Year of the woodswallow?

To: Graeme Chapman <>, Birding Aus <>
Subject: Year of the woodswallow?
From: Denise Goodfellow <>
Date: Sat, 03 Nov 2012 17:40:36 +0930
Hello Graeme

I once did observe Masked Woodswallows at roost - several hundred birds in
the cathedral termite mounds around Pine Creek sewage ponds, at sunset.
They weren't clustered together, but as you noted in your sighting, roosting
singly, each bird pressed into a crevice by itself.

Denise Lawungkurr Goodfellow
1/7 Songlark Street,
Bakewell, NT 0832
043 8650 835

PhD candidate, SCU
Vice-chair, Wildlife Tourism Australia
Nominated for the Condé Nast international ecotourism award, 2004 by the
American website, Earthfoot.
Wildlife Adviser, BBC¹s ?Deadly 60¹

On 3/11/12 10:59 AM, "Graeme Chapman" <>

> Hello to all,
>   My wife and I spent much of October travelling in far western NSW through
> Nyngan, Cobar, White Cliffs, Tibooburra and on into Queensland out to the
> Cooper and back to Kilcowera Station near Thargomindah.
> Virtually all through that area we saw flocks of woodswallows - mainly Masked
> with a few White-browed, but the sheer numbers were very impressive.
> Estimating the numbers in big flocks is difficult, but in many cases there
> would have been 300-500  birds but in all
> we must have seen tens of thousands of birds. Those on the move were roughly
> on a south-easterley heading and at times when we were camped, towards
> evening, there were flocks circling high overhead, apparently feeding before
> they settled down for the night.
> We saw no signs of nesting but when you are on the move, you tend not to.
> Whilst on the subject of settling down for the night, despite trying I was
> unsuccessful in observing any roosting - woodswallow flocks are extremely
> flighty at roosting time and in all my time studying them I have only
> succeeded once in observing White-browed and Masked Woodswallows at roost.
> They were NOT clustering, but roosted singly, pressing themselves into the
> forks of a tree in a more or less vertical position. The reason I dwell on
> this point is that the "dark" woodswallows - Dusky, Little and Black-faced
> form a cluster roost every night of their adult lives - this is well
> documented. All through the literature it is stated that the migratory
> woodswallows cluster as well and this stems from a single old record which I
> believe needs substantiation. I believe they don't.
> With so many woodswallows all over the place this year (they have now reached
> coastal regions in some areas) I am hoping that by raising this issue,
> someone, somewhere, will be lucky enough (or persevere)  and watch them go to
> roost.
> Incidentally, the term clustering is quite precise in its meaning - for true
> clusters, look at my website under Black-faced and Little Woodswallows -
> White-breasted Woodswallows do roost closely together in long lines but this
> is not true clustering.
> At one of our camps near Cobar we stayed several days and during that time
> they were ever present - somewhat to my annoyance because I was trying to take
> tape recordings and their incessant calling made recording difficult. However,
> I did take a few pictures of groups of birds on dead trees warming in the
> early morning sun, and not until we returned home and I was processing the
> pictures did I notice the odd-looking bird -  clearly a hybrid
> "Masked/White-browed", a male with a black face like a Masked, and the deep
> vinaceous-brown underparts of a male White-browed. I have put a picture up on
> my website under Masked Woodswallow.
> Over the years, I have seen many, many migratory woodswallows but never a
> hybrid. A quick search of Birding-Aus archives revealed only one other record,
> but a wider search by Google revealed a number of entries. By far the most
> interesting of these is an extract
> from the recent book "Boom and Bust : Bird Stories for a Dry country" wherein
> Leo Joseph discusses hybridization in these two species - well worth reading.
> I find it fascinating that such closely related species that spend virtually
> all their lives in such close association, hybridize so rarely.
> So, good luck and a Merry Christmas to you all - I am hoping to be overwhelmed
> with replies, even to prove me wrong!
> Graeme Chapman
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