We’d spotted Magpie-larks ( Grallina cyanoleuca – aka Peewees) nesting and breeding in the small pocket of mangroves under the south pylon of Meadowbank rail bridge last summer. But on that occasion, there was just a single chick.
Returning to check on a nest we recently saw being built (see Close to Home 1, Sep 7), we were delighted to find a family of three chicks.
We first noticed the male on the nest:
He flew off, but perched nearby to keep an eye on us. The female took his place on the nest almost immediately, so we were fairly certain there was a chick.
Returning a week later, we could clearly see there were three chicks in this hatching! At this point they were still so young that their wing feathers had hardly developed, and they looked a bit like skeleton birds!
When the female returned for feeding, they all sat up!
One chick seemed more advanced than the other two. We assume he or she had hatched first:
These birds are fiercely territorial, especially at breeding time. The male kept a close eye on the humans with the cameras.
He took a dislike to one particular jogger, swooping at her as she passed, and again when she returned.
When we next returned, all three chicks were close to fledging.
The adult female returned, the chicks still dependent on their parents for feeding.
The adult male was never far away, keeping an eye on his chicks, now that they had left the safety of the neat little mud nest.
Even (or maybe especially?) at this late stage, the parents were extremely defensive of their chicks. The female made a show of flapping and giving the pee-pee-pee-pee alarm call:
The male joined in too, and it was not long before he was swooping Brad.
We did not want to distress them any further after they had successfully raised three chicks to fledging stage. Wishing the kids luck, we left them in peace.