Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Wild Bird Wednesday 197 - White-winged Chough

During my trip on to Serendip Sanctuary this Saturday I was very pleased to encounter a flock of 30 or more White-winged Choughs.  I have never managed to get any pictures of this species before, so I  was thrilled to be able to sit almost in the middle of this flock as they washed in a spring and generally did some plumage maintenance.

I have always found this species a bit 'flighty' and have never been able to get up this close to them before.  The behaviour of this flock was much more in line with the 'text books' that say these birds are often tame and approachable.

The White-winged Chough (Corcorax melanorhamphos) is a member of the of a group of birds called the "Australian Mud Nesters" which reflects the fact that they make their nests from mud!  But much more interesting is that they are 'obligate co-coperative' breeders.  This means that an adult breeding pair can only successful breed when it has help from other birds.  These 'other birds' are often the offspring of the pair from previous years.  This breeding strategy is through necessary because of the difficulty just two birds would have in finding enough food to feed the current years chicks.

A number of people have suggested that this 'cooperative' approach, which is found in more species of birds in Australia than anywhere else in the world, is a result of Australia's highly variable climate.    A little bit of reading suggests that what I saw was in fact the aggregation of a number of breeding groups rather than one large one.   I have to say watching them was great fun as the squabbled and bickered with each other!












As you can see from the final image, the white-wing is not always visible - and can only be seen clearly when the bird is in flight.

Click on the familiar blue button to join in with WBW!

39 comments:

HOOTIN ANNI said...

Magnificent red eyes!!!

Sharon Wagner said...

That sounds like an extended family alright. They may cooperate, but getting along is another matter.

Brian King said...

Awesome and rather sinister looking birds! Love the eyes and the beak!

Frank Boxell said...

I believe about 8% of bird species adopt this cooperative strategy. Great you could get these super shots of the extended family.

eileeninmd said...

Hello Stewart, they are beautiful. I like their red eyes. Great collection of photos. Thnaks for hosting. Have a happy week!

Andrea Priebe said...

Whoa ... this is quite a story. I have never heard of the White-winged Chough, let alone a bird that requires group participation for mating. That is another bit of proof that birds are much smarter than we give them credit for. I think man is just so full of himself that he overlooks the abilities of other species. This is awesome and I am happy for you that you finally got to be in amongst the group :)The pictures are awesome ... what other birds in Austrailia use cooperation in mating? I am very curious.

Andrea @ From The Sol

Margaret Adamson said...

I have seen these birds while I was inAustralia however not is these numbers

Rhodesia said...

I am so glad that you showed the wing open as well, I was beginning to wonder where the name came from. Great photos Diane

Gunilla Bäck said...

Very handsome with their red eyes.

Silver Parrot said...

Interesting birds. Love the red eyes and the details about their breeding behavior!

JP A Quiet Corner said...

Stewart,observing is a great way to learn...I love it and find I can spend hours in the woods...:)JP

TexWisGirl said...

beautiful images! very striking birds!

Neil said...

Great series of photos.

Nora said...

How interesting that the other birds have to help them nest. They have such a striking white on the feathers. Wonderful series of photos Stewart.

Dave Lewis said...

Great photos as always! I was surprised to learn that a chough was a bird after hearing that word used as a slang term by my English friends for so long!

Christian Perrin said...

I love these birds, Stewart, thanks so much for sharing! They are very uncommon in South-east Queensland so I've never seen one. Their big personalities remind me of two other dry country birds that move in family groups, the grey-crowned babbler and apostlebird; I love seeing those two, so I'm sure I will love the chough.

Gayle atMuldoon said...

Love 'action' aspect you caught in these photos.

Valerie said...

What fun you've had capturing these Stewart! Great shot of the preening process.

Jo said...

Hi Stewart, thanks for the photos and the interesting information on these birds. Our Black-collared Barbets are hole nesters and have cooperative breeding habits - also normally getting help from earlier offspring. Thanks for hosting this meme. (I can't find the blue button to link up - but will be back later to check) Greetings Jo

Kenneth Cole Schneider said...

That flash of white in the wings is very striking. Interesting behavior and your discussion thereof. I especially liked the photo of the three lined up on a branch.

Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

Love these birds. Particular drawn to them in line-up...shot #9

cheers

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Great bird...they do look as if they're meeting to plan their day (or attack).

photodoug said...

Stewart, interesting bird. Thanks for sharing.

June Caedmon said...

They are a bit intimidating with their red eyes - but I love their black (and white) plumage! Your description sounds similar to our Great-tailed Grackles. Great captures, Stewart.

Mama Zen said...

Cool birds! Love those eyes.

LOLfromPasa said...

They certainly look like they mean business!

NatureFootstep said...

a beautiful bird actually. And you had a nice encounter. I have notes that we did see it on my visit in Queensland but I don´t think I have any images.

Marilyn Kircus said...

Another interesting bird. Thanks for introducing it to us.

Missy George said...

Great photos..They sound like our grackles who arrive in swarms!!..Pretty wings..love the contrast..Enjoy your week..

edenhills said...

Great bird! I'd have never known it had white. Love the eyes!

marshaleith said...

gorgeous photos and terrific that you included all that background info on them. Amazing what the animal world can do!
Love the red eyes!

Linda said...

Excellent pictures great detail!

Pat Tillett said...

Gorgeous photos Stewart!You are one up on me with these birds. Not only have I ever seen one, I've never even heard of them until your post.

Lee said...

It's a long time since I've thought about those birds...a long, long time..

Liz said...

Wow! I had never heard of or seen these birds!

Lady Fi said...

Such a pretty bird! Understated beauty.

diane b said...

An interesting bird and life style.

Blogoratti said...

What wonderful shots. Greetings!

Marie C said...

This is a fascinating post! Such great photos. They are interesting birds. I am behind with my bird blogger friends because I've gotten so few bird photos lately. I hope the finches sharing the quail block with the rabbit will be good enough for this week's WBW!