Cheeky White-cheeked Honeyeaters

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You don't need a big backyard to attrach birds.  Follow the diary of Birds in Backyards member Fritz Baumgatner below to learn about the White-cheeked Honeyeaters who decided to breed in one of his pot plants. Remember, try not to disturb breeding birds - keep your distance where ever possible, especially during the building phase. Fritz is fortunate in that the nest is being built right outside his window so he could observe the goings on without alerting the birds.

A big thank you to Fritz for sharing his story with us:

 

Background

The area available for gardening at our house is quite small and so we have resorted to growing plants, vegetables and shrubs in pots and hanging baskets. We do have narrow beds along the back and side fences. Plants and shrubs in these beds include grevilleas, hibiscus, salvia and banksias which attract honeyeaters. We have all three species visiting our garden at various times. The White-cheeked is our most common visitor coming frequently during the course of the day to gather nectar from the grevilleas, salvia and hibiscus.

   

How it began

Early in the week of 4th March, we noticed a White-cheeked Honeyeater visiting a lime tree (see above), which is planted in a pot and situated on the back veranda - the tree is visible from our bedroom window. We had seen Singing Honeyeaters gathering spider webs from our hanging baskets and shrubs and thought that the White-cheek was doing the same. Eventually curiosity got the better of us and we had a closer look at the tree and discovered that the bird was actually building a nest.

The photo below which was taken on Tuesday 12th March shows the basic nest under construction. Towards the end of the same week the bird started lining the nest. We even put out a few strands of coloured wool, which was found very quickly and incorporated into the nest lining. You can see the wool in the picture of the eggs.

On Monday 18th March we woke up to find a bird sitting on the nest. Excitement! We presumed that sometime over the weekend the eggs had been laid. How were we going to be able to confirm without disturbing the bird? Being close to the house it was not easy to see in to the nest but eventually, when the bird had left the nest, I was able to gently bend the main branch towards me and saw that we had two eggs. I managed to photograph the eggs on Tuesday 19th March without being seen or disturbing the parents.

 

Progress

Two weeks into the normal 15 days incubation period (as neither of our bird books gave any indication of incubation I resorted to Wikipedia which suggested 15 days) and all seems to be going well. I have managed over the two week period to take some more photos. They are of the female coming and going to the nest. I was also able to see the male bird visit the nest one time. He did not sit on the nest but seemed to be examining the eggs. The female came back shortly after he had left and before settling down also seemed to be examining the eggs with her beak.

We even had the male bird fly around Diana as she was watering the pot plants on the back verandah. She was quite far away from the nest but maybe he was just giving her a little warning not to get too close.

 

Excitement

Monday April 1st 14:30 WA time. Saw both the male and female visiting the nest and flying off. Similar behaviour to what I saw on Sunday 31st March and so decided to check the nest from inside the bedroom and we have two chicks.

Managed to get one decent picture. Will try and get more as the chicks grow, but as you can see its not very easy as we do not want to disturb the birds in any way.

 

Sadness

Sadly we lost one of the chicks in the week after Easter. We had very high daily temps during the week and when we checked the nest on Monday 8th we noticed that only one chick was being fed. We have had a record April temp of 37 degrees this week and I was convinced we would lose the other chick. I checked regularly during the day as best I could and the chick looked to be struggling. Good news however it survived and so we must conclude that this one is made of sterner stuff.

The chick is starting to look like a proper bird. Beak is forming and I think the eyes may be open. Still difficult to get a photo as the parents become very distressed when I get close so we are keeping our distance. Have some nice photos of the parents perching on the hanging baskets on the verandah. Took these while we were having breakfast. 

The Chick has Left the Nest

15th April: The chick has been growing quickly and at only 2 weeks old has left the nest - though a little earlier than they should have! He/she is still very reliant on mum and dad though and is spending time in thick shrub cover for protection.

22nd April: 3 weeks old today! We have had a wonderful week following the chick as it has moved around in our small back yard garden. We can only find its latest hiding place when the parents return to feed it and then watch the feeding frenzy. As the week has progressed this has become more frenetic. Haven't been able to catch it on camera yet as it is over in a flash.

I have managed a few photos in various new locations. All have been taken at a distance as I dont want the chick taking off in fright. We have a walkway next to our house and it would be a disaster if the chick landed up on the footpath.

28th of April: Another week older and looking more and more like mum and dad. Still being fed by mum and dad but definitely becoming much more independant.

 

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