MFF with a difference - Tallagandra Lanem Sutton

To: "'martin butterfield'" <>
Subject: MFF with a difference - Tallagandra Lanem Sutton
From: "Geoffrey Dabb" <>
Date: Sat, 21 May 2011 18:09:01 +1000

Thanks Martin.  That Morse article (the abstract) suggests a North American phenomenon comparable to what we see here.  For ‘’chickadees, titmice, kinglets’’ I would read ‘’thornbills, weebills, pardalotes and silvereyes’’.  Thinking of a parallel puts one in mind of fairy-wrens, but it seems to me that SFWs tend not to move with the truly mobile kind of flock, but to join in when one passes through their home territory.  Not that SFWs don’t move.  That’s why they appear in suburban gardens occasionally, I think.


From: martin butterfield [
Sent: Saturday, 21 May 2011 5:52 PM
To: Geoffrey Dabb
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] MFF with a difference - Tallagandra Lanem Sutton



According to the version I have accessed was last updated on 29 April 2011 so it is possibly not that out of date.  Its content is however very dense and I couldn't really make much sense of it.  This may be because I am averse to terms such as "Nine-primaried oscines" or possibly because it seemed to be heavily focussed on the tropics.

I wonder whether what we term "mixed feeding flocks " are not more like (quoting from that Wikipedia article)  " feeding aggregations, which are congregations of several species of bird at areas of locally high food availability."  Googling the "feeding aggregations" term gave little of relevance to this discussion. 

I googled ‘’Mixed-species foraging flock’’ and the most commonly cited "scholarly" article was from 1969.  As with most scholarly articles it is not available to mortals outside the gleaming halls of academe (unless one pays an exorbitant fee) but hopefully the abstract will give the idea.


On Sat, May 21, 2011 at 5:26 PM, Geoffrey Dabb <m("","gdabb");">> wrote:

Good Michael.  Speeding vehicles are the bane of roadside birdwatchers on country roads.


We seem to have settled on ‘’MFF’’ in this part of the world.  In some places ‘’bird wave’’ is used.  There is a Wikipedia article (not updated for some time) under ‘’Mixed-species foraging flock’’.  Around Canberra seems to be as good as anywhere to study our woodland/grassland ones.  One question is whether a particular flock is mainly feeding or ‘’moving through’’.


Another question is ‘’What is the nuclear species?’’   Steve Wilson used to suggest the YR Thornbill, and that flocks tended to disintegrate when the YRTs broke off to start nesting.  I’ve noticed a lot of Buff-rumpeds, so far, with the woodland flocks this year and they certainly contribute to the noise side of things.    


From: MJ and ME [mailto:m("","mjmejn");" target="_blank">]
Sent: Saturday, 21 May 2011 4:56 PM
To: m("","canberrabirds");" target="_blank">
Subject: [canberrabirds] MFF with a difference - Tallagandra Lanem Sutton


  Went for a drive along Tallagandra Lane this afternoon. At about the halfway point there was a MFF consisting of Diamond Firetails (about 10), Scarlet Robin (2), Australian Pipit (about 20), Yellow-rumped Thornbills (too many to count) and about 10 White-fronted Chats. They were on the edge of the road in tussocks of grass but feeding on the ground. Would have spent ages watching them except a car came along at great speed and scared them all off. Some of the Diamond Firetails were juveniles with black beaks.
Michael Kingsford


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