The Pecking Order

Yesterday I read one of Lisa’s posts here,  http://fifteenacres.com/2014/01/12/spurwinged-plover-or-masked-lapwing/ and it has inspired me to write about the birds I see around our house.

Anyone who has owned fowls knows that they can be quite vicious when they are establishing the pecking order of the flock. After we decided we couldn’t win against the foxes we gave up the idea of keeping chooks but we still see birds establishing their pecking order. I have a birdfeeder which I don’t keep permanently stocked because I don’t want the birds to rely on us for their sustenance. When I do put seed into it however it’s very interesting watching what birds come and go and why.

Around our home I’ve seen these birds:

Crested Pigeons, Magpies, Galahs, Rainbow Lorikeets, Eastern Rosellas, Adelaide Rosellas,  Restless Flycatchers, Grey Flycatchers, Eastern Spinebills, Spotted Pardalotes, Striated Pardelotes, 2 Yellow Crested Tits, Blue Wrens,  1 Misteltoe Bird, Weebills, Silvereyes, New Holland Honeyeaters, Red Wattle Birds, Kookaburras, Currawongs, Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoos, Tawny Frogmouths and Boobook Owls. For obvious reasons only a few ever come to the Bird Feeder and there is a definite pecking order.

Believe it or not at the Feeder the biggest birds are not the most aggressive, that honour goes to probably the prettiest of all, The Rainbow Lorikeets. Seems to me it’s a bit like humans, beauty can get you more than your fair share. I’ve seen the Rainbow Lorikeets chase off Galahs, Magpies and any other bird mistakenly thinking the rule of “first come first served” applies. I’m not sure which bird would win the battle between a Magpie and a Galah though the Galah would certainly protest the loudest.

In the Lorikeet pecking order, under the Rainbow Lorikeet comes the Crimson Rosella, Adelaide Rosella, and lastly the Eastern Rosella. The Crested Pigeons seem to totally lack confidence and usually just  potter about picking up seeds from the ground. I guess they deserve their reputation for being peaceful creatures.

If I were one of these birds I’d like to think I’d be one of the doves. I certainly wouldn’t be a Rainbow Lorikeet, I don’t have beauty to get me what I want and I’m not exactly muscled up so I doubt I’d be a Magpie or Galah. But now, I’ve just remembered another bird I’ve seen around here. It doesn’t come to the Bird Feeder, prefers to be in its own space, not interested in confrontation and definitely not trying to establish itself at the top of any pecking order. In bird books it’s described as having a rather drab colour though I think it’s a nice soft grey. It has a middling build, not svelt like the Flycatchers and not rotund like the Galahs and I feel an affinity with it. It’s the Grey Shrike Thrush but unlike me it has a lovely singing voice.

You can see most of the birds in the photos below. The tiny birds never seem to stay still for a second and are often very high in the trees so I haven’t managed any decent photo of a Weebill or Yellow-crested Tit and the Spotted Pardalote photo is only included to show the colours.

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Learning to Live Together

Today I enjoyed reading posts on http://fifteenacres.com, it‘s written by a fellow Australian and is about wildlife. The blogger talks about the aggressiveness of Magpies and it reminded me of a negative response to Magpies in one of my blogs so I decided I should write about my experiences.

In 1985 we moved to our new home in a nice hilly, bushy suburb but when we put our sedate, plains-reared, suburban chooks out in their yard they were terrorized by the Magpies every time they stuck their beaks out of the Chookhouse door. We took to scaring the Maggies off with a slingshot – it worked even though we never hit anything other than a tree branch! When nesting time came we were swooped on as we walked up our driveway to collect the morning paper.

I don’t know when things changed but remember one day sitting out the front of our house enjoying a nice snack when a Magpie swooped down, sat on a chair back and looked at us expectantly, someone had been feeding it and it recognised the signs. I don’t believe in feeding animals the unhealthy food we eat but think for Magpies, dog food contains the nourishment they need. Our dogs have the mini dried food so that’s what the Magpies are offered if they visit us at the outdoor table.

We don’t get swooped on anymore though I was swooped a few years ago when I was extricating a shrieking baby Magpie from a wire netting fence. On another occasion we were working in the garden and a Magpie family came down to investigate then the parents took off leaving the baby with us. Another day we were at the outdoor table and the same thing happened. The baby just sat on the back of a chair and chatted away to us but the parents were gone so long we did wonder if they were ever going to come back for their youngster.

I named one particular Magpie, “Mr Chatty” because so often he would just appear and repeatedly run through his amazing repertoire of sounds which included a cat and a Kookaburra. The only time I managed to record him the sound of the wind ruined the video. I think the Magpie in this video might be one of his offspring. http://youtu.be/qv45yrbVZ08

Over the last 29 years we’ve gone from wishing the aggressive Magpies that attacked us would just move somewhere else to admiring their skills and thoroughly enjoying their company. I guess all it took was a willingness to “chill out” and accept there was room for all of us. Now if only the ripple effect would come into play.