Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Nesting occasionals

Red-browed finches (Neochmia temporalis) are the most recent distraction here. These tiny birds visit several times a day to collect grass stems from the overgrown edges of the garden. Also from the overgrown middle of the garden, but I don't think we'll talk about that.

Like other finch species, they are very busy birds. They announce their arrival with a series of high-pitched zeets and then get straight down to work. After a quick inspection of the vegetation, a bird selects a stem, plucks it or snips it from the plant and flies into the scrub.

Some of the stems are more than 60 cm long and trail behind the bird like an aeroplane's banner. The finches ascend in stages to about 4 m and then disappear into the rainforest. Wherever the nest is located, I hope the entrance is narrow enough to exclude catbirds.

Even though they sportingly let me know when they're around, the speed with which they conduct their business means I can't always get the camera set up in time. Still, fuzzy photos are marginally better than none and you should have seen the images I ditched. Even J.M.W.Turner would have shaken his head and sent me an email saying Y U NO FOCUS?

In addition to the nominate subspecies (Neochmia t. temporalis), which extends along the E and SE coast, there is a FNQ subspecies (Neochima t. minor). The latter occurs north of Townsville and is characterised by pale grey to white feathers on the underparts. Except in the very far north of its range, where it has dark grey on its head, apparently. But the two subspecies intergrade between the Townsville and Cooktown, so I have absolutely no idea which one I've got here. If not a hybrid. Not that it matters, because I'm merely watching them, not studying them. Estrildidae systematists, let me know if you can sort out this conundrum. I'm afraid all red-browed finches look the same to me.


Alan Pavey said...

I forgot how bright these little birds are :-)

Snail said...

They really are bright, aren't they?! It's especially striking on these overcast summer days.

laurak@forestwalkart said...

beautiful little finches!!
yippee for the unkempt garden!

love the shot of him in the tree with the long grass hanging from his beak...he looks as though he's about to slurp it a spaghetti noodle!

Bernie H said...

Such a beautiful little bird. This is a new one for me. Great shots. Never underestimate the value of an overgrown patch.

Snail said...

Laura, like 'Lad & the Tramp'! How they carry the stems with such a tenuous grip, I don't know.

Bernie, I think they might be edge species, so are more common around wooded areas. I think they might be more frequent around the Paluma turnoff and points north.

Jenny said...

I've been following your blog for a while now, and so look forward to your posts. This is the first time I've commented anywhere - you have inspired me!

I've been spying on the red-browed finches in my garden also. There's a video of a nest being built on my blog if you would like to see it.

Some behaviour I saw last year - a pair were out foraging for nest materials, one had a mouth full of grass and was jumping up and down on the tree branch. It seemed as if it was trying to get the attention of the other, but wasn't prepared to drop the grass and call out. Really cute! Love these little birds.

Snail said...

Oh, Jenny, I'm so sorry! I missed your comment.

They are very sweet little birds. I normally only see one out gathering at a time, but the other day I saw too of them. One was doing all the work while the other seemed to be only pretending to make an effort. The latter spent most of its time eating seeds on the ground.