Honeyeaters Nesting - Part 2

Subject: Honeyeaters Nesting - Part 2
Date: Fri, 21 Nov 1997 13:56:39 +0800

It is now the middle of day 4 for the Grey-fronted Honeyeaters.  Some
observations from the last few days.

Day 1 & 2

Only one bird is building the nest.  The other very occasionally observes
from a branch a couple of metres away.  The bird was less active later in
the day (roughly after 11am).  Perhaps there are more spider webs early in
the morning?  The active bird several times scraped its bill against a
branch after bringing material into the nest.  Perhaps rubbing some web off
its bill?  The other bird several times chased off one or two Brown
Honeyeaters.  The nest looked almost finished by the end of the day.

Day 3

The bird was now frequently bringing in a 'woolly' material similar to the
material from a kapok tree but I don't know of any bush close by.  The
material is used to line the nest.  i.e. just put in the nest rather than
woven in.  Every three or four visits the bird would pack it down with its
body or sometimes apparently with its feet.  The visits were very frequent
with the bird only away from the nest for a couple of minutes.  The second
bird inspected the nest a few times but did not do any work on it.  Who
builds the nest?  The male or the female?  Perhaps the female was
inspecting the nest?  I wonder if the active bird is feeding as there
doesn't seem to be enough time between visits.

A Brown Honeyeater again revisited the nest at 8:15 (for about 30 seconds)
and 15:00 (for a couple of minutes).  It was a young juvenile/immature with
a yellow cere, no yellow spot and its bill was half black half yellow.  It
is quite possible that this was the young fledged in late September early
October.  i.e. only 8 to 10 weeks old.

The building of the nest appeared to stop at about 10am.  They were seen
mating about 4 metres from the nest at 11:45.  At about 14:30 some more
material was brought to the nest, and the bird appeared to 'lick' the nest
several times with the bird having its mouth open while in the nest.

Day 4

Both birds are in the vicinity of the nest.  One is spending a fair bit of
time on a branch about 2 metres from the nest and preens a lot of the time.
Some more material was brought in at about 6:45 and again at 7:15.  The
second time some rearrangement was done.

The preening bird wiped its bill on the branch a few times, so perhaps
yesterday it was coincidental that the active bird did it after visiting
the nest.

At 7:45, three Brown Honeyeaters visited the nest (two adults and an
immature).  They spent about 5 minutes in the vicinity of the nest with no
sign of the Grey-fronted Honeyeaters.  One adult Brown removed some lining
from the nest, followed by the immature tugging at one of the grass stems.
The adult returned and sat in the nest for about a minute.  The
Grey-fronted Honeyeaters returned about 7:55.

At 8:20 the juvenile Brown Honeyeater visited the nest.  It tugged briefly
at the attachments to the twigs, before sitting in the nest for about 3
minutes, followed by about 1 minute on a twig within 30cm of the nest
before being chased away by a Grey-fronted Honeyeater when it returned.

It is this interaction between the two species that is the most surprising
for me.

At one point the pair of Grey-fronted Honeyeaters were at the nest and one
'shuffled' its wings and then both flew off a few seconds later.  I had
also observed this a couple of times on the day before.

When I returned from lunch at 11:30, the Grey-fronted Honeyeater was
sitting on the nest for the first time.  It wasn't tucked right in (it was
more sitting across the top).  It left the nest at about 11:50 when someone
walked past about 3 metres away.  By climbing on a chair I checked the nest
but there were no eggs.

PS :  Syd Curtis asked what a 'ta-ta' lizard was.  I don't have my copy of
Cogger with me so I can't give the scientific name.  It is called a ta-ta
lizard because it lifts one front foot and waves it, and then alternates
with the other front foot.  i.e. It looks like it is waving goodbye.  I
assume that it does it because the pavement is hot and it is cooling its
feet.  The male is much bigger than the females and defends a territory.

---------------------- Forwarded by Frank O'Connor/Argyle on 21/11/97 06:51
AM ---------------------------

Frank O'Connor
18/11/97 10:05 AM

Subject:  Honeyeaters Nesting

A Grey-fronted Honeyeater began to construct a nest about two metres from
my office window this morning at the Argyle Diamond Mine in the north east
Kimberley of WA.  Spider webs appear to be the main construction material
with some short (10 to 15cm) thin grass providing the backbone.  By 9am the
main shape of the cup nest was apparent.  I have watched the Grey-fronted
H/E bring in material regularly about every 5 to 10 minutes since about 8am
when I found the nest.  Most construction is done with the bird sitting in
the nest.  At 10am the nest appeared to be about a third to half completed.

At 9:20am I saw a bird fly in, and I realised that it was a Brown
Honeyeater.  It began to rearrange the nest for about 5 minutes before the
Grey-fronted returned and chased it off.  This seemed remarkable that
another (smaller) species would try to take over the nest.

So far I have only seen one Grey-fronted H/E this morning, but they are
common and I noticed a pair outside my office yesterday several times.

The Brown Honeyeaters nested about 5 metres away at the end of August and
fledged one young from two eggs in early October.  I also found a
Grey-fronted nest about 20 metres away at the end of August but the nest
fell off the tree before any eggs were laid.  I have found many
Grey-fronted Honeyeaters breeding over the years, but this is my first
record for November.

The nest is exposed in the dead thin twigs at the end of an acacia that was
blown over in a storm a couple of days ago and is resting against the roof
of the building.  The nest is almost two metres off the ground and is just
underneath the eaves of the building which will give some protection from
future storms.  Hopefully our gardening crew will leave the fallen tree
until the young have fledged.  A Common Tree Snake was seen in the area
last week, and that could be another potential predator.  The very common
'ta-ta' lizards can be predators, but the nest is far enough out in the
smaller twigs such that a ta-ta lizard would have trouble.

The last few days have brought a flurry of nesting activity.  There are two
or three active Zebra Finch nests close by the building, and this morning a
pair of Crimson Finches chased away a pair of Zebra Finches from a nest
that the latter were building and checked it out for themselves.  I don't
know whether they have taken it over.

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