birding-aus Figbird behaviour

Subject: birding-aus Figbird behaviour
From: Thyer <>
Date: Sun, 15 Aug 1999 10:08:32 +1000
This morning (while showering) I heard very loud agressive bird noises
eminating from the back yard. Peering through the window I could see two
Figbirds locked in combat on the ground. On closer inspection (from the
back patio) they were both males of the southern race vieilloti. They
were lying on their side head-to-tail and from my view I could see the
right hand side bird seemed to have hold of the other's foot and I
assumed the other had a similar grip on the first bird. By this time
several minutes had elapsed since I was first alerted by their calls.
After collecting my binos from the car I watched for another five
minutes and by this time the tussle had stalemated to what appeared to
me as occasional tugging by one,of his opponent's foot. At this stage I
remembered the video camera and raced off to get it. I took four and a
half minutes of the tussle edging closer all the time untill I was as
close as four to five metres away. On frame by frame playback of the
video it became obvious that the bird I assumed had hold of the other's
foot was actually being held by the other around the forehead, so his
action in pulling back his head every now and again was in reality an
attempt to struggle free. It still seems fair to assume that both birds
had a similar grip on each other but that side of the affair was always
out of my view. All up I estimate that they stayed locked together on
the ground for around fifteen minutes.
 They were both adult males and interestingly their facial skin was
completely white. I remember there was some discussion on facial
colouration of Figbirds on Birding-Aus some time ago when Jim Davis sent
the following message. 
"This morning I watched a male Figbird singing from a palm tree in Mt.
Coot-tha Botantical Garden. As typical for the the species, he displayed 
a red eye-patch. However, when he joined a female to inspect a potential
nest site -- the two birds sat close to each other and clapped their
bills together -- his red face-patch turned white with a thin red/pink
border. Has anyone else witness such a change in colour?"

                Les Thyer
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