Crested Pigeon and early morning grooming, Mildura

Crested Pigeon, Mildura

Just before we left the caravan park in Mildura earlier this year, I saw this Crested Pigeon sitting on a power line attending to its early morning grooming. It totally ignored me snapping away below it. After a frosty night it was probably enjoying the first rays of sunshine. So was I.

Finally it consented to pose properly for me (see photos below).

Crested Pigeon, Mildura

Crested Pigeon, Mildura

Spring is on the way – and so are the cuckoos

Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo

Earlier this week I was sitting on our back veranda doing some reading – and enjoying the lovely sunshine. After many weeks of gloomy, drizzling weather it was wonderful to soak up some warmth.

My reading was suddenly interrupted by the distinctive call of a Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo. I looked up and saw this bird perched near the top of a nearby mallee tree. (The branches are dead because they have been ring-barked and subsequently killed by two Galahs chewing the bark.)

I raced inside for the camera and managed a few reasonable photos before it flew off, probably looking for an unsuspecting host to care for its eggs and young. Like most cuckoos in Australia (and elsewhere), this species is parasitic, meaning that they lay their eggs in the nests of other species. Around our garden this probably means the nest of a thornbill.

The unsuspecting host pair hatch the cuckoo’s egg and then feed the young cuckoo. The young cuckoo will even tip the other young birds out of the nest – and thus get all of the food.

Since hearing this bird I’ve heard others in the district, so the spring/summer breeding season is definitely on the way.

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Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo

Some birds can be destructive

Female Australian Magpie gathering nesting material from a mat

From a human point of view, some birds are destructive. Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are well known for taking to woodwork around houses in some parts of Australia. Many species enjoy eating fruit in orchards (like the Mallee Ringnecks that eat our lovely pears – before they are ripe). Galahs, Cockatoos and Corellas can destroy an almond crop and Ravens and Crows steal eggs from chook yards. Honeyeaters, Silvereyes and Lorikeets enjoy grapes and the list can go on.

My recent experience is amusing rather than annoying. Little Ravens and Australian Magpies have been ‘borrowing’ fibres from a mat on our back veranda (see photo above). This mat is for wiping our boots as we come in from the garden. As you can see in the photo, the mat has definitely seen better days and is near the end of its useful life. It’s therefore good to see that it is being reused as nesting material. We’re really into recycling and reusing in a big way so obviously the magpies have been learning from us.

Good birding.

By the way: if you’d like to learn more about Australian Magpies, I can recommend an excellent book called The fearsome flute players. It is both informative and entertaining; you’ll laugh out loud at some of the antics these lovely birds can get up to and are recorded in this book. To order click here – and there is a special deal for readers of Trevor’s Birding.

Magpies like flowers

Australian Magpie on our back veranda

We always enjoy having a family of Australian Magpies in our garden. They are friendly and never swoop or attack us, even at the height of the breeding season. They strut around the garden as if they own it – which I guess is how they view it. This is their territory; we are the aliens. When we dig up the garden they are there immediately to catch any worms or beetles that are unearthed. When I mow the grass they follow the mower for insects like grasshoppers.

They are also very sociable and will join us for morning tea or lunch on the back veranda. They casually walk around our chairs less than a metre away, quite unafraid of our presence. We think that’s wonderful. They also leave evidence that they visit our chairs and table when we are not there. Several days ago I was passing the glass sliding door leading out to the veranda and saw this magpie perched on one of our chairs.

Was it admiring the flowers in the pot on the table?

Not sure. Perhaps it was watching to see if any insects were buzzing around. Whatever the reason it made a great photo.

If you want to learn more about Australian Magpies, I can recommend a great little book about them. The fearsome flute players (click here) is an excellent read, and there is a special offer if you mention you read about it here on Trevor’s Birding.

Australian Magpie on our back veranda

Opportunistic Magpies

Australian Magpie gathering wool for nesting material

It never ceases to amaze me when I consider how enterprising and opportunistic birds can be, especially when it comes to nesting time. It’s that time again and our resident Australian Magpies having been busy fighting to establish their territories. Our 5 acre block on the edge of town is the intersection of three territories, so at this time of the year there are many disputes over boundaries.

One pair dominates the area around our house and sheds and they are the birds that come most frequently to our bird baths and close to the house. They will often come right up to the front or back doors and allow us to get quite close. They are also quite happy to search for food only a metre or two from where we might be working or sitting in the garden. This includes our back veranda area where we often cook a BBQ and eat a meal.This is despite never having fed them in any way.

A few days ago my wife had a fleece of coloured wool out in the sunshine to dry. She was preparing it for spinning but our resident female magpie found it. Soon she was taking big chunks to the nest tree. Incensed at this free-loading, my wife brought the fleece onto the veranda and draped it over the clothes horse. Undeterred, the magpie enterprisingly found it and continued her nest lining activities. The photographic proof is shown on this post.

For those interested in learning more about magpies go to this article: The fearsome flute players. There is a special offer for readers of Trevor’s Birding.

Australian Magpie gathering wool for nesting material

Australian Magpie gathering wool for nesting material