Dedicated to understanding  the remarkable emotional, social and mental abilities of birds, and the unsuspected richness of their societies.

Maggie magpie and Minnie noisy-miner Keep Me Safe From A Snake

Our birds have rescued us from snakes on many occasions.  Magpies, butcherbirds (both the pied and grey species), noisy-miners and others have all played a part at one time or another in keeping us safe.  Most of the time we do not have a camera in hand to capture a photographic record of the event.  But on a few occasions we have been lucky enough to be able to do so.  

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Romancing Koels

male koel

Koels herald the start of the stormy season and are called 'storm birds' by the locals.

While as big as a crow or a currawong, by nature they are shy birds and tend to stay in hiding. Their red eyes match the mulberries in the tree and when they sit in the shade of the broad leaves, one would never guess that there was a big bird sitting only a few feet away.

All the other birds are generally wary of cuckoos as they sense that someone devious is lurking in their midst.  The koels know that they are not popular, but they do win favours by chasing the goannas and feral cats thus making friends and gaining the trust with some of the other birds.

Having done so this male koel (left) was allowed to come out of hiding without any protest from the smaller birds that visit our yard. His mind and heart was elsewhere though as we discovered.

2 male koels hiding in the mulberry treeIn the trees was hiding another male koel whose presence was causing him great consternation.

female koel

It turned out that the tree was hiding another secret.  Closer inspection revealed a young female koel who was the centre of attention of the two vying young males. The lady honoured us by coming out after some gentle coaxing and sweet talking.

Her two suitors spent the next few days charming and courting her with their songs.  Once she declared her choice they flew into the deep bush leaving one lonely bird who called for weeks. We hope he found his sweetheart too.

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Babblers and Magpies - A Friend In Need Is A Friend Indeed

babblers frolickingBabblers although larger than noisy-miners are still small, gentle birds that can be easily preyed upon by hawks and other predators.  They stay in their family groups, constantly moving and flitting about so as to confuse any hungry eyes watching them with  the wrong intentions. They are generally very shy and quite nervous birds and don't project the immense self-confidence that we've seen in quails for instance.

They like hovering in muddy patches, or near gravel, stone, logs and barks looking for insects.

We noticed their friendship with the magpies soon after we became friends with Maggie and his sisters Cindy and Tammie. 

 

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Helping Wild Birds Recover From Eye Disease

butcherbird with conjunctivitis Pied butcherbirds are prone to conjunctivitis, much more so than their cousins the grey butcherbirds. According to the experts the problem is quite common in the wild with many species falling victim.  We've seen a currawong and even a crow succumbing to this problem. 

First a crust forms on one eye causing inflammation of the eyelid and eye.  If left untreated, it can spread to the other eye as well.  The bird can't open its eyes and can't find food and so slowly starves to death. He/she can't see where it's flying and can crash into trees, buildings and other objects injuring itself badly in the process.  Nor can the bird get to safety out of the way of predators. The disease can even cause the bird to go irrecoverably blind.

Butchie (left) got a very bad attack a few years ago and lost sight in both eyes.  Vets will not treat a bird they can't see so there was little we could do to help.  Her son had got a milder attack before and we had treated it with a general antibiotic and vitamins and he fully recovered in two weeks.  But these did not work on Butchie and we had no way of trapping her.  All the other birds understood. 

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Nest Swapping Between Magpies and Crows

Vicky magpie feeding chick in nestIn this picture Vicky magpie has just landed on the branch with some food for the young chicks in her nest. 

The start of winter, i.e. June is the mating season for magpies.  By July the early breeders will have laid their eggs which usually hatch 4 weeks later.  The young hatchlings  spend a month in the nest developing and growing before they fledge.

Vicky is a late breeder. She doesn't lay her eggs until September and it is well into October before we see her fledgelings.

Magpies tend to keep the same nest over the years unless it is destroyed in a storm or other extreme circumstances.  But Vicky  has changed her nest quite often. 

The most remarkable time was when a few years ago she swapped nests with a crow.  The crows nests are bigger and stronger and she immediately got to work to line and soften the inside.  The crow on the other hand lost no time in reinforcing Vicky's old nest and making it more

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