Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Wildlife Wednesday - Australian Raven or Crow

Single crow nest in tree - just to the lower left of centre.
I have an Australian Raven pair nesting in a tree above my house, and they have a pair of chicks. I can't tell you how excited I've been watching these birds. I'm a nature nut, so it's not unusual for me to be excited by what I see around me, but this has been next level - even for me!

Noticing crows around is fairly normal. I've watched Noisy Minors harass them. Their call is distinctive and I often hear them. A few months ago, I watched as they build a nest of twigs and sticks high up in the gum tree. I've watched them come and go from that nest, scare other birds away, protect their nest fiercely.

About 3 weeks ago, my relationship with the crows changed.

We have Plovers (Masked Lapwing) nesting on our roof out the back. They've done this for the last few years and it amused me listening to their antics and hearing their protective screams as other birds or possums get too close.

We also have sulphur-crested cockatoos who land on the roof and walk across to the edge before screeching at me for some reason when I'm outside. I usually stick my head up and have a chat to them.

Sometimes pigeons also land on the roof and make a fumbling waddle to the side. I can tell this is a different bird to the cockatoos. The cockatoos are rather heavy in their landing, but walk quite cleanly. A pigeon is quite light in the landing and then scrambles around as if it can't pick its feet up and is skidding across the roof.

Two nests - with a crow
Back to a few weeks ago. It was a Sunday and I was watching the football with Mr E, when I thought a cockatoo landed on our front verandah roof. It walked across the roof to the driveway, but it's footsteps were loud and incredibly deliberate. I wanted to know who the cockatoo was with the big loud footsteps (Yes, Mr E thinks I'm nuts).

I went outside, to the edge of the verandah and I peered up just as a Noisy Minor was scurrying away after harassing... a crow! Standing at the edge of my verandah roof right above my head was the most magnificent crow, blue-black feathers gleaming. I don't think I've ever seen one so close. The eye was the most brilliant white in all that dark lushness of feathers. In the few seconds I had to admire, I lost my heart to the magnificence of the bird. And then the crow looked down, saw me, squawked, I yipped, it took off. It was all over - except for my heart racing so fast!

Since then, the chicks have hatched in the nest - 2 of them. The parents have been busy feeding and protecting them, and lately the young have been standing on the edge of the nest, stretching their wings. Then over the last couple of weeks, the adults have been busy making a second nest quite close to the first one. I've been privileged enough to watch the parents selecting sticks to make that nest. I assumed they picked sticks up off the ground but I'm wrong. The selection of sticks for nest building is quite an intricate process. They don't just pick any old stick. Each is selected by running their beak along them, while they're still attached to a tree! I assume they're looking for a particular size and maybe flexibility judging from the way they tested each stick. Then there was quite a site selection occurring before they broke the twig from the branch. Instead of just flying up to the nest, they seem to make quite a lot of hops up the tree, and short flights from branch to branch, before taking flight to weave the twig into place. When the crows fly with a stick, you can hear the wing beats quite loudly, much more so than with a normal flight, so I imagine that it takes some effort to lift and carry each twig that makes up the nest.

This isn't zoomed. Nests are way up, just to the right of centre.
I suppose it took about 8-10 days to build the second nest. Over the past weekend, the chick that was flapping its wings the most and hopping on twigs above the nest, moved house. We now have a chick in each nest. On Sunday, as I pegged out the washing, the chick in the new nest took a series of hops across to visit the old nest. I was incredibly trilled to see this journey. Today, I spied an adult and this fledgling returning from a short flight (I think).

It's been an incredible experience. And right above my house. I've been honoured to witness this  family - and I've spent an awful lot of time with binoculars lately!

The Australian Museum website has some information about Australian Ravens, also called Crows. You can find it here.

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