Thursday, 22 January 2015

Last chicks fledged

A family of Tawny Frogmouths sitting quietly in a tree. As they are nocturnal, they roost by day, relying on their cryptic plumage and minimal movement for concealment from potential predators such as Brown Goshawks. 

The last broods of Tawny Frogmouth Podargus strigoides chicks have finally fledged almost three months after the first broods to do so on 25th October 2014. These final broods fledged on the 16th and 17th January; a brood of one and the other of two, both were from relaid clutches after the adults had lost their first clutches. The pair who finally reared the single chick lost two previous clutches in separate nests to predators unknown (likely Brush-tailed Possum Trichosurus vulpecula). They built a new nest in another tree after each time the eggs were taken, while the pair who reared the twins lost their first brood of chicks after they had left the nest too early. That was possibly after the nesting birds were attacked by a predator, but as these birds are not under constant monitoring, and there was no evidence, we'll never know. They re-used the same nest for their second clutch.

The adult female is on the far left (she has reddish markings on her wings), then the male and two still partially fluffy chicks. Frogmouths usually adopt a 'stick pose' if a potential predator approaches such as a human, but these birds have seen me so often, they know me and here have only partially adopted that pose.

Now that the final results are in I have calculated the breeding success of the sample of Tawny Frogmouth pairs that I study here in Canberra, Australia. I monitored 48 territories this year, similar to most recent years, and most successful pairs (23) reared two chicks, 7 reared three, 8 reared one, another 8 reared none and there were 2 single birds; one male and one female - pity they never met up.

This chick, like so many young fledgling frogmouths, has yet to learn to adopt a protective pose like its parent, in this case mum. Her plumage colouring and posture conceal her well, but I have seen better (see some older posts).

The figure of 17% of pairs not rearing any chicks might seem a high failure rate, but I have recorded almost twice that one year. Overall the breeding success of the population (and that is what matters as all animals must eat to live, including predators) was above average with 1.6 chicks fledged per pair (avg. 1.4), or 1.9 per successful pair (avg. 1.8).

The adults close their eyes and watch one's approach through narrow slitted eyelids. That conceals their bright yellow irides which would betray their camouflage. This chick however, just cannot resist peeping around the branch to watch me with partially open eyes. It will soon learn how to behave safely.
So that ends my study season of Tawny Frogmouths for 2014. It seems a long time since the birds first began building their nests in late July, and it won't be long before July comes around again. For further details of the frogmouths over the season and in previous years click on the links to the right of the page.

What wonderful days and nights I have had with them - great birds.

The male was perched in an adjacent tree, unobtrusive and inconspicuous.

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