Something magical is happening

A Pacific Black Duck laid her second egg in an old Ironwood nest in Sydney Olympic Park, 6 November, 2020. The first egg was laid on 5 November. Photo is screen shot of Live Sea Eagle Cam, Sydney.

A week or so ago, a Pacific Black Duck was seen investigating what she might have thought was an abandoned nest in Sydney Olympic Park. The duck made several visits and according to others, ducks have investigated this nest in the past but have never laid eggs. This year things got more serious. ‘A hole’ was observed by the moderators of the White-Bellied Sea Eagle Chat. On Tuesday, November 5, those same moderators observed that an egg was laid. This morning there is a second.

Despite the name referencing ‘black’, the adult ducks, who live only to about two years, have dark brown plumage. The coverts, which cover the very important flight feathers and help keep them smooth, are either pale yellow or white at the tips. The secondary feathers are green. The under wings are dark brown with feathers that have a yellow edge. The head features a brown crown with a pale yellow section running from the bill to the ear coverts (the feathers that protect the ear). There is a dark line running from the lores, the area between the eye and the bill, to the ear coverts.   Above and below are pale yellow areas running from the bill to the ear coverts. The bill is a dark grey. The image is of the female on the eggs below. You can see the lines running from the lores to the ear coverts easily. The bill in this image appears as a blue grey. The eyes are a deep brown. The bottom sides of the head are a lighter brown than on the body. Despite being more dull in colour than the male, this image of the female Black Pacific duck shows the beauty of her feathers and the magnificent emerald green patches on the wings.

A side view of the Black Pacific Duck sitting on her two eggs in the Ironwood Nest, Sydney Olympic Park with a lorikeet looking on.

Pacific Black Ducks only mate when there is secure quantities of food and water. They lay a clutch of eleven to thirteen eggs. Their environmental status is secure in Australia but, in reality, only about 20% of hatchlings survive to age two according to BirdLife Australia.

Why are Lorikeets so excited to see this Black Pacific Duck with her eggs? By looking at them jumping all over the branches of the tree and the one above sitting on the rim of the nest looking at the duck, you can imagine that something special is happening.

The Rainbow Lorikeet is a medium sized sweet natured parrot that is quite nosey. They are native to New South Wales where Sydney is located and farther South in Australia. They are extremely talkative and their high pitched screeches have been known to scare many. If you look at the featured image you will see right away why they are called ‘Rainbow’ Lorikeets. Their heads and bellies are a deep royal blue while a bright emerald green colour feathers on their wings, back, and heads. The red breasts have orange and yellow on the sides. Their beaks are red. Males and females have the same bright plumage and it is apparently difficult to differentiate the gender without DNA testing or a surgical procedure. They lives to be approximately thirty years. It is their inquisitive nature that has drawn them today to the large nest of the White-Bellied Sea Eagles currently occupied by the Black Pacific Duck.

White-Bellied Sea Eagles are the second largest bird of prey or raptor in Australia. The wingspan ranges from 1.8 – 2.2 metres or 6 to 7 feet. They can weigh up to 4.2 kilos or 9 pounds. The birds have reverse sex-size dimorphism meaning that the female is larger than the male. The nest you are looking at ‘belongs to’ Lady and Dad who have a river roost along the mangroves of the Parramatta River. The diameter of the nest is approximately 6.5 feet. Their breeding season is normally from June to January when they lay, on average, two eggs.

WBSE 25 (left) and WBSE 26 (right) in August. They are all covered with their baby down.
WBSE 25 (right) and WBSE 26 (left) in the nest before fledging. Notice the rich colour of the juvenile plumage. In five or six years they will get their adult feathers.

White-Bellied Sea Eagles are huge birds who live mostly on fish caught with their strong legs and held by their talons. The nests of the sea eagles is normally within a kilometre of a source of fish, either a lake or a river. Other prey brought to the nest includes eels, Silver-tipped Gulls, a fox cub in the 2020 season, a turtle, and various other opportunistic catches.

It is not uncommon for other birds to investigate the nest while the sea eagles raise their young. Many want to protect their own territory from these large raptors and that includes the small owl, the BooBook Owl who comes at night and often hits the parents roosting on the branches of the nest. The Currawong is noisy and chases the fledglings trying also to chase them out of the forest. Magpies are another nuisance. The adults flap their wings or chase them away. The eaglets quickly learn to protect their territory too often standing up in the nest, flapping their wings, and honking to get the intruders to leave. Normally, the sea eagles check their nest periodically when they scan their territory. They also bring in more sticks and leaves readying it for their next breeding season.

As the Rainbow Lorikeets circle the beautiful Black Pacific Duck in celebration and curiosity, we have to ask ourselves what will happen to this mother duck and her brood? Stay tuned.

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