Sunday, 22 December 2013

Probable protective nesting association between Australasian Figbird, Noisy 
Friarbird and Papuan Frogmouth 

A Papuan Frogmouth sits on its nest set between that of  a pair of Australasian Figbirds with begging chicks on the left, and a partially constructed nest of a Noisy Friarbird up to the right.

I have an article on frogmouth nesting behaviour in the recent edition of  Australian Field Ornithology
(Vol 30: pp126-130).

While on a field trip to Cape York in 2011, I found a Papuan Frogmouth Podargus papuensis sitting on its nest about 15m up a Leichhardt Pine Neolamarckia cadamba by a roadside on the edge of rainforest. The nest was well concealed among epiphytic ferns on one of the lower limbs, and although there have not been many nests of this species described, from experience with the closely related Tawny Frogmouth, I would expect this to be a normal type of nest site.

However, this nest site was intriguing for another reason. The nest was set within one metre of and between those of a pair Australasian Figbirds Sphecotheres vieilloti and a pair of Noisy Friarbirds Philemon corniculatus. It seems that these two other species had deliberately selected to nest close to the frogmouth nest, probably for protection (the frogmouths had well-grown chicks and would have nested first). The much larger frogmouth would be more likely to ward off any potential predators than the passerines themselves. If this was the case, this would be the first recorded example of a frogmouth or any of the caprimulgiformes behaving as the protective species in a nesting association.

The arrow points to the trio of nests set on
and around the angle of the branch

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