Yes, babblers often form same-sex coalitions to disperse (males more often than
females) and in my thesis I speculate that a coalition will kill the incumbent
same-sex line to take over a territory; and, if the coalition partner are close
in age, will kill each other off once they’ve successfully acquired the
territory. Although I never witnessed it there was indirect evidence e.g. in a
group of three, a dominant male and his younger helper brother would frequently
be replaced by a new dominant male and his younger brother. I couldn’t rule out
divorce as I didn’t see what happened, but it did seem unlikely that both males
would spontaneously die at the same time, to be replaced almost immediately by
a new coalition. Also they could have just been driven off but I never sighted
them again over a large area. I also had a very telling incident where two
unrelated females of about the same age established a new territory on a
reveged site. They held it for ca. a year, then within a week of a male joining
them one of the females was found dead. In another cooperative breeder, the
Arabian babbler, female coalitions will kill to take over a territory, and male
coalitions initially share paternity but eventually kill each other off until
there is only one.
All the best
Dr Caroline J Blackmore
Postdoctoral Fellow – office hours Tuesdays and Thursdays
National Marine Science Centre
Southern Cross University
2 Bay Drive/PO Box 4321
Coffs Harbour NSW 2450
Tel. +61 (0)2 6648-3934/+61 (0)488 713-651
[Enviro] SCU respects our environment. Please be green... and read from the
From: Dean Portelli
Sent: Thursday, 4 February 2016 7:58 PM
To: Caroline Blackmore
Subject: Fwd: FW: Birding-Aus Digest, Vol 28, Issue 2
Someone forwarded me the message below about Grey-crowned Babblers killing each
other! Have you seen anything remotely similar, or have any insight?
> Message: 3
> Date: Tue, 2 Feb 2016 13:58:26 +1100
> From: "Greg and Val Clancy" <<>>
> To: "Birding-aus"
> Subject: [Birding-Aus] Killer Babblers
> Message-ID: <>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="UTF-8"
> I received a ?phone call recently from a resident of Lanitza, south of
> Grafton, who had witnessed a group of Grey-crowned Babblers gang up on
> another one and kill it. This was alarming enough but two days later a
> group (?the same one) attacked and killed three other Babblers. I am not
> sure of the age of the birds that were killed but they may have been birds
> from other groups invading the local Babblers? territory or young birds that
> were not sired by a new dominant male. Whatever the reason I have never
> witnessed this myself or even heard of it before. I have often seen
> Babblers displaying, calling and behaving in a strongly territorial manner
> but killing other Babblers is rather extreme. Has anyone else witnessed
> murder in the Babbler clan?
> The concern here is that the Grey-crowned Babbler is listed as vulnerable in
> NSW and flocks on the NSW north coast tend to be quite small so the loss of
> individuals may be significant. Obviously the odd babbler would be killed
> by predators but to have individuals of their own species kill them is
> Dr Greg. P. Clancy
> Ecologist and Birding-wildlife Guide
> | PO Box 63 Coutts Crossing NSW 2460
> | 02 6649 3153 | 0429 601 960
> Message: 4
> Date: Tue, 2 Feb 2016 18:12:11 +1100
> From: Penny Brockman <<>>
> To: Birding-aus
> Subject: [Birding-Aus] Feeding wild birds
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=utf-8; format=flowed
> Dear birding-aussers
> To feed or not to feed. This is an interminable question with too many fors
> and againsts.
> However having spent the first half of my life in England, and now with a
> son who lives in Putney London and regularly feeds the local birds, trying
> hard to keep the grey squirrels at bay, and a second son in Normanhurst
> Sydney, and myself first in Sydney Newtown and now Gloucester NSW, I have
> experienced/witnessed this in many good and bad ways.
> As Wim Wader pointed out, it is essential to feed birds during very cold
> weather in the northern winters when food is in short supply and much
> habitat has been lost or is covered in snow. This is particularly so the
> further north you go with very short dark days. My family lived in Surrey
> and we always put out nuts, suet balls, or bits of meat scraps which were
> eagerly taken by woodpeckers, robins, tits, blackbirds, thrushes, etc. but
> only in winter.
> When I first arrived in Sydney I was immediately struck by the much improved
> annual conditions for birds, except for those badly affected by loss of
> habitat - wetlands drained, forests logged flat, urban development removing
> native vegetation, etc., and the love of people with gardens for expanses of
> closely mown grass. so-called traditional English flowers (that have been
> garnered from all around the world so hardly English), and plantings of
> small trees and shrubs with lots of space around them so that the mower can
> easily cut the grass. This leaves little in the way of all year round good
> foraging for birds and exposure to predation, particularly for little birds.
> Larger birds often benefit.
> Whatever you feel about feeding native Australian birds, you must remember
> the following facts which are well proven -
> Our small woodland birds are in sharp decline. They need woodlands and lots
> of undergrowth. They are killed easily in the open by cats, big predatory
> birds such as ravens, butcherbirds, kookaburras and raptors, as well as
> snakes, and so need dense shrubbery - particularly native shrubs as these
> contain the insect life they eat. Exotic shrubs and trees often do not
> attract native insects. I have an acacia in which thornbills, fairy-wrens,
> honeyeaters, whistlers and fantails spend a lot of time searching and
> finding caterpillars etc. Acacias are diffilcult in urban gardens as they
> tend to die....I must have lost about 10 in the
> 14 years I've developed a garden specifically to provide safe habitat for
> these species.
> Bigger birds like magpies, corvids, raptors, butcherbirds, kookaburras
> (although these last have been reported much less often recently),
> cuckoo-shrikes, figbirds, large honeyeaters, cockatoos, parrots, cope better
> in these open grassy gardens and are the ones that benefit by being fed.
> This enables them to breed more often each year, produce more successful
> adults, and sadly most like giving their nestlings the nestlings of smaller
> birds to eat.
> If you regularly feed, you will find you have lots of these larger birds
> around your house, and very likely the cockatoos (particularly
> Sulphur-crested) will get bored as they don't have to work hard to find
> food, and will take a liking to any woodwork on the outside of your house.
> They destroy wooden deck rails, pick out flashing on roofs, pulls flowers to
> pieces, eat green fruit on your fruit trees, tomatoes and corn. Not just for
> fun but also to keep their bills sharp which they usually do by foraging
> under bark or in soil.
> Then there is the fight for hollows in trees for nesting species. There is a
> fair amount of evidence of bigger birds ousting smaller birds from hollows -
> this has been observed with galahs being kicked out of nesting hollows by
> the more feisty Major Mitchell cockatoos, and no doubt happens with your
> local common hollow nesting species. Tree hollows are in short supply due to
> the removal of old trees, and gliders and possums add to the problem by
> moving in and eating the eggs and chicks.
> The other factors are transmission of disease, as detailed concisely by
> Simon Robinson. How many times a week do you clean your feeders? I
> know quite a few people who seldom or never do. I have bird baths
> which I scrub out when they get grotty but I don't use disinfectants, so I
> am also guilty. Reason is I don't want to pour this disinfectant rich water
> into the surrounding soil. I never feed. I have a small country town urban
> garden that has frequent visits from over 50 birds, more in summer. Daily
> visitors include 3 thornbills species, white-browed scrubwrens, superb
> fairy-wrens, willie wagtails, grey fantails, lewins and yellow-faced
> honeyeaters, red wattlebirds, figbirds, orioles, black-faced cuckoo-shrikes,
> satin bowerbirds, white-headed pigeons, bar-shouldered doves, crimson and
> eastern rosellas, king parrots, galahs, golden whistlers, red-browed finches
> and exotics common mynas and house sparrows. Migratory species include
> dollarbirds, rufous whistlers, leaden flycatchers, noisy friarbird and
> sacred kingfisher.
> Occasional visitors bring in another mixed bag so there is always something
> to chek on. This season it included an emerald dove eating the sandpaper fig
> ftuit, and the mulberry attracts brown cuckoo-doves and regent bowerbirds.
> The two neighbouring gardens consist of a stretch of well mown lawn with a
> few flower beds lining the edges, but one side has a flourishing bottle
> brush that the larger honeyeaters love, and the other is unkempt as
> currently tenanted, and contains a lilly pilly, olive (little birds nest in
> these as seldom disturbed) and fig trees and sundry oranges and lemons.
> These also provide foraging for the birds.
> Since I moved to Gloucester town in 2002 I have noticed an increase in
> little corellas, spotted turtle-doves, common mynas (we are currently
> trapping these), crested pigeons, galahs, rainbow lorikeets, rock and
> white-headed pigeons (note all larger birds), and a decline in double-barred
> finches, variegated fairy-wrens, jacky winters, grey shrike-thrush and fairy
> martins (all small birds).
> My garden contains 90% native trees and plants and my bird list (seen or
> heard from the back deck) is about 137, which includes single visits by
> wompoo fruit-dove, rose and flame robins, a pair of regent honeyeaters,
> black-faced cuckoo,and a common blackbird (first sighting in Gloucester).
> So what am I really saying? Don't feed birds in Australia but make sure
> they have a constant supply of drinking and bathing water, particularly in
> our increasingly hot weather. And remember to wash these out from time to
> time. Plant natives, sit back on your deck with your binoculars handy and
> enjoy what this brings in.
> Penny, Gloucester, NsW
> Remember that bread is very bad for some species, and particularly so for
> kangaroos (not birds !), and never leave your dog or cat food in the open,
> on the kitchen back steps, where birds like mynas eat it.
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