bird. The black throat band is particularly prominent.
Click on any photo to enlarge the image.
Interesting to see the adult plumage developing Trevor, we only ever see the juvenile streaked or adult feathering here, not the in between stages.
Thanks for the comments Duncan. I must admit that this is the first time I’ve seen the intermediate plumage too. This young fellow has been hanging around now for a few weeks so it was almost inevitable I’d get some photos. It has been amusing listening to him learning the ropes as far as singing is concerned too.
[…] On Trevor’s Birding blog, a pictorial view of the ontogeny of a male Rufous Whistler. […]
Hi again Trevor, Last year 2008, there was a male rufous whistler in residence here when I moved in. He used to sing outside the laundry window whilst tapping at the glass. I thought when I was watching him once through the glass, that he seemed a bit old and I wondered that he might be either a bit deranged with his glass tapping routine, or lonely and thus a bit narcissitic. (Perhaps I’m just anthropomorphising, although frankly I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing.) He seemed to be the only one about. I thought maybe he was trying to get the flies caught in webs on the inside of the window, so I cleaned them away. It seemed fairly insistent behaviour a tad compulsive even, and cleaning away the cobwebs and flies made no difference to it. After some heavy rain and wind in early Autumn this year, he was gone. Gone to God I wondered.
Recently I was gladdened to read that the rufous whistler can be migratory. And just this week a female has turned up in the garden. She is a lot bigger than the male but and has taken to attacking or pecking the window in the front bedroom, which is on the same side of the house as the laundry and sings happily while she taps away. I was up out of bed quickly when I first heard her. Glorious.
She seems to be the only one about. I’m beginning to wonder if this glass tapping routine is some sort of inherited neurotic family trait, which she has picked up, not through seeing ?Dad do it, but by simply ‘knowing’ he did it and where he did it. She did spend a bit of time down at the laundry window the day she arrived, but seems to have settled on the front one.
Anyway I’ve had a bit of a google around, as you do, to see if I could find any other evidence of this window tapping behaviour of the rufous whistler but haven’t been able to. So will attest here that it does not seem to have been unique to one specific bird or gender.
I last commented here you may recall, asking you about the white winged cheogh and their vandalism of other nests. It’s odd for me to declare war on any species of animals, usually I am of the live and let live type. But after they had trashed a willy wagtails next and a top know pigeons and others that I found lying around, they began to annoy me with their evil red eyes and so I became much more territorial than they, scaring the bejesus out of them (and mostly everything else) every time they tried to alight in the garden. It would seem I have won! Hrrr!
I’m interested in Caroline’s comment. I have a female rufous whistler in the garden that has been displaying and attacking its reflection in both my sitting room windows and the car windows. She has been going consistently for ten days now, and shows no sign of slackening off. She has been calling (very beautifully) as part of her aggressive display. A male appeared nearby two or three times, and sang, but the female paid absolutely no attention to him.
I also tried a range of searches, but could find nothing published on this behaviour, until I came across your comment.
There seems little doubt that the female’s behaviour is territorial, directed at a perceived female rival., and associated with the current breeding season. In nine years at this house I have not encountered the behaviour before, but this has been a particularly good season for plant growth and concomitant bird activity, following more than a year of heavy rain (my property is on the edge of a small rural town in southern Victoria, close to tI-tree scrub).
Male aggression towards reflected ‘rivals’ is well recorded, but I’m intrigued by the female equivalent. Does anyone else have any reord of this, for the Rufous Whistler or other species?
Hi Tom, I’ve checked out the text in HANZAB (which goes for about 20 pages of fine print) and there is quite some evidence that both male and female Rufous Whistlers will defend their territory. While it is true that the male is the most aggressive, the female will also do this until nesting has commenced, when her attention is more directed at sitting on the eggs or feeding the young once hatched.
HANZAB: Handbook of Aust NZ and Antarctic Birds