Amazing! - Further follow-up

32 posts / 0 new
Last post
ShaneO
ShaneO's picture
Amazing! - Further follow-up

For those who have followed the story regarding the Kookaburra/Rosella phenomenon, you'll probably be very interested to read the following -

Based on a suggestion by Holly, I built a Nesting Box about a month ago in hope that the Kookaburras would one day have their own offspring and leave the Rosellas in peace. I reported that the Kookaburras showed almost immediate interest in the box but soon lost interest.

A couple of weeks ago they returned to the box and started entering inside. They also started arranging the sugarcane mulch into, what I believed, was some kind of a nest. At times they would even spend 30 minutes or so just sitting in the box. This has continued daily since.

The tremedous news is that this afternoon the female has laid an egg! I'm very excited with this latest development and I now wonder how long it might take for the egg to hatch? Can anyone advise me on the timeframe? This will now also provide an answer to whether this pair are fertile or not.

All of these developments have been captured by our Security Cameras, so I might post another video to YouTube so others may view the happenings.

I'll certainly keep people informed via this forum, if anyone is interested.

Shane.

bushie
bushie's picture

Great news Shane. I was wondering what the outcome was. I hope my theory is wrong!

Regards,

bushie.

ShaneO
ShaneO's picture

OK, so far everything is going as expected. At 3:45pm today (20/11/08) the Kookaburra has laid its second egg. It is noticably larger than the first, so I guess it's going to be a female, or at least that's the opinion from what I've read elsewhere.

As people may be aware, my local region (Ipswich, Qld) was deluged last night with around 200mm of rain and I'm very please to see that the Nesting Box remained water-tight. I believe the Kookaburra was also very pleased to be in such a secure box as the video shows her occasionally looking outside to view the heavy rain but then retreating quickly.

Shane.

daggert
daggert's picture

I too watched with interest at your interesting situation. I am sure that we will all be interested in what is going to happen. Please post your youtube links.

soakes
soakes's picture

I would love to see these videos if possible. I have a few kookaburras around my place and would be interested in setting up some sort of nesting environment for them.

- soakes

soakes
Olinda, Victoria, Australia

ShaneO
ShaneO's picture

As of yesterday afternoon (Sun 23/11/08) there are now three eggs in the Kookaburra nesting box.

Thank-you to those who are showing interest in wanting further information. I will be creating a video of all the recent events, but I'm going to wait so I can hopefully include footage of the chicks hatching.

Shane.

Andy
Andy's picture

Oh wow that's fantastic! I'm sure I'm not the only one who can't wait to see the video. Thanks very much for sharing this awesome phenomenon with us.

Andy.

Holly
Holly's picture

Shane I am beaming from ear to ear!

I am so thrilled that the kookaburras have laid eggs and can't wait to see the footage. Fingers crossed for some babies soon.

Holly

Holly
Holly's picture

Shane - I hope you see this message soon.

I am giving a talk to a group of schools and other groups next Monday and would love to feature a small part of your utube clip in my presentation - talking about the value of nest boxes and hollows. Do you happen to have some photos of the kookaburras using the nest box?

Can you please email me at

Thanks!

Holly

ShaneO
ShaneO's picture

Hello Holly,

I will be happy to assist. I will contact you in a day or two with links to some photos and videos of our Kookaburra nesting box that you are welcome to use and hope they will help with your requirements.

Shane

Holly
Holly's picture

Thank you so much Shane!

Holly

ShaneO
ShaneO's picture

I thought I'd better post a follow-up to the on-going Kookaburra saga.

Firstly, there are only 2 eggs remaining in the nest. I really don't know where the third egg went to and can only assume it was snatched by a possum (we have a very active fellow on the tree at night).

The video camera inside the Nesting Box can't see the front right-hand side of the Nesting Box, and the Kookaburras placed their eggs there for several days, and when they moved them back into view there were only two eggs remaining. I did take a peek inside the Nesting Box while the Kookaburras were away a couple of days ago, and there's absolutely no sign of the third egg.

As I don't know the order of the remaining two eggs, I'm not sure when the first egg was due to hatch, but whatever the order, it appears we've gone past the expected incubation period of 24 or 25 days.

If I understand the incubation period correctly, then by now at least one of the two remaining eggs should have hatched.

If the eggs fail to hatch I will be seeking advice from people here as to what to do about the eggs. The Kookaburras have been sitting on the eggs virtually 24/7. If they're sterile, should the eggs be removed? If so, when should that be done? What do people think?

Any advice is very welcome.

Shane.

Andy
Andy's picture

Hi Shane,

Thanks for updating us.

If it turns out that the kookaburras are infertile, I'm not sure what should be done with the eggs.

If this is the case, however, I was thinking that perhaps the kookaburras could be given some orphaned young carnivorous birds. If you asked local vets or wildlife services, perhaps some rescued baby birds that have been brought in could be given to you to place in the nest. Obviously, much care would have to be taken, and I'm not certain of how or whether it would work, but it's an idea.

As you've demonstrated, the kookaburras seem very keen to feed the pale-headed rosellas, so perhaps we could assume they would be equally nurturing of baby birds placed in their nest (especially if they thought they babies were theirs).

In addition, hopefully this would stop the kookaburras trying to feed and "protect" the rosella babies. I'm sure there are several ethical and practical issues associated with the suggestion, but perhaps it's something to think about.

Andy.

ShaneO
ShaneO's picture

Thank-you Andy for your post. I will contact various services today to see if there's any orphaned birds of the right species available for adoption. If there are then I will seek further advice from as many people as possible to determine if it's the right thing to do or not.

Interestingly, the Pale-Headed Rosellas have also been nesting in the hollow, which is only a few feet away from the Kookaburras nesting box, so I suspect their chicks are to be born fairly soon. This probably now explains the reason the Kookaburras have become confused in the past. Without chicks of their own I can imagine they'll go back to trying to nurture the Rosella chicks.

Shane.

bushie
bushie's picture

A very disappointing outcome Shane.

I can't offer any advice but can recount a story of some 50 years ago when I was growing up in Sydney. Dad had rescued a young mountain teal duckling which grew up in our back yard. Turned out it was a female who laid 4 eggs & sat on them. Mum was horrified at this wasted effort & dad went to Centennial Park, waded out to several islands & came back with an egg from each of 4 nests. He substituted these eggs for the ones of our little duck & some time later the mother duck led a parade of 4 little ducks up the yard. From memory there were two mountain teal & two chestnut teal who eventually grew up & all five flew away.

I can't imagine it's possible to get Kookaburra eggs unfortunately to try this little trick.

Regards,

bushie.

magpie
magpie's picture

If they havent hatched long after their due I would remove them. From my knowledge they will lay more eggs, is that right anyone? I think for the best possibly chance of seeing if they are fertile we'd want them to lay again. There is no point them sitting on dead eggs, but make sure that there are no recorded instances of eggs hatching so late.

I cant wait to see the videos and photos!

ShaneO
ShaneO's picture

Following from Andy's suggestion, I have contacted a couple of Wildlife Rescue organisations in my area. I was eventually put in touch with one of their bird "experts".

He has advised me that Kookaburra eggs have an incubation period of 30 to 32 days, not 24 or 25 as I'd been advised elsewhere!

If this is correct then the first of the eggs are not due to hatch until tomorrow (Thur 18/12) or Saturday (20/12).

So, at this stage I apparently still need to wait a while before concluding that these eggs are infertile. If they still don't hatch I have been told that there's less than 40% chance that these Kookaburras would adopt chicks being placed into their nesting box. I personally believe these Kookaburras are somewhat unique and based on their previous behaviour I would therefore argue a much higher likelyhood of adoption, but at this stage I don't want to jump the gun.

I'll keep everyone posted via this link.

Shane.

magpie
magpie's picture

Yes, it would not be fair at all to put any chicks in the nest if there as there is a great chance of starvation or even predation. We shouldnt be playing mother nature here, observing is fun and we are learning new things by this behaviour.
Lets hope the eggs hatch!

ShaneO
ShaneO's picture

I'm afraid I have some sad news. This story is also not very pleasant.

A couple of days ago the second egg was found to be missing from the nesting box and then yesterday morning the last egg had also disappeared. This time however I was able to find the egg in the flower bed beneath the nesting box.

The egg was badly damaged but there was a chick inside and it was moving! I placed the egg back into the nesting box and waited for one of the Kookaburra parents to return. After a couple of hours the Mother arrived. She stood looking at the egg for quite a while and then picked it up and flew to the perch next door. I went out just in time to see her slapping the chick against the tree limb and then swallow it!!

I am rather distressed by this whole experience. Without any video evidence I still don't know what's been happening to the eggs but I still believe they've been taken by a possum, or similar. Careful examination of the video footage after the second egg was taken shows the last egg had also suffered some trauma. There were cracks on the egg, resulting in several dimples on the surface. I do believe this was probably caused by some creature trying to grab the egg, but could it be possible that the Kookaburras are doing this themselves? Why did the Kookaburra eat the chick? Have they done this to all previous hatchlings?

The only positive point to come out of this is that I now know for certain that the Kookaburras are not sterile. While the chick in the damaged egg did appear premature, it was definitely alive.

This entire saga is now more bizarre than I could ever have imagined!
Shane.

Holly
Holly's picture

Oh Shane that certainly is a sad outcome :(

Unfortunately that is nature sometimes. Now that you know they lay fertile eggs though, hopefully they will nest successfully.

Its a sad fact that most eggs don't make it to become adult birds.

soakes
soakes's picture

I don't think possums eat eggs. Maybe a rat or something. Just as likely another bird.

The kookaburra probably decided the egg wasn't going to succeed. It is probably quite normal for such a bird to eat its own eggs. Next time they may be more successful.

- soakes

soakes
Olinda, Victoria, Australia

Andy
Andy's picture

Shane thanks so much for sharing this with us all.

I'm sure that after putting in so much time and effort, and becoming so interested in the birds, you must have been quite distressed to see the outcome.

You gave these birds a great chance, though, and maybe this opportunity has given them some practise - maybe next year they'll be more vigilant for predators. However, if it never works out for them, I suppose we just have to accept that that is nature, like Holly said. You did such a lovely job of creating the right circumstances for them, and that is all that can be done.

It's great that there are lovely people like you who are willing to give nature a helping hand; I'm sorry that the outcome was not what we all hoped it would be and that this episode was quite distressing for you.

Andy.

Andy
Andy's picture

Shane thanks so much for sharing this with us all.

I'm sure that after putting in so much time and effort, and becoming so interested in the birds, you must have been quite distressed to see the outcome.

You gave these birds a great chance, though, and maybe this opportunity has given them some practise - maybe next year they'll be more vigilant for predators. However, if it never works out for them, I suppose we just have to accept that that is nature, like Holly said. You did such a lovely job of creating the right circumstances for them, and that is all that can be done.

It's great that there are lovely people like you who are willing to give nature a helping hand; I'm sorry that the outcome was not what we all hoped it would be and that this episode was quite distressing for you.

Andy.

ShaneO
ShaneO's picture

Thank-you to everyone who have followed this story and provided such tremendous assistance and support.

While I am very disappointed in the outcome I am certainly not beaten. I will continue to do everything in my power to assist this pair of Kookaburras to eventually have the fairytale ending I believe they deserve. Since becoming involved in the goings-on of these birds I have learned a lot, but I also know that it's only the tip of the iceberg.

I've been told that it might not be too late for the Kookaburras to try and raise another clutch this season, if not then I look forward to next year and hope they are more successful next time around. Strange enough, as I'm writing this message the female is back in the nesting box and I can see on my monitor that she's once again going through the ritual I observed a few weeks ago, just before she laid her first egg!

I will continue to keep everyone posted on events as they occur. I still plan to release another short video sometime soon so people may see events that occurred this time around. I will post back when the video is available.

Shane.

magpie
magpie's picture

wow, what an outcome.

Possums do occasionally eat eggs, but it could be any one of a number of animals - or the kookaburras themselves.

I would think that adults eating eggs/nestlings probably commonly happens, but it is not commonly observed by people! I would say that you have seen something that very few have!

As someone said, the adults would have known that the chick was not going to make it and thats probably why they did this.

bushie
bushie's picture

It's normal practice for birds to remove unviable eggs from their nests. Perhaps the kookaburra or a different predator removed the eggs but my guess would be the kookaburra. As has been stated she probably knew that the last egg was not right and removed it even though a chick was inside.

It may not appear pleasant to us humans but the eating of the chick is simply a reaction to a high protein food source.

I am pleased you are going to keep up this experiment Shane. Let's hope for a better outcome next time.

This has been a very interesting thread! Thanks for sharing it with us.

Regards,

bushie.

Jennywren
Jennywren's picture

Definately bizarre that the mother ate the baby. Often birds will know when an egg is not fertile and will either kick it out or eat it but have not heard of them eating a live chick before. Even with inexperienced parents they usually work it out. My partner brreds ome asiatic parrots and even though they are in big avairies and are not tame in any way he can still pick up the eggs and even the chicks and put them back with no ill effects. Are you positive that it was the mother returning and not another bird?

magpie
magpie's picture

He said he found the egg/chick on the ground so the mother probably already kicked it out of the nest, but maybe felt hungry when she saw it had been returned to the nest. harsh, but thats nature.

soakes
soakes's picture

I was quite sure that possums were vegetarian (and hence do not eat eggs) so I did some research and found that some possums do indeed occasionally eat meat (and hence eggs).

Another piece of trivia learnt!

- soakes

soakes
Olinda, Victoria, Australia

ShaneO
ShaneO's picture

Thank-you to everyone for the continued follow-up on this thread.

Jennywren - Yes I am certain it was the Mother who ate the chick. She has a very obvious "crack" on her beak and the video showed it was her who attended the nest and flew away with the egg.

On this point, I'm wondering if the chick had died after I put it back into the nesting box, before the Mother arrived back? As I wrote, it was a couple of hours before she returned, so this might be why she decided to remove the egg?

After the egg was removed and apart from the initial return to the nesting box, the Kookaburras haven't been inside it since. They are now back to their old practices of trying to stuff food into the hollow for the Rosella chicks! The Rosellas have now hatched a clutch of five healthy babies and once again the Kookaburras are back to hassling the parents. They are so confused!!

Shane.

DenisWilson
DenisWilson's picture

Hi Soakes.
You are right. Their carnivorous habit is why they have caused so much havoc in Nu Ziland - having been introduced there (two islands previously without carnivores).
They have run amock there.
Cheers
Denis

birdie
birdie's picture

Hi Denis
I thought the havoc was more about the eating out of the canopy of all native bush there. i have never heard of them being referred to as a predator there. ( Though as far as most Nu Zilanders are concerned a dead possum is a good one).
I was horrified when , on returning to live there after being here for 20 years, I discovered the major fundraiser for a local kindy was a possum shoot and the kids were encouraged to get their tallies up as much as possible. Threat or not, i thought it was avery inappropriate way to educate children so young.

Sunshine Coast Queensland

 and @UrbanBirdsOz  @birdsinbackyards
                 Subscribe to me on YouTube