It’s that time of year again in Australia – spring nesting season.
Birds everywhere are making nests, sitting on eggs in nests or feeding young just out of the nest. In southern Australia – the region I am most familiar with – the “spring” nesting season stretches from the winter months of July and August, through the entire season of spring (September – November) and even well into summer (December – January).
Having confused all of my overseas readers I should explain three things:
- Most of the breeding occurs in the spring months.
- Some species – like our honeyeaters – will nest multiple times, raising 2 or more broods a season.
- Some species will even raise as many as five broods over a six month period.
Being late September nesting is in full swing here on our 5 acre (2 hectare) property in Murray Bridge, South Australia. The following is a quick annotated list of those species I have observed in the breeding mode in recent weeks:
Willie Wagtail: our resident birds have been very quiet and I suspected that they had a nest somewhere but I only found it yesterday. It contained two eggs. The photo above shows a fluffy family of Willie Wagtails just out of the nest a few years ago.
New Holland Honeyeater: last week I saw two parent birds fussing over and feeding two fledglings just out of the nest and barely able to flutter, let alone fly.
Red Wattlebird: I saw one bird sitting on a nest high in one of our trees but haven’t checked it in recent days. Other wattlebirds in our garden are being bossier than usual, so I guess that there are young around somewhere.
House Sparrow (introduced species): they always seem to be mating and nesting, so nothing unusual there.
Common Starling (introduced): the resident dozen or so birds all seem to have taken up occupation of a number of tree hollows in our mallee scrub, but I haven’t yet heard the persistent calls of the nestlings begging to be fed.
Mallee Ringneck parrots: our resident birds were feeding young a month or so ago, and I have seen them constantly investigating a tree hollow. Earlier this week we saw two of them mating, so the next brood could be on the way soon.
Cuckoos: I haven’t seen any cuckoos yet this season but I have heard Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoos calling several times, so they could possibly be nesting too.
Galah: I’m not sure what our Galahs are doing. They come to a hollow in an old growth mallee tree near our clothes line and enter the hollow every day but nothing else seems to be happening. This has happened now for several years so I will just have to keep an eye on proceedings.
Australian Magpie: this is a really puzzling one. The resident magpies showed all the right activities a few months ago when they defended their territory but since then everything has gone quiet. We daily see several birds feeding around the garden and in the paddock, but I have yet to locate a nest. Very strange.
I have highlighted just 9 species in this article. Over the last 30 years I have observed many more species either breeding, or feeding young, on our property. I am quite confident that there would be other species currently nesting somewhere here, possibly including:
- Grey Shrike-thrush
- Common Blackbird (introduced)
- Spotted Turtledove (introduced)
- Crested Pigeon
- Yellow-rumped Thornbill
- Spotted Pardalote
- Striated Pardalote
- White-plumed Honeyeater
- Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater
- Singing Honeyeater
- Little Raven
- Pacific Black Duck (they bring the ducklings to our swimming pool!
- Superb Fairy-wren
- Australian Magpie-lark
- Grey Butcherbird
Click on the following article headings to read about successful breeding attempts in past years:
- We have baby Willie Wagtails
- New Holland Honeyeater nest
- Red wattlebirds with young
- House Sparrows eating berries
- Very Common Starlings – nesting
- Mallee Ringnecks nesting
- Horsfield’s Bronze-cuckoo
- Possible Galah nesting attempt
- Baby Magpie – this is the most popular article on this site with nearly 500 reader comments.
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.
Over the last two months we’ve had a White-winged Triller in our garden. Normally they hang out in the northern parts of Australia and come south in the spring and summer. They often breed at this time of the year.
At first there was only the one, a male. He persistently called throughout the daylight hours, hours after hour. Then about three weeks ago he was joined by another calling. This one wasa little more secretive – vocal but it kept hidden. I think I did catch a glimpse of it briefly and I’m sure it was a female. Females are much plainer brown.
Since then the male has still been around but he is a lot quieter now. It is possible they have a nest somewhere in the vicinity, but they are keeping very quiet about its location.
Over recent weeks the flock of White-winged Choughs that frequently visit our garden have been largely absent. A few days ago I found out why.
They’ve been nesting somewhere nearby – but far away enough not to attract my attention. Now every time they pass through looking for a feed (and disturbing the Australian Magpies into the bargain) they have several young ones to feed, their begging calls making sure they aren’t forgotten.
Over the last week or so we have had two young Grey Currawongs visiting the garden almost every day. They are still quite downy and their begging calls are quite pathetic compared to the far reaching, ringing calls of the adult birds.
They didn’t nest in our garden or on our block of land. I guess they nested up the road a short distance where there is a considerable patch of mallee scrub. The adults are regular visitors in our garden every day or so, but I can’t really call them resident as they come and go. We often we hear them calling in the distance.
Click on the photos to enlarge the image.