Some interesting brolga observations to share this spring

I’ve been really enjoying getting around the far southwest of Victoria these past few weeks, checking on how some of the sites we have rehabilitated are responding after a couple of years of decent rainfall. For a few of sites that have had a pretty hard life and were slower to respond, this year has been a real tipping point in terms of vegetation response, as clearly shown below.

Comparison of aquatic vegetation following hydrolgocial restoration in 2018 (above) and three years later (below) – Dorodong southwest Victoria

Something else I have noticed at a couple of sites is a change in brolga behaviour. This time of year I’m used to seeing a pair of brolga and my understanding has been that you’ll generally only see a pair (and their chicks if you are lucky) on each wetland. The larger flocking, like we have been seeing at Green Swamp, usually occurs in autumn before the birds pair up and fly off to their favourite wetland.

A normal siting of a pair of brolga near Bahgallah; this pair raise chicks most years

Last week I observed something I can’t recall seeing in spring before, seven brolga on a single wetland just off the Casterton-Dartmoor Road. And then again, this week I saw five brolga at another site about 10 km away. The answer to this unusual behaviour may lie in the impacts of a fairly wet year. If the water level is too deep, then nesting is unlikely to occur and the impulse to boot out last year’s chicks isn’t there. So perhaps what we are seeing is last year’s chicks hanging around with their parents for a bit longer. At the Bahgallah site, I know the birds in the photo above raised two chicks in 2019 but I’m not sure what happened last year. However looking at the size of the birds, it is quite possible that there are juveniles amongst the group. And the larger of the birds was looking a bit frustrated, jumping and flapping its wings when the younger birds got too close. I’m sure that many of us can relate following lockdowns and home-schooling!

Adult brolga with no chicks but some younger birds with them this year, near Bahgallah

I’d be really interested to hear from anyone who may have seen similar behavior to this, and work out whether it is a seasonal anomaly or something that does happen more often than I have seen. My email address is below.

Lachlan Farrington