Welcome to the News section of the iNSiGHT Ornithology website (
www.simoncherriman.com). This blog contains updates about various things I've been up to, interesting environmental issues and observations I make regularly while going about my day. It is designed to be fun AND educational, and inspire you about our wonderful natural world. Happy reading!

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Promiscuous Pigeons


The Common Bronzewing (Phaps chalcoptera) can breed any month. Earlier this year, a pair built a nest and reared two beautiful young at my parents’ place in Parkerville. And now ‘our’ Mt Helena pair has decided that April is the month for them!

A few weeks ago, we observed both male and female pigeons busily gathering sticks and flying to a protected spot in the parrot bush thicket at the front of our yard. A flimsy nest started forming... but suddenly they gave up and ceased to build any more, or lay eggs. Recently we had a few days of rain, and this seemed to trigger the birds back into action. Nest-building behaviour was continuous over the weekend, and today I observed the male sitting while his mate was off foraging in the backyard. He sat patiently all day, probably incubating one egg the female laid the previous night, nestled cosily into the stick platform that sat among the prickly, holly-like branchlets of the Dryandra shrub.

Later this evening I checked the nest, and noticed the female had now taken on the ‘night shift’. In the cold evening air she sat much lower down than the male had, flattened onto the nest with her head tucked neatly behind some spiny leaves, concerned only with keeping her precious eggs warm.

Bronzewing camouflage is amazing - they no doubt rely on their patterned plumage to keep themselves hidden while sitting on their exposed nests. The birds are also aware of their colouring when out foraging and this has some influence on their behaviour. For example, when a magpie is startled by a threat like a dog or fox, it will call out in alarm and fly up to the safety of a tree branch. A Bronzewing on the other hand, knowing its feathers are coloured to match the dry leaves and bushes on the ground where it feeds, will remain perfectly still and wait until danger has passed. This makes them particularly vulnerable to being hit by cars: when active on roads, the birds freeze if an oncoming vehicle approaches, thinking they are camouflaged and can stay hidden until danger moves on. They don’t realise they are on a bitumen road and actually very obvious to all - instinct is very powerful.

Having seen the bird, an ignorant driver could think it will fly off, just as any other bird might, and not slow down giving it time to get away. The Bronzewing, waiting until the very last minute, gets killed on impact before it can move. Minimising our impacts to wildlife can sometimes take a bit of knowledge about wildlife, awareness of their behaviour and careful thought.

 

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