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Spring is in the air

This season ten pairs of white-headed stilts nested at the Jawbone salt marsh flats. So far a total of 7 chicks have hatched.

Life is  certainly precarious for these long legged birds - they have had to deal with a lot this year including storms, king tides, marauding little ravens and the ever present foxes.

At one stage during a high-tide, water breached the nest and was lapping against the then 3 eggs. The stilts worked furiously and eventually saved the nest. The next day there was an extra egg in the nest. Miraculously all 4 eggs hatched from this nest.

Protecting the eggs and chicks

Protecting the eggs and chicks is a team effort for these birds. At the first sign of danger the stilts will start their warning call which is a continuous and excitable yap, until the danger passes. If the danger is not to close a single stilt will do a fly-by all the while making the warning call. If the danger persists in the general area, the stilt will swoop closer and closer to whatever is causing the problem.

 If the threat is more direct, like a little raven flying over or near a nest or chick, a squadron of stilts will take off flying low, fast and aggressively attack the threat. Only after the threat has been seen off will the stilts return to the nesting area.

Within hours of the chicks hatching the family of stilts will leave the nesting site to avoid being an easy target for predators.

The day after the chicks hatched the parent birds with chicks in tow headed west from the Jawbone saltmarsh flats to Wader Beach, a distance of 800 metres. It's interesting to note that the group of birds is no longer working as a team to protect the young and that individual parents are doing this job as well as keeping other adult stilts away from their brood.

So the precarious life for these new arrival continues with the added danger of off-leash dogs on the Wader Beach sand bar.

As Malcolm Fraser once said  "Life wasn't meant to be easy", and it's certainly true for these little chicks.