Good Chough Hunting

Yesterday in spite of the high winds and the heat we ventured out to Woodlands for the morning.  We’ve taken to coming into the park through an open area and following a couple of Kangaroo pads along the redgums and sticky wattles.  Just a nice way to walk with the spring grasses in full colour.

Just crossing over from one track to another we came across, first one group of White-winged Choughs, and then a second smaller family of perhaps 7 or or so birds.  Both groups had several young and I walked back to enjoy a few moments with the larger group, and discovered their young were two recent fledglings, because they still have lots of down on their heads and backs, and one older juvenile.

The gregarious nature of these birds and the communal way they nest extends it seems to the way they nursery the young.  The young were fed by which ever bird managed to find a tidbit to attract one of the young.  And attracted they were.  The other thing that I noted was the steady stream of chatter that they put up as they hunted about, and most of it seemed directed at the younger birds.  Several adults would stand by and chatter away at the young bird as it picked its way over a log, or was scratching at the base of a tree.

The big thing for the day for me however was that even though Choughs mainly walk or fly away if approached, these birds were unconcerned.  After a few warning calls, they simply went back to looking after the young.  I sat on a log and watched for about 10 minutes or more, and then two of the adults came over an worked around the area I was sitting.  Completely ignoring me. I took this as a hint, and as they moved, I followed.  In the end I was sort of in the middle of a Chough hunting party.  They didn’t fly or run away, and if I moved one way or the other, they would note it, and then move around me.

After about 30 minutes or so of this, they met up in an open area with the second smaller group.  They seemed run up to each other and do ‘group hugs’, with wings outstretched much shrill cooing and a kind of family reunion meet and greet.   After a few minutes of the wing waving, calling and Chough Staring, the groups moved off, and I followed the second group and again they didn’t take much notice of me.   This smaller group had two recent fledglings.

At one point a rabbit broke from the grass (that would have been my fault), and there was a huge outcry of alarm and some birds taking to the air, but it quickly settled and they dropped back down to hunt near me.  They didn’t do any alarm calls as I moved among  them.

So after about an hour of Chough hunting, I am no more familiar with the family activities, don’t understand any more of Chough language, nor behaviour, but at least they were relaxed enough to allow me to get close and make some nice portraits.

The other thing I learned about the white wing feathers is that they are black feathers with a white insert. The white is surrounded by black tips along the edges.

Much lecturing and wing spreading to get the message across. Perhaps like all kids, it wasn't getting the message.
Much lecturing and wing spreading to get the message across. Perhaps like all kids, it wasn’t getting the message.
Learning the art of finding food amongst the leaf litter
Learning the art of finding food amongst the leaf litter
Recent fledgling with its brown eye and baby feathers.
Recent fledgling with its brown eye and baby feathers.
Young bird being lectured in the finer points of Choughness.
Young bird being lectured in the finer points of Choughness.
A juvenile, still has the brown eye colour
A juvenile, still has the brown eye colour
Recent fledgling, still carrying baby down
Recent fledgling, still carrying baby down
White-winged Chough "Meet and Greet". Much wingwaving, group hugging and chatter.
White-winged Chough “Meet and Greet”. Much wingwaving, group hugging and chatter.
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2 thoughts on “Good Chough Hunting

  1. Hi David,
    I really enjoyed these photos and discourse about my favourite birds. They really are amazing and I’m sure the more time you spend with them, the more you will enjoy their antics. They will sometimes nest two or three times in a season, so have juveniles of varying ages in their little family groups.
    As you noted about the rabbit, they are very observant about what goes on around them and I’ve seen them ‘carry on’ when they spot a tiny lizard or even a turtle walking along. When we lived on our property they were wonderful snake alarms, making quite a racket when they spotted on.
    Cheers.
    Christine

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    1. Hi Christine,

      Thanks for the info on the Choughs. We are fortunate to have a working colony of about 20 birds. Most times they are in two or three groups but they do come together more in the winter time.
      It must be that they have several nestings per season, as I’ve noted activity around several nest sites over a period of months. What really impresses me is the way they do work collectively. It all seems so relaxed.

      I’ve got a blog page from last year where they were really upset over a shingle back lizard. It might be worth having a look at. Its here.

      https://birdsaspoetry.com/2012/09/23/the-mystery-becomes-a-little-clearer-or-more-complicated/

      DJ

      Like

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