Life with a sprinkle of Choughness

Long term readers will know of my fascination with all things Choughness.

White-winged Choughs can be both frustrating and rewarding to follow.  Some families seem to have a high human tolerance and I’ve had them hunt around my feet and sit on the same log with me.  Others. No matter how much time I spend, they just keep moving on.
They are not the world’s greatest aeronauts and I often think that if they can run to the next location that is their preferred method of locomotion.

They also have quite well established family rules. Which they understand, while I must guess what is going on.  And at just about every encounter, I come away impressed by some new view of choughness.

One family we see regularly in the You Yangs have just managed to get a couple of young ones off the nest.   Now comes the job of teaching these little ones all the rules of choughness.   And its a big task.  The young birds are quite clueless. And they have an average attention span of about 1 millisecond.   “Is it food”, seems to be the total of their ability to reason.   So the adults have to spend quite a bit of time working with young. And because of their lack of reason, they are easily enticed away by other families offering “bigger grubs”.  Oh boy, I gotta go

Choughs need quite a large family size, at least six or seven adults to raise a young.  Larger groups have more flexibility and its reported, more success.

Found the family at work around some rocks, and settled down for a sprinkle of choughness to add to my day.

This family has about 10 members and I often find the working in the same area.  Not sure how large the territory is for them and I’m also unsure how loyal they are to the area.  Mostly I think it’s a food thing and they will move as needed.
They seem generally human tolerant, and as they are working in a major park that has thousand of visitors a day  and has  a huge mountain bike trail system, the ‘quirky’ humans are largely ignored.  Even the sentry will only give an occasional call.

All dressed up and out and about in the sunshine.

This adult stepped up to the spot and immediately began work on excavation.  I was left wondering what it was looking for, and more importantly how it knew there was anything there below the grasses that was worth the effort.  It had carefully explained all this to a juvenile, which had looked on in amazement then a millisecond later as not food had been offered wandered off muttering it own chough song of hope and food.

Then it struck ‘gold’.  A spider’s egg sack.  Which it quickly enjoyed.

I think it was hoping the young one would be interested in the activity.  But no.  Yet there was still more to come

The spider was next extracted and taken off to feed to one of the fortunate young.
And that sort of answered my ‘How did it know”.  The trapdoor spider would have left quite a visible—to an  observant chough— door, and the rest I take it was easy.

The family gathered for a few minutes of mutual cleaning and preening when several magpies arrived in the intended tree. There is no love lost between magpies and choughs and the magpies are quite merciless in their attacks.  So the family is in high cry here hoping to avoid an encounter.   The magpies found other things to do, and the family settled down.

A juvenile trying to make its self scary to the magpies.


Time for a bit of preening in the sunshine.

During the course of the morning, the family came across a second group, and this adult was trying to impress a young bird with some point or other of life as a Chough.  The wing flaps, head turn, eye colour must all be part of the communication.  And probably means, “we’ve got bigger grubs then they do”.

But in spite of the lecture, the young one seemed much more preoccupied with where the next food treat was coming from.

Enjoy.   Happy Choughness to you fine reader.


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