White-winged Choughs near Melbourne

To: Messages Birding-aus <>
Subject: White-winged Choughs near Melbourne
From: Dr Richard Nowotny <>
Date: Thu, 17 Jul 2003 00:22:15 +1000
On a morning walk on Sunday 6 July with members of Birds Australia VicGroup in the western section of the You Yangs Regional Park (approx 40 mins drive south-east of Melbourne) it was a little disappointing not to come across the usual small party of White-winged Choughs - particularly as we had a couple of visitors from California with us, for whom WWC would be a life bird.
However, after finishing the walk and driving south to the end of the park and the beginning of the extensive surrounding farmlands a small party of Choughs in a large field adjoining the park caught our eye and gave the Americans their life White-winged Chough.  But this group of about 12 birds was only an outlier of a massive flock of perhaps 150 birds working its way over the field further from us, easily the largest party of Choughs I have seen (and a very good reason for the apparent absence of Choughs from their more usual habitat in the park proper).
I foraged through some of my books to explore the issue of winter flock size and came up with the following very similar statements:
1.      Pizzey & Knight:  " autumn-winter, where food plentiful, up to 100+."
2.      The first Atlas (Blakers et al, 1984):  "Flocks numbering 100 or more, sometimes reported, are temporary congregations of several groups."
3.      Reader's Digest:  "In winter, up to 100 or more may gather temporarily at flushes of food, but they soon disperse and revert to their component groups."

Interesting.  It suggests that this congregation of approx 150 birds was a genuinely large one - and this in the midst of open farmland with only the You Yangs and immediately adjacent woodland as their usual habitat (assuming that birds had not joined the group from the Brisbane Ranges or other more far-flung woodlands).  There were many more birds in this large congregation than I had ever imagined were resident in the You Yangs.  However, it's not all that surprising that it is relatively easy to find typical parties of 10-15 choughs in the You Yangs in spring-summer.
Is this the closest reliable location for WWCs for Melbourne-based birders?
Richard Nowotny

8 Pier St   Port Melbourne
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