Fwd: Choughs mating dance

To: CanberraBirds <>, "David McDonald (personal)" <>
Subject: Fwd: Choughs mating dance
From: Kevin and Gwenyth Bray <>
Date: Wed, 15 Mar 2017 03:40:17 +0000
We had nine choughs digging up part of our Belconnen (Emu Ridge) garden this morning.  I had previously “understood”(?) that it’s unusual to see choughs in the north parts of Canberra, but perhaps I’m wrong, or the distribution of them in Canberra is changing?
The choughs seem to like sticking close together, as – when they get a bit apart while digging – those at the rear seem to suddenly “wake up” and race to catch up with the rest of the mob.
I’ve not seen wedgetail eagles locked together as Therese Ralston describes, but quite a few years ago, while standing at a lookout in Eden on the NSW south coast, overlooking Twofold Bay, we watched two white-breasted sea eagles do much the same – “locking” talons and cartwheeling over and over as they fell – until breaking apart, regaining height and doing it again.  I doubt there was any possibility of actual mating while cartwheeling, but perhaps this was the “foreplay”?
Kevin Bray
Sent: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 2:08 PM
Subject: [canberrabirds] Fwd: Choughs mating dance
Greetings, the author of these observations, Therese Ralston, would welcome responses from list subscribers.

Please address, or copy, your responses to her at m("","tralston");"> .

Thanks - David

-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject: Choughs mating dance
Date: Tue, 14 Mar 2017 18:52:22 +1100 (AUS Eastern Daylight Time)
From: m("","tralston");"> m("","tralston");">
To: m("","canberrabirds-owner");">

An hour ago I looked out the window of my computer room and saw a male
chough  performing an elaborate mating ritual. It almost frightened me as I
always see them as a group, and this one was isolated from the others. It's
eyes where huge, like red rubies and it put each of it's wings up and out,
spreading them in turn, then together. It bowed it's head and fanned its
tail high in the air, arching its back. It fluffed up all its feathers until
it was a massive devil like creature and pranced along the glass frontage of
my full height window. The females, of which there were about ten, were
watching him in a semi circle; all making their distinctive loud noises. The
balletic display was amazing.

Every year, a couple of times, the choughs come to my farm house and make a
wild racket of noise very early in the morning. They love digging through my
mulch and stealing the grain I leave out for a peahen who flew in and
decided to stay two years ago. They make a dreadful mess. Once awake, I open
my bathroom window and the entire group fly up into a gum tree as one. After
a minute they all fly back down together as a group. They are really curious
 Lots of birds flock, but these white winged choughs have a lot of character

I knew pigeons and bower birds and those birds of paradise in New Guinea had
elaborate mating rituals, but I had no idea that choughs did as well. The
bird show was like something from an Attenborough documentary; almost
unbelielable. I live 5km's from the Quipolly bird hide and see lots of
interesting things. I've spotted many Sea Eagles on guide posts, and last
week saw five herons on the Quipolly Dam. We have black swans and pelicans
breeding each year. In my garden blue wrens and jenny wrens hop into the
edge of my sprinkler to bathe. I've seen a mistleto bird, a red breasted
robin as well as very destructive king parrots who tear off the apricots
from three massive apricot trees we haven't netted in under a week. Another
highlight is the tree creepers who sometimes follow me on walks through the
cypress pine forest on our property. Flocks of cockatoos are a regular. I
like the chirp of zebra finches and have had a family of willy wagtails nest
in a tree outside my bathroom. Such good parents, they chased and harried
magpies away from that part of the house so well, that they haven't been
seen there in ten years. They make fearsome parents. I had four fat quails
run through my garden in front of me last week as well. They ran so fast it
looked as though they were floating.

I've seen two amazing bird related things before today. The first was an
aerial display by two Wedgetail Eagles. Our farm house is at the top of a
mountain and they glide in circles in the thermals. I don't know if these
two were mating or fighting, but they were like World War One fighter pilots
duelling in mid air. The eagles locked talons and free fell about thirty
metres before springing apart. It took my breathe away. They flew away, but
as big birds it seemed to go on longer than was safe and I wondered if they
were going to plummet onto my pavers. They must weigh a lot for birds as
their legs were really wide and strong. They looked as though they were
wearing leg warmers. When our kelpies were pups, these eagles often follow
my husband and a young dog on the quad bike; waiting to snatch one up to eat
if it is left alone. They kill our goat kids as well, often plucking out
their eyes.

The second amazing thing is what we assume to be a sandpiper, who used to
nest near the dirt road beside the Quipolly Dam. When we would drive past
years ago, the bird would launch its wings straight up like sails, fanning
them out. Presumably it was a distraction so we wouldn't go near the nest
and it was one of those things you couldn't pull your eyes away from. This
bird would also arch its back and put its tail up. With wings up, it looked
like a ballerina prancing. As soon as the car passed, the wings went down
and it became a regular white bird again. It was a mesmerising display,
though thankfully I haven't seen it beside the road for ten years now. It
must have found a much better nest sight among the reeds and bullrushes with
the wading birds at the bird hide.

If you know anything about the weird mating display of the choughs please
let me know. More of a gardener than a twitcher, I love watching all the
birds and am curious. I'm pretty lucky to
Have such a wide variety of species, but I have an enormous garden near
native and wild bushland and cleared farmland. We live quite close to a
cliff edge that isn't steep and I'm sure some birds have never had human
contact when they see me and are unafraid.

My name is Therese Ralston. I am fifty and live near Quirindi in north west NSW. It's a long way from the coast, but I'm not the only one to see Sea Eagles here. (At first everyone thought I was completely balmy.)

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