There are at least a couple of New Holland Honeyeaters which spend a lot
of their time in my garden throughout the year. During most of last
October, one of them adopted my Grevillea rosmarinifolia - 3m high by 4m
wide and flowering well at the time - as its entire feeding territory.
No matter what time of day I looked out my window, the bird was always
in that bush. Without fail!
There's not a lot flowering here at the moment, but just yesterday one
of the New Hollands started spending an inordinate amount of time on a
branch just outside my dining room window, preoccupied with its
reflection. It erects all the white feathers on its head and face (not
the black ones) so that the white patches stick out, occasionally
flutters towards the window and repeatedly wipes its bill on the branch.
I've seen similar bill-wiping performed by finches and in their case
it's often described as a part of their courtship behaviour. Robert
Burton in "Bird Behaviour" (1985) sheds a bit more light on things:
"Many birds wipe their bills on the perch after feeding, but the Zebra
Finch also does so as a displacement activity during courtship because
there is a conflict between sexual attraction and the hostility evoked
by another bird coming too close." And in the same book, a further
explanation of diplacement activity: "a well-known phenomenon in which
an animal that is thwarted in its attempt to carry out an action reacts
with some irrelevant behaviour".
I guess the honeyeater recognises its reflection as a same-sex bird,
therefore seeing it not as a potential mate but as a rival. If this is
the case, it is definitely thwarted in any attempts to repel the
stubborn intruder who just won't go away! Hence the displacement
activity (bill-wiping) as an outlet for its frustration.
Anyway, I've found that by hanging a white curtain across the inside of
the window, the reflection almost disappears from the outside and is no
longer a problem.
By the way, we haven't heard the Sooty Owl since my last posting on the
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