Whipbirds calling

Subject: Whipbirds calling
From: (Syd Curtis)
Date: Fri, 1 May 1998 21:58:06 +1000
> Jill Dening asked: What is the latest wisdom on the view that the female
>>responds at the end of the male whipcrack, and Ian Clayton responded:

>In my experience the male will respond to his own call if he is alone,
>if a female (mate) is present she always responds.   The difference
>being there is a pause if the male responds to his own call. If the female
>responds the choo-choo is immediate.

In south Queensland I have found that it is not unusual for there to be a
whip call with no choo-choo response.  For a number of years (some ten
years ago) I assisted Jiro Kikkawa (U of Q Zool. Prof.) with his annual
student exercise in rainforest ecology at O'Reilly's in Lamington NP.  One
of a number of studies was the dawn chorus in which amongst other things
the number and rate of whipbird calls were recorded.  This was Spring/early
Summer and whipbirds are winter breeders up here.  It was very noticeable
that the females were 'late risers' - or at least early on they rarely
bothered to respond.  Jiro always set up a Uher recorder running at low
speed as an independent record.  I think that he retained the tapes, and as
Emeritus Professor he still maintains an association with the University
(just doesn't get paid any more!) if you wish to follow up on this, Jill.

There were whipbirds breeding in the rainforest beside our house where I
grew up on Tamborine Mountain and at any time of the day one could get the
whip call without the response on some occasions, but if one waits there
will eventually be a choo-choo response.  Perhaps that is what Ian means.

My mother assured me that occasionally both calls would be made by the one
bird and she assumed this was the male but did not claim to be able to
distinguish the sexes, and I simply accepted her advice without bothering
to check for myself.  (She was recognised as a competent observer: Hilda
Geissmann in the Q. Museum book "Their Brilliant Careers".)

Something that might be useful to you, Jill:  I have found that when there
are whip calls without any response, if you get reasonably close to the
calling bird and then whistle the response at the correct time and using
the local dialect, this will certainly stir the female to action if there
is one.  With an apparent intruding female trying to seduce her mate, she
will quickly move close to him if she's not there already and respond to
his every call at least for a time.

Incidentally, I had wondered whether it is certain or merely assumed that
it is the male that initiates the duet, and not the female.  Birding-aus
subscribers assured me that it is the male, but may I suggest Jill, that
you run your own check on the question.


Syd Curtis at Hawthorne, QLD.

H Syd Curtis

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