birding-aus Nestsite selection behaviour in Willie-Wagtails?

To: Birding-aus <>
Subject: birding-aus Nestsite selection behaviour in Willie-Wagtails?
From: Chris Hudson <>
Date: Tue, 11 Jan 2000 21:02:17 +1100
Yesterday, I saw the most interesting behaviour by a pair of Willie
Wagtails.  I was walking along the sports ovals near Kippax in the
northern suburbs of Canberra, when I set off a pair of Magpie-larks who
exhibited all the normal behaviour of having a nest or juvenile nearby.
That is, alarm calls and swooping behaviour.  As it turned out there was
a nest about 10 metres off the ground with a nearly fully fledged
juvenile next to it, but not actually in it.  While this was happening a
pair of Willie Wagtails joined in with their scolding calls.  I moved on
about 10 metres so that I was no longer distressing the Magpie-larks.
The Willie Wagtails followed me and continued to scold me.  I thought
that they also may have had a nest nearby, so began watching them more
closely.  After a couple of minutes I obviously was considered to no
longer be a threat, as one of the birds (possibly the female) then
fluffed up its breast feathers and proceeded to move along various
branches "squatting" every so often for no more than about 1-2 seconds
at each point before moving on.  All up, in the couple of minutes that I
saw this behaviour, I estimated that about 50-60 different spots were
tested including the top links of a chainlink fence!

Am I correct in believing that the bird was checking each spot as a
possible nest site?  Has anyone seen similar behaviour in Willie
Wagtails or other birds.

Seen nearby were another pair of Willie Wagtails with a nest containing
at least one young. This nest was about 30 metres away from where I had
seen the previous pair of wagtails.  It was close enough that I could
still see the other pair of wagtails, while watching this pair feeding
their young.

Also observed was a juvenile Olive-Backed Oriole being almost force-fed
what appeared to be a very large caterpillar by its parent.  The young
bird seemed to have all sorts of trouble getting the proferred food
down, but eventually managed it.

Chris Hudson
Canberra, Australia

"There is more to life than increasing its speed" - Mahatma Ghandhi

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