Willie wagtail nesting behaviour query

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jallia
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Willie wagtail nesting behaviour query

Hello,

I hope this is in the correct section! I've never used the forum. I'm in WA and I've got a query about willie wagtails and their nesting behaviour.

We've got a pair who have 'refurbished' a nest from last year. That very nest had fallen and the eggs fell out, which was very sad. We glued the nest back onto the beam, and it seems they're keen for another go this year and have been fluffing it out. For a few days they were very active around (and in) the nest and the territory, and they know us so they are OK with us being nearby. However, we have an indoor cat and my dad took him outside on his harness (as we do daily, supervised). The birds naturally swooped him, so I put him inside, not wanting an accident or to scare the birds off.

I know willie wagtails are quite aggressive in defending their nest, but for the past 2 days they've only returned briefly in the morning to sit in the nest and poke at it, then they vanish the rest of the day (may reappear once briefly). They're also really quiet. I hear them once or twice before they vanish (before they were noisy). Is this normal behaviour? I can't get up to the nest to check for eggs and don't want to cause alarm.

I thought perhaps they are still courting and breeding, and haven't produced eggs yet. This is only the second season I've witnessed their nesting behaviour so I am not sure what to expect.

Thanks for any replies, much appreciated!

Regards,

Jess

Woko
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It may well be that those wise Willie Wagtails, having been presented with the extreme threat of a cat, are being very cautious about nesting near your house. From a human perspective they seem to be undecided about what to do. They feel secure with your presence  but not so with the cat being around. It might be a matter of watch & wait while keeping your cat well inside. (If only all cat owners were so considerate!)

jallia
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Woko wrote:

It may well be that those wise Willie Wagtails, having been presented with the extreme threat of a cat, are being very cautious about nesting near your house. From a human perspective they seem to be undecided about what to do. They feel secure with your presence  but not so with the cat being around. It might be a matter of watch & wait while keeping your cat well inside. (If only all cat owners were so considerate!)

Hi Woko,

Thank you for your reply :) It seems you are correct. They have returned, and they are sitting on the nest a little more and being more vocal. I never realised they had a shorter call when on the nest. They're also waking me up early again; to me a good sign. Plus, they're being very territorial and chasing other birds away.

Our cat is now afraid to go outside when the birds are there, though he'll sit at the door and chatter eagerly. :P He's not yet a year old.

I do have another query for you or anyone who would like to answer it. How long can willie wagtails (or honeyeaters etc) in Australia leave their eggs unattended? I've read 7 days (not a specific species). I can't tell if they sit on them at night because it's far too dark to see! They're never on the nest consistently.

Cheers :)

Jess

Woko
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Check this out, jallia: www.quora.com.

jallia
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Woko wrote:

Check this out, jallia: www.quora.com.

Hi Woko,

I've searched online and in some journals with little success. Thanks for the link - it makes me log in with Google or Facebook which I can't do. I'll see what happens and use my powers of observation :)

This website is a good resource for willie wagtail queries, however: https://www.trevorsbirding.com/baby-willie-wagatils-at-last/ In case someone else wants further information.

Once again, thank you for your help,

Regards,

Jess

Woko
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If I remember accurately I googled <how long do Willie Wagtail eggs remain viable without incubation?> & www.quora.com came up. It's a US website but I got the impression that a Willie Wagtail egg might remain viable for 2 days without someone sitting on it. But there was nothing incredibly definite about it as you would probably expect.

jallia
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Woko wrote:

If I remember accurately I googled <how long do Willie Wagtail eggs remain viable without incubation?> & www.quora.com came up. It's a US website but I got the impression that a Willie Wagtail egg might remain viable for 2 days without someone sitting on it. But there was nothing incredibly definite about it as you would probably expect.

Thanks Woko!

Birds are more dedicated (sitting in the nest) in the last few days, I think all the eggs are now in the nest. I've heard her call late in the night a couple of times. She's right by my bedroom window so they certainly get me up early, but it's worth it! They swap around occasionally, too. Hopefully they are more successful this year as parents.

Woko
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So far, so good, jallia. Keep that cat confined!

jallia
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:P He'll always be an indoor boy, no plans to let him outside! Protect the wildlife whilst keeping him safe.

I think the babies will hatch soon, maybe in a week. Parents switch over (a noisy, squabbly affair) but rarely is the nest empty.

jallia
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For anyone interested in wagtails: Three babies seem healthy and well-fed. Parents have become more protective and I have been scolded and followed around the yard a few times (and even scolded through the window). The babies have developed more patterning and feathers and are getting big - I imagine by the end of the week they'll be pushing each other for room!

Dad put a cover over the table due to mess - good thinking - there is a LOT of mess underneath the nest.

Woko
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Thanks for the update, jallia. With natural habitats being destroyed at a fast clip breeding is so important to keep our native species from becoming extinct.

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