Wednesday in Bird World

Let’s start off with what is on everyone’s mind: Has there been a confirmed sighting of Yurruga? Yesterday, Dr Cilla Kinross was inspired by a very quick prey drop at the scrape. Diamond flew into the trees. Cilla was in the trees looking half an hour later – she only saw Diamond. Diamond returned to the scrape with quite a large crop also. Some believed they had heard Yurruga calling but, Cilla is unable to confirm that. So the answer is – we simply do not know. Yurruga has not been seen since last Thursday when he was on a building during a storm. We can only wait.

My goodness that little one was such a cutie.

October 20. Yurruga and Diamond

Diamond was really beautiful this morning as the soft glow of the sun worked its way through the fog.

Both parents, Xavier and Diamond, have been inside the scrape – scraping. They also had some bonding moments this morning at sunrise.

My heart aches for them.

The second question of the day is what is going on with Grinnell, the male Peregrine Falcon of the Campanile, mate to Annie, that was injured by a male intruder that is trying to cosy up with Annie? Here is the latest news.

The New Zealand Department of Conservation rangers on Taiaroa Head are shutting down the streaming cam so that they can move it to the site of the Royal Albatross family for 2021-22. There are lots of guesses as to who the couple might be. The announcement is due tomorrow.

One of my favourite Bald Eagle couples, Samson and Gabby, at the NE Florida Bald Eagle nest near Jacksonville have been putting the finishing touches on their nest. They are perfecting the Spanish moss lining the nest cup. Now all we need are some eggs!

Gabby doing some final inspections this morning.

The three lads at the Port Lincoln all had fish yesterday. Falky had more than Ervie or Bazza. Falky has become a master at slipping the fish out of Dad or Mum’s talons. A magician.

There is a lovely shot of the PLO Mum. She has done an extraordinary job raising these three boys to fledge this year (with Dad’s good help). Yesterday she even spent some time feeding Bazza. He is definitely a Mum’s boy!

Bazza can be a bit naughty. I know that the banders were certain that there were three males. Someone looking at Bazza’s legs and that beautiful necklace in the image below might mistake him for a lovely female.

Bazza and Falky sleep with their heads tucked under their wings – adult style – standing on the nest. Ervie is sleeping over on the perch or the ropes. They are all doing well. I continue to pinch myself. This Osprey nest really turned itself around this year to fledge all three hatchlings.

There are many articles coming out in international newspapers and academic journals on the effect of warming oceans on the seabirds including the beloved Osprey. I picked one of those for you as some are frustrating. They allow me to embed the article but then want you to subscribe to read it! That is a major irritant to me – like Subarus are to Ferris Akel!

https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/climate-change/climate-change-threatens-survival-of-albatross-60906

It is a grey damp day, 3 degrees C. The snow is melting. There are lots of birds at the feeders. A large European Starling is sharing the peanut and bark butter feeder with some cute little House Sparrows.

The tiny suet balls called Bark Butter by our supplier are a really big hit since winter has set in. Junior has been around to get the corn while Dyson was busy elsewhere. Nice to see all of them.

One of my former students posted this today on FB. It is a perfect little giggle for all of us!

Thank you so much for joining me today. Take care everyone. Stay safe.

Thank you to the Port Lincoln Osprey Project, Charles Sturt University Falcon Cam and Cilla Kinross, and NE Florida Eagle and the AEF for their streaming cams where I took my screen captures.

Black-Shouldered Kite

I want to thank ‘L’ for asking if I would share parts of that amazing book Australian Birds of Prey by Penny Olsen. I am so happy to do this! We can all learn together.

There are 24 species of raptors at the time the book was written in Australia, 1995. I know that many of you are familiar with the Eastern Osprey and the Peregrine Falcon so I want to start with some gorgeous raptors that you might not know. My plan is to introduce 1 or, at the most, 2 species a week. Our first is the Black-shouldered Kite. The scientific name is Elanus axillaris. Just look at that lovely bird. She is simply gorgeous.

“Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus axillaris)” by patrickkavanagh is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Black-Shouldered Kite is easily identified by the black patch on their wing. There is also a small black underwing patch. This is a small to medium bird with a gorgeous white head, body, and tail. The shoulders are black as is the beak. The back and upper wings are mostly a very pale grey. The eyes are a captivating red! The cere is a brilliant yellow as are the legs and talon.

The female is 36 cm and the male 35 cm in length. The female weighs approximately 300 grams with the male weighing 260 grams when fully grown. As you can see, the female is slightly larger than the male which is known as Reverse Sex Dimorphism.

“Black Shouldered Kite” by jeans_Photos is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Black-shouldered Kite has two front toes and two in the back (as opposed to three forward and one back). The wingspan is 80-100 cm.

In terms of its habitat, the Black Shouldered Kite prefers open grasslands, woodlands, and croplands in lower altitude areas that are within the tropical or temperate climate zones. At the time the book was written the population numbers were climbing.

The birds prefer rodents as their first choice of prey while their second is insects. The Black Shouldered Kite tends to breed when prey numbers are higher. They raise one clutch per year normally between May-November. Clutch sizes vary between 2 and 5 with the majority being 3 or 4 eggs. In a poor year with little or no food, it is expected that Black Shoulder Kites would have a much smaller clutch or lay no eggs at all. Eggs are on average 4.2 cm. This can be compared to an Osprey whose eggs are, on average 6.1 cm long. Eggs are incubated for 31 days with chicks fledging at 5 weeks. The chicks will have their adult plumage in one year, after their first moult.

The image below is a juvenile. Notice the rusty brown wash on its head and shoulder. What a beauty. Even though this chick is waiting for food, at 5 weeks it is fully capable and does hunt mice.

“Black-shouldered Kite: Waiting for lunch” by birdsaspoetry is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

As we know, raptors adapt and below the kite is eating a lizard.

“Predator with prey! (Black-shouldered kite)” by Tarique Sani is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Oh, what a beautiful bird! I hope that you have enjoyed learning about one of the raptors that live in Australia (and other parts of Asia). Like every species of bird, the protection of their habitat (and keeping it from fragmenting into small patches) is important to the continuing health of the Black Shoulder Kite. Other threats are egg collectors (yes, they still exist), pesticides, rodenticides, and electrocution on power lines.

Thank you so much for joining me today. Take care. See you soon!

Credit for Featured Image: “Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus)” by Lip Kee is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0