Honeyeaters Nesting - Part 4

Subject: Honeyeaters Nesting - Part 4
Date: Fri, 12 Dec 1997 08:24:57 +0800

The saga continues ...  The story so far.  A pair of Grey-fronted
Honeyeaters have nested outside my office window at the Argyle Diamond Mine
in the east Kimberley of WA.  When I left for Perth on 24th November it was
day 7 (since nest construction began) and one egg had been laid.  See my
home web site under Articles for the
full story.

Day 22 Tuesday 9th December 1998

I checked the nest at 6:15 and there was one tiny nestling that appeared to
have only just hatched possibly that morning and one egg.  The second egg
had not hatched by the end of the day.

Most feeding during the day was done by the bird that was not on the nest
(the male?).  When this happened, the bird on the nest (the female?) would
fly off as the other approached.  On one occasion the other bird approached
but did not have any food and the bird stayed on the nest.  The bird on the
nest only seemed to feed the nestling when it returned to sit on the nest
but not on all occasions. The bird on the nest was always alert moving its
head and looking around.  Several times it seemed to stand up and rearrange
the nest or the nestling before sitting down again.  The bird was on the
nest more in the morning and the later afternoon than during the middle of
the day when several times it was on a twig within 30cm of the nest.

The second bird attacked a 'ta-ta' lizard on the ground about six metres
from the nest twice during the day.  The second time the bird on the nest
left to assist.  Why they chose these two times was not apparent.  There
are up to about six lizards in the close vicinity often directly below the

The second bird also very aggressively chased the Yellow-throated Miners at
least four times, with the bird on the nest assisting twice.  This
surprised me as the Yellow-throated Miners are amongst the most agressive
birds at Argyle and are often seen chasing Great Bowerbirds and sometimes
Magpie Larks.  There is a group of 6 to 8 Yellow-throated Miners that hang
around the mess about 40 metres from the nest.  They were only chased by
the Grey-fronted Honeyeaters when they were within about 10 metres of the
nest, and they never came anywhere close to the nest.  There were times
that the Yellow-throated Miners appeared to be left alone.  I assume that
they were competing for food?

When I left at 17:55 it was getting quite dark and the bird was on the

Day 23 Wednesday 10th December 1998

I checked the nest at 6:45 and there was one nestling and one egg with a
hole on the top.  I checked again at 10:00 and there was no egg and there
appeared to be only one nestling.  I checked again at 15:00 and there was
only one nestling.  What happened to the second egg/nestling?  I am
confident that it wasn't predated, so I suppose that the adults carried it
away choosing to only raise one young?  The nestling was not strong enough
to have knocked the egg out of the nest.  There was no sign of the egg or
nestling below the nest, but the lizards would probably have eaten it
quickly anyway.  The Brown Honeyeaters that nested nearby in September were
the same and only raised one nestling from two eggs.  I have seen the
Grey-fronted Honeyeaters raising two young in August 1993, October 1993 and
September 1994.

The feeding was the same as the day before with the addition that the
second bird removed a faecal sac on at least two occasions and flew off
with it.  The second time the bird seemed to swallow the sac.

They again harassed the Yellow-throated Miners on a number of occasions.
At 17:35 I was about 20 metres away from the nest watching two male Zebra
Finches fighting  when a Grey-fronted Honeyeater came in and broke them up.
It was not the bird that was still sitting on the nest.  The Zebra Finches
resumed fighting about a minute later.

It started raining fairly heavily at 14:00.  The bird on the nest had
turned side on to the building rather than its normal position of facing
away.  It was protected from the direct rain by the eaves of the building,
but it was getting wet.  At 14:25 there was only very light rain and the
second bird arrived.  The first bird left and the second bird drank the
water drops hanging on the twigs near the nest and then it used its tongue
to apparently lick the nest as though it was drying it.  It did this again
at 14:43.  When it arrived it fed the nestling an insect with wings (about
the size of a flying termite) but then took it straight back and ate it.
Perhaps it was too big?

When I left at 17:55 it was getting quite dark and the bird was on the

Day 24 Thursday 11th December 1998

The feeding was similar to the previous days with the bird on the nest
leaving when the other approached with food.  This time the nestling could
eat the larger insects.  It appeared to be about double its initial weight.
Several faecal sacs were taken away.  The bird on the nest appeared to make
adjustments to the nest or nestling on a number of occasions.

They again chased Yellow-throated Miners and a couple of times they
attacked 'tat-ta' lizards in trees including one in the same tree about 3
metres from the nest which they chased onto the roof.

There was very light drizzle at 12:20 until about 12:32.  The bird only
spent a very short time on the nest in its normal position facing away from
the building.  At 14:05 light drizzle started again building up to heavier
rain and thunder at 14:10 dropping to light drizzle by 14:43.  The bird
stayed on the nest in its normal position for the whole period.  It was
fairly windy for a short period which moved the nest around slightly.  On
two occasions a person approached to about 1 metre from the nest but the
bird stayed on the nest and didn't seemed disturbed.  At 14:43 the second
bird flew in to feed the nestling. The bird on the nest hopped off and sat
back on the nest about 30 seconds later.

When I left at 17:55 it was getting quite dark and there was no bird on the

To be continued....   Stay tuned...   Same channel ...


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