Noisy Scrub-birds

Subject: Noisy Scrub-birds
From: "Dean Portelli" <>
Date: Mon, 20 May 2002 14:54:36 +1000
Although a relatively late reply I would like to add further comment to Frank O'Connor's posting on the NSB's he saw at Cheyne Beach:

It is not unusual for NSB to call from a perch, in fact when Webster rediscovered the bird the first time he could get a positive ID was when the male he had found climbed up a Banksia and began signing! (how exciting would have that day been!! - particularly since it was the third visit since he first heard the calling male). I myself have seen NSB calling from perches in Agonis, Melaleuca, on top of shrubs, out in the open perched on a stick, perching within Lepidosperma and some other places. It is interesting that Frank mentions that this bird was out in the open for 10 minutes and perched 2 metres above the ground!! (I would be interested to know how high above the surrounding vegetation the bird was - and some further comments on where the second male Frank saw was calling from). Incidentally it appears that NSB at the translocated sites are less elusive as the birds at Two Peoples. Regarding the second bird Frank saw: from the description of the grey throat this sounds like another male, not a female which have a pale brown/cream throat with no hint of any darker markings down the centre of the throat. Secondly, given that Frank et al. had prolonged and reasonably close views of this bird if it were a female they would have likely noticed the smaller size (the female weighs a mean of ~35 grams compared to the male weight with a mean of ~51 grams i.e. on average males are 145% larger than females!!). The colour and extent of black on the throat and upper breast is quite variable (the bird in Pizzey and Knight is particularly well coloured!). However, the bird is at least older than one year as Frank made no mention of any more rufous colouration (besides the flanks/vent area) which is typical of first-year birds. The fact this male was also calling strongly, although I have to assume here that the vocalisations heard were territorial/advertisement song and not short song or other calls, also suggests it is an adult. I am not sure if the throat colouration may change with age and younger males may have less extensive black/grey and older males more extensive black down to the upper breast - if this is the case the second bird seen may have been a younger bird, but irrespective of age this male is a territory-holding bird (provided it is the territorial song Frank was hearing). I am further curious about a reply posting by Syd Curtis re: lyrebirds. Syd mentioned that Lyrebirds cease to be territorial out of the breeding season - I would like to enquire as to what is the basis of this conclusion. In any case with the NSB established territories are defended year-round, although singing frequency is much reduced in the non-breeding season and unpredictable compared to the very vocal breeding season.

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