Tag Archives: sugar water feeder

A right royal treat

The past few days have seen an increase in visits to the sugar water feeder by Tui and an even greater increase in aggression from these fascinating birds. The poor sparrows have been swooped at and seen out of a tree and off the property. The sparrows really are innocent of any crimes, just victims of being in the wrong place at the wrong time at the moment.

However today at times the air has been thick with Tui drinking from the feeder.
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I have lost count of the number of refills I have already done today and the sun has not yet set!

My suspicion is that the first of this season’s fledglings are now independent of feeding by their parents but their parents have shown them the feeder. Some researchers indicate that while Tui are generally solitary birds there are times when families of Tui can be seen together.
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Food sources may have dwindled a little before the next food options become abundant.
Nesting and feeding new babies is definitely in full swing so parents are doubly hungry. It has been very windy and quite chilly for the past few days meaning the birds’ energy supplies are sapped quickly.

Here are a few photos from today’s gatherings at the feeder. It has been a very entertaining day.
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A table for two?

The large Kowhai trees across the road have begun flowering this week and the numbers of Tui circulating in the area has risen dramatically. The air is full of the sound of their calls and their wing beats.

Word has spread amongst the birds about the sugar water feeder in my garden. So food is available across the road in the Kowhais, the Banksia and the Protea and drinks are on tap here.
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Yesterday in the better weather there were a lot of Tui visiting the feeder at lunch time. These two were not initially happy with seating arrangements.

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But after some flapping and shuffling about peace was agreed upon and drinks were shared.DSCF0556

Later in the afternoon there was significant fence hopping between the larger male and the smaller female. The various songs, calls and squawks alert me to this dance and I recognise these behaviours from earlier in the year. It was not long after the fence dance then that I found the fledglings in the tall trees in the garden.
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Spring and new babies are not far away for the Tui.

Teen trouble

It has been apparent for a few days now that the adult Tuis no longer want to feed their young. The fledglings can be very insistent about wanting their parents to feed them. However the squeaking calls are fewer and generally less persistent.
But on two occasions this week there have been some very strident exchanges between parent and child. Mostly these exchanges have happened in the tulip magnolia tree and have been impossible to capture by camera but we have certainly heard great flapping, screeching, squawking and lots of branches and leaves crashing about.

Last evening a very dramatic exchange happened between fledgling and father on the fence and I managed some photos.

It began near the feeder, which was empty, and the father bird flew in as the fledgling was looking sadly at the empty dish. The father’s arrival caused the fledgling to fly on to the fence. At this point the fledgling is on the right in the photo.
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And squeaking all the time it approached the father bird along the fence.
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Feathers almost flew at this point and you can see the fledgling on the left at full spread, imploring Dad to feed it. Dad was having none of that and was equally loud and aggressive back at his offspring.
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Action was high.
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Then, just as suddenly as it began, the male adult flew off and the fledgling retreated to the magnolia.

I then refilled the feeder and heard the fledgling come down through the branches as it returned to seek some nourishment.
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I now recognise the mother and father birds but I am still unsure how many fledglings have been in and out of the tulip magnolia and feeding at the sugar water feeder. Four appeared in the garden during the days between the 6-8th February and I think there have been two different ones at the feeder in the past 10 days but like all teenagers they like to appear the same so I cannot be sure.
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Certainly the parents have finished with their brood and now I am watching for the development of the characteristic white wattle feathers at the throats of the young. These are the feathers that earned Tui the name of “Parson bird” by the early European settlers to New Zealand.

Friday at the Feeder

Yesterday was a busy day for two Tui fledglings as they called, almost without a pause, for food from the tulip Magnolia near the sugar water feeder. At times they hopped amongst the branches in a skill they will use for life. The parent birds came to them far less often than pleased the young ones but their arrival was always welcomed with much noise and if a brief feed occurred there was much leaf stirring and wing flapping.

Around our dinner hour once again I witnessed the parent birds at the feeder, turning their heads after a quick sip to the young in the tree, then taking another sip and again another turn of the head. It certainly looked as if they were encouraging or directing the youngsters to a food source.

Tuis have two voice boxes and can emit sounds that our human ears cannot hear so I wonder if some special sound of encouragement was being emitted during this guiding.

Eventually one of the fledglings bumbled down on to the fence and then to the feeder for a sip or two. This one was quite nervous and flew back to safety in the tree when I attempted a photo or two.

I estimate that these were fledglings # 3 and 4 with numbers 1 and 2 off finding food elsewhere now, independent of their parents.

I had to go out after dinner so missed any further developments at the feeder.

This morning the plaintive calls were sounding and a single fledgling was in the tree. The cries did not continue as ceaselessly as yesterday and there have been two occasions that I have witnessed the little one having a good drink at the feeder.

The fledglings seem to have more tail feathers than their parents and you can see the lovely fan of feathers in this photo. And if you look very closely you can see some of its fluffy down around on its abdomen just above the tail area.
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I only managed two photos before the wee one returned to its perch and within minutes its head was beneath its wing in the sleeping pose of all birds.

It is a hot, sunny, and almost still day here with cicadas sounding and the birds are quiet. Late afternoon and evening have been busy times at the feeder so I will watch again later today.

The “Whine and Dine hour” at the feeder

I have been constantly distracted by the young Tui family in our garden. My eyes have been on alert for the young fledglings in our trees and my ears have been on alert for the plaintive squeaking calls of the hungry youngsters.
Around 4.15pm yesterday afternoon I could hear a fledgling’s call from the magnolia tree. The arrival of the parent caused much screeching and agitated wing flapping. While a feed was given on occasion it must have been hungry as the calling continued unabated.
A second fledgling flew into the tree and also began calling at times. Adult birds would come to the feeder and drink with the fledglings recognising only their parents and increasing their pleas for food.
Just after 5.30pm this happened: a parent drinking from the feeder and one brave and very hungry fledgling hopped rather inelegantly down on to the fence.
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We were in for a treat as the following photos show. The nicely plump fledgling on the right was still looking to the parent on the left for food.
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No joy yet.
But then reward for the hungry fledgling.
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And then the parent flew off watched by the young one.
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Waiting in a very trusting manner on the fence.
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Patience rewarded as the mother bird returned to drink and to try and ignore the beak gaping shrieks of her offspring.
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Perhaps the parent birds were hoping to show the young the “fast food joint” because the fledgling remained standing on the feeder.
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And within seconds his/her sibling bumbled down out of the magnolia tree and on to the fence. This one’s plaintive calls had been very ignored by the parents.
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Curious children….
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I was taking the photos too rapidly and this has made them fuzzy at times but here is the feeder sitter investigating the feeder much more closely having watched his mother drink 2 or 3 times from it in a short space of time….
It was exciting to see the young one finally dip his beak in the water and watch his brushy tongue taste this food supplement for the first time. In the way of any young creature he fully investigated all parts of the feeder.
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From this wonderful scenario it would seem that late afternoon and early evening is just as demanding for Tui parents as it is for parents of young humans.
I was busy cooking our dinner so we could get out to singing and at the same time watching these delightful birds and attempting to record it all on the camera. It reminded me so much of my life with small children around dinner hour all those years ago. And I resorted to “fast food” at times back then too!

Conversations at the water cooler….

Well perhaps not the water cooler but the sugar water feeder. Since the flaxes have finished flowering the Tuis have been emptying the sugar water feeder up to 6 times per day. It seems that we are serving three course meals with drinks to a great many local birds.

Aggressive behaviour has been more apparent with some startling displays of aerobatics and territory dominance. But I have also watched two Tuis happily sharing the feeder, young being shown where to drink, juveniles/teenagers stocking up on fast food and older birds replenishing their tired and thinner bodies after the rigours of the breeding cycle.
Many of the birds are not at all fazed by our presence in the garden and there are times when we can approach them quite closely.

More regularly Tui are sitting on the fence by the feeder and evenings are good times to spot two birds such as these two in enthusiastic conversation.
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It all began with an often heard song that heralds the arrival of one large bird. Then another Tui flew on to the fence and both were puffed up and looking rather unkempt.

There continued much singing, both at each other simultaneously,
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but also one to the other. Do not be fooled by their closed beaks for Tuis have two voice boxes and often produce lovely notes without much visible beak movement. At other times there are beak movements and no apparent sounds to our human ears. We are assured that Tuis sing notes that are beyond our hearing.
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A little shunning was witnessed despite a beautiful tune being offered.
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A little more chat back and forth
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And then one turned its back and was gone.
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As I type this at 8.30pm in the evening as the golden sunset glows in the western sky
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there is a continuous but quiet parade of supper eaters visiting our watering hole before they head somewhere to roost for the night. We suspect that moulting is underway for many of the Tuis as their plumage looks untidy and less vibrant.