[no subject]

From: (Salmon, Mandy)
Date: 29 Sep 95 13:54:54 EDT
Dear Birding Aus People

The swallows and I would welcome any advice or explanation you could give 
us on the following outrageous and totally unacceptable behaviour on the 
part of a pair of depraved birds - unidentified.

(The breeding attempts of this pair of welcome swallows is a sad tale.  
Last year they refurbished their old nest under the eaves of my home and 
over-extended: it plummeted to the ground.  Undeterred, they set to 
building two new nests - one on the old site and the other on an adjacent 
eave - and by the time they had decided which one it was to be (the old 
site) and she had ultimately laid, it was so hot that the nestlings 
perished - I came on one little dried-up corpse yesterday - thanks to the 
aforementioned pair.)

The swallows were going well (started refurbishing earlier this year) on 
last year's unused site.  Meanwhile I had fleetingly noticed the 
unmentionable pair dipping in and out of the verandah, swinging on the 
pandorea vine but took little notice, thinking they were errant sparrows. 
 A few days ago I observed last year's nest was being tampered with and 
thought it was the swallows' indecision prevailing.  While hearing a 
curious 'woodpecking' noise for some days and a fluttering of wings on 
investigation, it was not until I found the feather lining (and corpse) 
cast out of the old nest and a happy swallow family with twins in their 
own nest, that I realised something odd was afoot.  

Yesterday the old nest came crashing down - I don't wonder - its 
foundations had been undermined.  Now the sad part : this morning I found 
the little baby twins dead on the ground, the parents in distress and 
this murderous pair taking over.  

'She' seemed to be settling in, but not in comfort and I watched off and 
on as they appeared to start remodelling the nest, throwing out feathers, 
chipping away at the exquisite construction.  The swallow parents clung 
to the wall of the house beneath - helpless.  (Why didn't they defend?) 
They left after a couple of hours, inconsolable.  

Eventually, about 2pm the pair left - I don't know if she laid an egg and 
I don't care except that it might make sense of such wantonly destructive 
behaviour.  Anyway the swallows won't touch the nest now - they came back 
this evening out of habit I suppose - not to the nest, but to the nearby 
ledge where in former happier times flying skills would be imparted to 
their young.

Who are these dastardly birds?  I thought they might be cuckoos of some 
sort?  They are a little bigger than a sparrow, a longer beak, buff 
coloured breast (couldn't see any bars) browny grey on top with dark 
markings on head - perhaps Horsefield's bronze cuckoo (?) but I couldn't 
detect any green.

In any event if they were cuckoos, why not ensure a host species that 
would sit on the egg (if there were an egg)?  Why firstly choose an 
unused nest?  Why destroy and/or pillage a nest? 

Most importantly what will the swallows do now, poor things? (Hide their 
heads under their wings, I expect - as I did.)  

While I realise my language may be a little emotive and my sentiments not 
strictly ornithologically ideologically sound (I am untutored), any 
information would be greatly appreciated.



PS  On a happier note, the number of superb parrots visiting my place at 
Murrumbateman has increased to about 40 (predominantly male at the 
moment), and a tawny frogmouth has decided to make his home here.

Mandy Salmon
Strategic Services Section
Australian Nature Conservation Agency
GPO Box 636 
Canberra  ACT  2601
Phone: 2500 745
Fax: 2500 756

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