Wednesday, 26 November 2008

#55 The Grey Butcherbird - from hatchling to fledgling

Taking the opportunity to observe the habits of a pair of Grey Butcherbirds raise their young in the Hunter Valley, NSW, was a fascinating and entertaining experience. I wish to share a series of images by my husband, Grahame, from hatchling to fledgling.

Female Grey Butcherbird settles on her chicks

The Grey Butcherbird (Cracticus torquatus) appears to be a year-round resident of the Hunter Valley. I delight in hearing its joyous cackle, sometimes competing with the glorious tune of its cousin, the Pied Butcherbird.

I considered their nest site an odd choice, resting precariously on a dead sapling that was teetering at 45 degrees. It was totally exposed to the elements, and to aerial predators, without the protection of foliage.

Male offers female a morsel of food
(chicks in nest - 14 Oct 2008)

Male supplies one of 4 youngsters with food -22 Oct 08

Distribution of the Grey Butcherbird is woodland and open forest throughout Australia, excluding hotter deserts and Cape York Peninsular. (ref: Readers Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds). It is a reasonably common bird in rural Hunter Valley where I live.

Both parents feed the young - 14 Oct 2008

The female incubates 3 to 5 eggs for 24 to 26 days. She is fed on the nest by the male, but both parents feed the young. Young fledge in about 4 weeks. (ref: Readers Digest)

The 4 chicks - 28 Oct 2008

The habits of the birds were very interesting to observe at length. Both parents collected and carried away faeces sacs. Following is a series of three images illustrating the collection process:

The young offers his rear-end . . . . .

. . . . a bulge appears as the chick pushes out waste . . . .

. . . . . and the parent collects the sac for removal.

We watched both birds return to the nest with frogs, moths, worms, grasshoppers, other invertebrates, and a dismembered bird or animal. At one stage, the adult male successfully fed a piece of meat and bone, as big as the chick, to one of his brood.

I was amazed at the rate at which both parents returned to the nest with offerings for their young. They are very efficient hunters, perching on a branch, watching the ground, and pouncing.

A frog for one of the four gaping mouths (28 Oct 2008)

1st Nov the 4 chicks are exercising their wings

4 Nov, only 2 chicks remain - the missing two chicks may have fledged, fallen, or been predated

According to some of my reference books, Butcherbirds are likely to nest in the same territory year after year, so we will check out this area again next year in the hope of making further observations.

Note: I recently had the opportunity to observe a bird-banding project in Western Australia. Interested people can read about this rewarding experience on my journal blog, Snippets and Sentiments.


nut said...

Very nice!

Mosura said...

Great post and a fantastic series of photos.

Gouldiae said...

G'day Gaye,
What a great sequence of observations. I think you and Grahame were as dedicated as the parent birds. Lovely stuff.

Gaye from the Hunter said...

hi nut, Mosura and Gouldiae,

I'm glad you all enjoyed the Butcherbird family. Thank you for leaving a comment.


Duncan said...

Terrific post and pictures Gaye. :-)

Gaye from the Hunter said...

hi Duncan, and thank you. It's great to share such a wonderful aspect of nature.

I have been away for a few weeks, and have a lot of chatching up to do with reading my favourite nature blogs, and on writing up my nature observations.


Tyto Tony said...

Great series, Gaye. (I'm catching up after a laptop meltdown).

Gaye from the Hunter said...

hi Tony,

I hope your computer worries have been now eliminated. I am still in the process of catching up on the excellent nature writings of my favourite bloggers, so you will hear from me shortly.