Saturday, November 24, 2012

Rufous Songlark Cincloramphus mathewsi

Rufous Songlarks are one of those species that left Tenterfield years ago because of a lack of consistent rainfall. I cannot even remember when I last heard one of these birds in town, it was that long ago.

About 3 days ago 3 of these birds suddenly showed up in Tenterfield late in the afternoon singing their heads off, around the same time some event began at the Tenterfield Showground that involves horses and cows. The strange thing about this is these birds are way too young to have travelled to Tenterfield by themselves, as they are about the size of a Red-browed Finch. In one of the videos (see the links below) that I taped a Blackbird or Common Starling (probably it's a Blackbird) was having a bath then flew onto the power line, the same power line and distance (roughly) from me for me to make a comparison with the two species' sizes. The Blackbird is much larger in size and in fact dwarfs these Rufous Songlarks in size.

As Rufous Songlarks, when fully grown are about 16cm long (females) and 19cm long (males), these have to be juveniles barely out of the nest. The theory on how they got here, is, well a guess but a bloody good guess at that. So here it is...

The parents made a nest in one of the horse trailers or cattle trucks wherever their home was. The truck or trailer was obviously not being constantly used by humans so the parents found it to be a perfect nesting site. They bred and raised 3 chicks (males), maybe more as I don't know if there are any females here. Suddenly, the truck or trailer was loaded with animals (cows or horses) and it took off for Tenterfield leaving the parents with no nest and no chicks. The chicks, unable to fly, basically had to go without food for the entire journey, as that was the last time they ever saw their parents and home. The chicks were at the age where they could fly by the time they arrived in Tenterfield in the truck or trailer. However, when they arrived at Tenterfield they all flew away and started fending for themselves, finding a suitable location near the Tenterfield Creek - across the road from where I live.

These birds have not moved since they got here but unfortunately I have heard one of them today, possibly 2 of the males. I have no idea if these birds will survive or not, but it looks like most of them will survive. If they were not going to survive they would've died by now.

I had to identify these birds by their song alone which is not like other birds' songs. It has more of a rainforest voice, a high pitched voice like the Bell Miner. It was hard to identify them as these birds' sizes differed greatly to that of adult birds but the calls were identical to that of a Rufous Songlark.

During the first 3 days these birds spent most of their time going from the top of power poles to the power lines, or from the very top most point of large trees to other tree tops. They've been singing constantly from sunrise to sunset, in the exact same area. They have not moved more than 100 metres from outside this area since they first arrived. I believe they have been trying to call out to their parents since they got here but since their parents never answered back the youngsters have realized they are completely alone.

They are beginning to go quiet, having breaks in between their calls. I'm guessing that they have come to realize the reality of what happened and have begun to give up ever seeing their parents again. They may actually be spending more time eating and regaining their strength. They are still within close proximity of one another which is a good thing. One of the males has actually moved from the intersection power line at the corner of Douglas and Pelham Streets, to behind the Flats (where I live) somewhere. I hope these young birds all survive and grow up to be adults. I also hope they find themselves mates that are not their sisters - if any females survived the accidental relocation.

I know there are two of these birds and both are males. There actually were three males originally but I think the third one died a day and a half later from starvation. That one went quiet around a day and a half later of arriving in Tenterfield. They all appeared to have flown away from the nest at the exact same time, when they were all strong enough to do so. They all set up their own little territories within about 200 metres from each other.

Click on the links to view these videos I taped in the pop out media player.


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