cisticolas and others breeding

To: <>
Subject: cisticolas and others breeding
From: "Philip Veerman" <>
Date: Fri, 24 Jan 2014 22:12:49 +1100
Martin's examples are fine and there are any number of other examples. Martin's concept seems as good as any other suggestion to me, although probably requires a time context (as in immediate). It is not always behaviour by the male. For example I think the female sexual solicitation behaviour by the Pied Currawong is far more obvious than the male's courting behaviour. In that case I guess a Co is one up in usefulness scale than a Di. So by all means include Di data if you are sure that is what it is and you wish, because that is what our data forms allow but I wouldn't worry about it too much. I suspect some things are recorded as displays that may be behaviour unconnected with "behaviour intended to persuade a bird of the opposite sex to copulate". Because maybe the observer does not know what it is. I think it pretty pointless to label every Cisticola singing at the top of a grass stem as a breeding record (I not sure that was being suggested). Then many other species do routines that are nowhere near as obvious (at least to us).
I last commented on this question, in relation to the issue of cuckoos having a brood patch, as to what we should include as breeding records. My opinion is that including "display" as a breeding record is a fairly vacuous bit of data, unless it is followed up by later data demonstrating the breeding. This normally applies more to GBS methods because that is more likely to follow the activities of a particular set of birds at a site, than other types of COG surveys when often you never see those birds again. Thus the one GBS breeding record of a Wedge-tailed Eagles perform a spectacular display flight is hardly worth the bother, as it clearly was not breeding in the site, all it does is set a date. I wrote a couple months ago of having a Hobby flying around the tree in my yard and investigating the abandoned Pied Currawong nest. If it had stayed and started nesting then I would record that as a Di to set a date. But it didn't so I have not recorded the behaviour as it simply isn't useful and because without proof of later evidence I cannot be sure I was interpreting the behaviour correctly. Likewise all the Crested Pigeon bowing displays are only notable to set dates and should be considered only as part of better evidence of breeding. All the Satin Bowerbirds bower activities are entertaining but don't tell us much about breeding as they are probably not breeding locally anyway. It just tells us that the males are highly motivated.  
Years ago I wrote an article in CBN of observing White-throated Needletails doing what looked like engaged in pair chasing display (over Tuggeranong Hill). Others have also published similar. The species doesn't breed in Australia but maybe goes through what presumably is "behaviour intended to persuade a bird of the opposite sex to copulate". 
-----Original Message-----   From: Martin Butterfield [
Sent: Friday, 24 January 2014 5:35 PM
To: John Harris
Cc: Bill & Raelene;
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] cisticolas breeding

I don't count myself as 'learned' but here is an opinion.

I have never seen a 'universal' definition of what is a breeding display written down.  The concept is something along the lines of "behaviour intended to persuade a bird of the opposite sex to copulate".

This covers a large range of species-specific behaviours:
  • Whistlers do what is almost a choreographed dance around in a tree;
  • Wedge-tailed Eagles perform a spectacular display flight;
  • Male musk ducks do their water-shovelling display;
  • a Pallid Cuckoo flying to another Pallid Cuckoo and offer it food  in the middle of doing a call and response routine.
  • Most anything done by a Satin Bowerbird around the bower
I'm not sure that it is always the male that is the actor, but whether the other participant is visible depends on the situation.  I've certainly seen male Satin Bowerbirds going though a very vigorous display routine without a female in sight for several minutes.  Then she has emerged from dense undergrowth at which point I offered them privacy.  Clearly what the male was doing was DIsplay and would have been even if I had left before the female revealed herself to me (I suspect the BB knew she was there all along).


On 24 January 2014 16:47, John Harris <> wrote:

You raise an interesting question which perhaps some of our learned COG
colleagues may be able to clarify.
What constitutes display (‘di’) for the purpose of COG reporting?
Does the female have to be visible for it to count?

On 24/01/2014 4:01 pm, "Bill & Raelene" <>

>Yes. What you say is as I had expected. I have seen what you describe as
>display at the wetland in Forde but did not report it as I was unsure.
>It may be too late this season, but I will keep an eye out for it.
>many thanks, Bill Graham
>On 24/01/2014 3:45 PM, John Harris wrote:
>> Yes cisticolas are under-reported and not just in the breeding season.
>> They are a wet grassland bird and exceptionally wary and unobtrusive
>> outside breeding season when the male calls constantly from the tops of
>> reeds and grasses. They are also dull coloured like dry grass except in
>> the breeding season. I reported them breeding here this spring.
>> I am fortunate to back onto the grasses and reeds which border
>> Creek and I have been watching them for years. For 8 or 9 months of the
>> year you have to be very patient to see or hear one at all but they are
>> there. If observers don¹t choose to go and patiently wait in wet
>> grassland, they won¹t ever see them at all, let alone when breeding.
>> If the male in breeding plumage screeching from the top of a grass stalk
>> counts as display, then Geoffrey Dabb came here with me in Spring and
>> a very good photo. If you troll back through the COG chatline you can
>> it - no don¹t bother, the link is
>> 00438.html.
>> Cheers
>> John
>> On 24/01/2014 8:39 am, "Bill & Raelene" <>
>> wrote:
>>> The records  for cisticolas breeding for the last 30 years seem to
>>> indicate undereporting/ under reporting/underreporting. How is it that
>>> so many experienced birders are missing them? I think I have seen
>>> display but am not sure. Are there any photos of display? What can
>>> account for this deficit?
>>> Bill Graham
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