Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Morning With 'Keets

I spent a pleasant hour or so watching, and attempting to photograph, Musk Lorikeets, this morning. This was my second attempt to photograph them in recent days, and somewhat more successful. At the moment they're 'gorging' themselves on the flowering euc. ficifolia, and the odd euc. leucoxylon. Locally, we have flocks numbering a few hundred or so, although individual flocks are usually between 10 and 30 birds. Musk Lorikeets have increased considerably in this area, as they appear to have done in many of the state's suburbs.
I had chosen a particular tree in the grounds of the local school, hoping that the lorikeets would be present, and as I approached the tree, I was surprised to be divebombed by a Masked Lapwing. These common Lapwings ha
ve usually long finished rearing young by now, although I recall a pair with a single chick at this time last year, barely a kilometre away. Shortly after the divebombing, I noticed a large Lapwing 'runner', doing just that, disappear round the wall of the school, and the attack ceased. Nearing my target tree, I could hear the lorikeets screeching, and felt quite elated at their obvious presence. This proved to be somewhat premature, because, despite what I thought was a careful approach, they took fright and with much shrieking, they too disappeared behind the school building! While I was standing there, considering my options, a few birds returned, so I was in business.
While trying to get shots of these restless feeders, I made a number of observations. Most of these birds appeared to be paired, and called to one another as they fed, although to my ear, all calling birds sounded the same. Most of the time, they chose to feed inverted, climbing to the top of a flower cluster
and hanging vertically, while they fed with a scything action, using their tongue to pick up the nectar. I did wonder why they chose this method and concluded that since their upper bill was larger than the lower, this might be more efficient. Well it's a thought. If another flock descended onto the tree, the 'resident' birds often increased the speed of feeding, often reaching what might be called a frenzy as they rushed from one flower cluster to the next. Quite amusing to watch, very difficult for photography! They are very agile, and can effectively 'run' through the small branches, quite a feat for a bird with a very short tarsus. The display that the bird is exhibiting in the lower left photo., a spreading of the tail, sometimes accompanied by a shimmering of its' wings, appeared to be a 'hands off' warning to other birds. Possibly one male to another, although that is supposition. Certainly there is a lot of aggro between birds, accompanied by harsh calls, and occaisonal brief fights. All in all, an absorbing morning.


Anonymous said...

I am visiting your blog via a link from I and the Bird through Living the Scientific Life...
Fabulous! Beautiful photos and wonderful observations! Do the Musk Lorikeets have a scent? What does it smell like?



Anonymous said...

Great photos and observations. Not all bird watchers watch with that level of scientific scrutiny.

BirdingTas said...

Thanks Mike and Chardyspal for your comments.
The Musk Lorikeet is so called because of it's 'odour', according to several sources. I have handled quite a few during mist netting and banding operations, but have never detected the typical musk smell. However, I haven't attempted to 'smell' the birds either! They're very foisty in the hand, but fortunately lack the skin breaking bills of some of the larger species of parrot.
I have been guilty over the years of not really watching birds, more ticking them off. But when photographing them, you often notice nuances in their behaviour, and can sometimes use that to get better images.

Unknown said...

Lovely shots. I got here from I and the bird too.

Snail said...

Small bill or not, I wouldn't be getting my nose that close to a musk lorikeet!

They're swarming over the sugar gums around here. They certainly sound as if they're having fun!

The Ridger, FCD said...

Wow. How gorgeous - the birds and the photos both. Thanks!

BirdingTas said...

Thank you Sarla and Snail for commenting on the blog. Special thanks to Snail for hosting 'I and the Bird #41' and giving the "tassiebirds" blog exposure on the international bird scene. Great to have so many visitors from overseas.
Well Snail, the Musks only nibble away at the fingers, the Rosellas tear flesh!

BirdingTas said...

Thanks for your comments,Ridger, FCD, from a fellow FCD!