Learning being bird skills


An immature strong-billed honeyeater after a dip at The Pond is watched-over by one of its family members.

It’s early Autumn and many of the new season chicks on Bruny Island are learning how to be independent. Some still follow parent birds squawking for a feed while others have been independent feeders since day one.

Those masked lapwings I wrote about earlier are still with their parents, but now they are nearly the same size and their flying prowess is just about equal. The parent birds have laid off the overly protective behaviour, but they still can’t help giving those annoying alarm calls that the teenager chicks now simply ignore.

I have a place I often visit that I call The Pond. It’s not far from home and it is the source of many bird images.

This week I snapped this rather awkward-looking immature strong-billed honeyeater with a parent bird taking a swim at The Pond. The colouring is quite amazing. Most of the birds that frequent The Pond are there to bathe and often go through lengthy personal hygiene routines and take multiple swims.

The strong-bills are obsessive and love diving and splashing. I love watching them.

Strong-bills are endemic to Tasmania and the Bass Strait islands. Down at The Pond they hang out with their cousins, the black-headed honeyeaters and sometimes Tasmanian thornbills.

They arrive in family groups of four or five, often at the same time of day, and they take their good time with their ablutions. Interestingly the aggressive New Holland Honeyeaters, that rule The Pond as their own domain, don’t bother them.

I saw a strong-bill nest recently suspended among gum leaves. A week later I saw it again on the ground, all smashed. It was so beautifully made with leaves and moss all woven together the shape of those baskets Aboriginal women weave.

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