December 16, 2018

Nesting pardalotes put best foot forward

My favourite pair of boots have been out of commission all spring and summer – after a family of striated pardalotes chose them as their home.

Sounds bizarre I know, but I had an inclination it would be a summer of discontent when I saw the pardalotes inspecting my worn and trusty Blundstones at the start of their nesting season in early September.

The boots had been left out on the car port of my home, the footwear not going on its usual birding adventures in the winter months simply because I was recovering from knee surgery, which curbed my outings while I recovered.

There are three species of pardalote found in Tasmania – the striated, spotted and forty-spotted – and they all nest in cavities, ranging from holes in trees to holes in the ground, even holes in piles of grass cuttings if they are left in place long enough.

I’d heard of striated pardalotes nesting in hanging flower baskets, but all the same could never have imagined until this summer they would use my boots, although the car port itself had proven an attraction in recent years. A male pardalote, nesting in a hole under a neighbour’s drive, had chosen the roofed car port to broadcast it’s monotonous, far-carrying “pick-it-up” territorial song which had proven a little more than annoying. It seemed the bird never stopped singing – for hours, days, months – none-stop during daylight hours.

I thought that my pardalotes might be unique in the bird world to put their best foot forward when it came to nesting in unusual places but it appears a family of cape wagtails in South Africa have beaten them to it.  And at the risk of being accused of product placement, Forbes business magazine in the United States reported last year that a pair of birds had also chosen Blunnies as a home to rear their young, like the pardalotes.

The magazine had written an article on the “cult” status of Tasmanian Blunnies around the world and, together with accounts of Hollywood and sports stars seen wearing them, were unusual anecdotes about the boot brand, including the wagtail one from a South African Blunnies fan. The South African noted the birds had returned seven years in a row to nest in the same boots and each year he couldn’t bring himself to clear out their straw nesting material once they had started nest building, as he vowed he would.

Not wishing to sound like a birding pedant, the article stated that the wagtails were migratory, when in fact they are largely resident, not moving season to season more than a kilometre from a pair of boots.

The striated pardalotes, on the other hand, are definitely long-distance travellers and this year I’m eagerly anticipating their departure in early March.  They reared two sets of young and no doubt, like their parents, these will be returning from the mainland  for their own breeding season.  And on the pardalotes’ return in late August I’ll make sure the new Blunnies I have now acquired are placed out of sight.

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