Saturday, 5 December 2009

Chick pic

This young spotted catbird (Ailuroedus melanotis) is perfectly capable of feeding itself, but like most young birds, prefers to nag its parents into providing dinner. Catbird chicks have a begging call that sounds like air leaking from a tyre or — more disturbingly — the hiss of a pissed off puff adder. It is very effective.

Spotted catbirds start nesting in September, constructing their deep, cup-shaped nests in saplings or vines 3 – 4m off the ground. They lay one or two eggs (occasionally three) and their young are usually fledged by December. The female is responsible for nest-building and incubation. While she's stuck at home, the male forages and brings back food.

Once the nestlings hatch, feeding is shared by both parents. They collect fruit (mostly quandongs and figs); cicadas, beetles and other large insects; and nestlings and small birds. They are particularly fond of the severed heads of fruit dove chicks, which they carry back to the nest. ('There must be some mistake. I ordered John the Baptist.') They will also decapitate small birds trapped in mist nets. Probably fortunately for all concerned, they take the nosh back in their beaks rather than swallowing and regurgitating it. They are capable of loading up with an awful lot. Stacks. Maybe a whole row of heads. I haven't seen them do this yet, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time.

Perpetually hungry spotted catbird chick

Adult catbird

Frith, CB & Frith, DW. (2001). Nesting biology of the spotted catbird, Ailuroedus melanotis, a monogamous bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchidae), in Australian Wet Tropics upland rainforests. Australian Journal of Zoology 49: 279 – 310.


desertnutmeg said...

"Maybe a whole row of heads. I haven't seen them do this yet, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time."
. .When you start hearing the jungle drums and see the large cauldron of boiling water, run like hell. . .

mick said...

A bird eats bird world! Great photos - you can even see the different eye color between the juvenile and the adult.

Snail said...

Desertnutmeg, somewhere, an avian Joseph Conrad is writing this all down. The horror! The horror!

Mick, that difference in eye colour is quite dramatic, isn't it? I love the colour combination in the adults.

budak said...

if i didn't know better, i'd have thought they were lineated barbets

Snail said...

Budak, I had a look at my bird books for that species. They do look really similar to spotted catbirds, even down to the size. That colour combo must work quite well in the rainforest.