Malleefowl are large ground-dwelling birds that live in Australia. They have a remarkable reproductive cycle that includes up to 11 months per year spent building, tending and maintaining a large nest mound used for incubation. Malleefowl mounds are made up primarily of compost, piled many layers deep, and a top layer of sand, used for insulation. The eggs lay on top of the compost and are protected by the sand layer. The mounds may be used for several breeding seasons and may grow to over 70 feet in circumference and over three feet deep.
Malleefowl mound graphic by Peter Halasz
After the eggs are laid, the male tends to the nest and makes adjustments to the amount of soil within the compost layer to maintain a constant temperature of 33°C (91.4°F). He checks the temperature by probing his beak into the nest chamber! This amazing feat is why the bird is known as the "thermometer bird" in the Dutch and German languages. Here is a short video showing a temperature check:
Malleefowl checking the nest mound temperature by grazza2106
Incubation depends on the temperature inside the mount remaining steady. Fluctuations caused by rainfall and other factors lead to incubation time lasting anywhere from 50 to nearly 100 days. When the chicks are ready to hatch, they use their strong feet to break the eggshell. Digging through the sand layer is a struggle that may take 15 hours! Once they reach the surface, they take a deep breath and begin their life, totally independent of their parents. Malleefowl chicks can run just an hour after emerging from the nest mound, and are able to fly after just one day! Here is a short video showing a Malleefowl chick who has just emerged from the nest mound:
Today a beautiful parrot from Australia joins Birdorable: the Eastern Rosella!
Eastern Rosellas are colorful parrots that live in southeastern parts of Australia, including Tasmania. Their beautiful plumage is a mix of red, yellow, blue, green, orange, black, and white. In their native range, they sometimes visit back yard feeding stations.
eastern rosella by jeaniephelan
These colorful birds are cavity nesters. They nest in tree hollows, but will also use nest boxes, as you can see in this cute video. An adult tends to a juvenile in the box.
Eastern Rosella Family by JayEL58 on
Tomorrow's species is a bird of prey known for its wide gape. Can you guess what it will be?
Before Europeans knew that the Black Swan was a real type of bird, they used it as a metaphor to describe something that didn't exist. For over 1500 years, to compare a thing to a Black Swan meant that it wasn't real, for in the eyes of Europeans, all swans were white. Mute Swans and Whooper Swans, both mostly white, were the only species of swan known to western culture at the time. Imagine how surprised you would be to see a flying pig, and you can guess how Europeans felt when they learned there really was such a thing as a Black Swan! When Europeans first visited Australia in the late 1600's, Black Swans were commonly seen on waterways. The birds are mainly found in the southeast and southwest parts of Australia. Today Australians, especially those living in Western Australia, have embraced the "otherness" of the Black Swan. For some it has come to symbolize antipodean identity, and the contrast between Australian culture with that of the northern hemisphere (and their white swans). The Black Swan can be found on the flag and coat-of-arms of Western Australia. If you'd like to read more about Black Swans and pop culture, check out this article.