Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

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Maximum longevity: 25 years (captivity)
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Behavior

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Apostlebirds give contact calls that consist of piping whistles. Their alarm call is mainly harsh screeches and chattering, sounding like a scratchy 'ch-kew, ch-kew' with a nasal 'git-out.'

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Mateskon, L. 2007. "Struthidea cinerea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Struthidea_cinerea.html
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Laura Mateskon, Michigan State University
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Conservation Status

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Apostlebirds are considered a species of least concern by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Mateskon, L. 2007. "Struthidea cinerea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Struthidea_cinerea.html
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Laura Mateskon, Michigan State University
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Benefits

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Due to their habit of digging in soil and leaf litter as they forage, apostlebirds may be a nuisance to some humans, such as gardeners. Otherwise, there are no known adverse effects of apostlebirds on humans.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Mateskon, L. 2007. "Struthidea cinerea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Struthidea_cinerea.html
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Laura Mateskon, Michigan State University
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Benefits

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Little is known about benefits apostlebirds provide to humans.

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Mateskon, L. 2007. "Struthidea cinerea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Struthidea_cinerea.html
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Laura Mateskon, Michigan State University
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Associations

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There is little available information about the ecosystem roles of apostlebirds. They act as predators and are prey for their predators.

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Mateskon, L. 2007. "Struthidea cinerea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Struthidea_cinerea.html
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Laura Mateskon, Michigan State University
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Trophic Strategy

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Apostlebirds forage on the ground, eating mainly insects and seeds. The insects they consume include grasshoppers, weevils, shield-bugs, and ants. They are opportunistic, eating insects during the summer and seeds during the winter. They will even catch and eat house mice (Mus musculus) if they have the opportunity. They steady their food by standing on it.

During the non-breeding season, aggregations of up to 50 birds gather at a common food source. While they do not behave aggressively toward each other at this time, they do not form a cohesive flock, and fly off in separate groups when disturbed.

Animal Foods: mammals; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts

Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore ); herbivore (Granivore )

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Mateskon, L. 2007. "Struthidea cinerea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Struthidea_cinerea.html
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Laura Mateskon, Michigan State University
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Distribution

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Apostlebirds (Struthidea cinerea) are found in eastern Australia, on the western side of the Great Dividing Range. They occur only on the mainland and are non-migratory.

Biogeographic Regions: australian (Native )

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Mateskon, L. 2007. "Struthidea cinerea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Struthidea_cinerea.html
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Laura Mateskon, Michigan State University
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Habitat

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Preferred apostlebird habitat is generally grassland and open eucalyptus woodlands. They require a nearby water source, such as a stream, in order to obtain mud for nest building.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; scrub forest

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Mateskon, L. 2007. "Struthidea cinerea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Struthidea_cinerea.html
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Laura Mateskon, Michigan State University
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Life Expectancy

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There is little available information regarding the lifespan of wild or captive apostlebirds.

Average lifespan
Status: captivity:
25.0 years.

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Mateskon, L. 2007. "Struthidea cinerea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Struthidea_cinerea.html
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Laura Mateskon, Michigan State University
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Morphology

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Apostlebirds are 29 to 47 cm in length, and weigh 110 to 130 g. Their plumage is soft and dark gray with paler gray streaks, their wings are brown, and their tails are black. They have stout bills. Males and females are sexually monomorphic in plumage and size. Iris color varies with age; fledglings have brown eyes, yearlings have gray eyes, and adults (at least 2 years old) have gray eyes with a thin yellow outer ring. This ring becomes more apparent as the birds age.

Range mass: 110 to 130 g.

Range length: 29 to 47 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

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Mateskon, L. 2007. "Struthidea cinerea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Struthidea_cinerea.html
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Associations

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Apostlebirds have a harsh, screeching alarm call that they use when they are disturbed. They fly into the nearest tree and protest noisily. Their nests have been known to fail due to predation by brown goshawks (Accipiter fasciatus) and grey butcherbirds (Cracticus torquatus). Newly hatched young can also be overtaken by meat ants (Iridomyrmex purpureus).

Known Predators:

  • brown goshawks (Accipiter fasciatus)
  • grey butcherbirds (Cracticus torquatus)
  • meat ants (Iridomyrmex purpureus)
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Mateskon, L. 2007. "Struthidea cinerea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Struthidea_cinerea.html
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Laura Mateskon, Michigan State University
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Reproduction

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Apostlebirds are cooperative breeders. They form familial social groups of up to 20 members, consisting of a dominant male, several females, and juveniles from previous seasons. These immature members stay to help with parental duties. During the breeding season, the groups occupy distinct, well-defended territories.

Before breeding, apostlebirds engage in a characteristic display. Birds at the nest become excited and give a call. The displaying bird raises its head and neck feathers and bobs up and down in time with the calls. It also fans its tail and raises it up and down.

Mating System: polygynous ; cooperative breeder

The breeding season is from August to early January. All group members help in parental duties, i.e., building the nest, incubating and brooding the nestlings, and feeding the young. The nest is a cup, about 14 cm in diameter, made of mud and built on a horizontal limb up to 40 feet above the ground. If mud is not available, the birds may use animal dung, including that of emus. If a nest is still in good condition after a previous breeding season, it is sometimes reused.

A group will sequentially raise up to two successful broods in a single season. Usually only one female will lay in a given nest, but sometimes two females may do so. Two to eight eggs are laid, depending on how many females are laying in the nest. The eggs are a pale bluish white color with black or gray splotches. Incubation takes 18 to 19 days, and the nestling period is 18 to 29 days. Usually only about 4 nestlings survive to fledge.

Breeding interval: Family groups may raise up to two broods per breeding season.

Breeding season: Breeding occurs from August to early January.

Range eggs per season: 2 to 8.

Range time to hatching: 18 to 19 days.

Range fledging age: 18 to 29 days.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

All members of the social group help with parental duties. The young are fed both while in the nest and for several months after they fledge. Young may also remain with their family group for some time.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); post-independence association with parents

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Mateskon, L. 2007. "Struthidea cinerea" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Struthidea_cinerea.html
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Laura Mateskon, Michigan State University
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Apostlebird

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The apostlebird (Struthidea cinerea), also known as the grey jumper, lousy jack,”awky sqwarky” or caw bird is a quick-moving, gray or black bird about 33 cm (13 in) long. It is a native to Australia where it roams woodlands, eating insects and seeds at, or near, ground level. Apostlebirds often travel in groups of about 12; for this reason they were named after the Biblical apostles, the twelve chief followers of Jesus Christ.

Taxonomy

Apostlebird - Bimbi.jpg

Originally described by ornithologist John Gould in 1837, its specific epithet is Latin cinerea "grey".[2] In its own genus Struthidea, it is placed in the family known as the mud-nest builders or Corcoracidae, written as Grallinidae in older books before the removal of the genus Grallina to the wagtail family. It is one of two remaining species, with the white-winged chough (Corcorax melanorhamphos), which differs in appearance but exhibits many behavioural similarities.[3] The mudnest builder family Corcoracidae itself is now placed in a narrower "core corvine" group, which contains the crows and ravens, shrikes, birds of paradise, fantails, monarch flycatchers, and drongos.[4]

Struthidea cinerea lined up.jpg

The apostlebird was named after the Biblical apostles, the twelve followers of Jesus Christ.[5][6] In fact, the species travel in family groups of between 6 and 20, which may coalesce with other family groups into large feeding flocks of over 40. Their gregarious nature, and harsh scolding/grating calls have led to a plethora of colloquial names. They can be known locally as lousy jacks (due to heavy louse infestations[7]), happy jacks, and happy families. Grey jumper is an alternate name.

Description

Measuring around 33 cm (13 in) in length, the apostlebird is a predominantly dark grey bird with a long black tail tinted greenish in sunlight. The grey feathers on the head, neck and breast are brushed with paler grey-white and the wings are brownish. The legs and bill are black and the eyes brown or white.[5]

Distribution and habitat

The natural range is across inland eastern Australia, from the mallee regions of northern Victoria and eastern South Australia, north through New South Wales and central-western Queensland to the Gulf Country. There is an isolated population in the Northern Territory. Dry open woodland is the preferred habitat, especially Callitris in New South Wales and Casuarina in Queensland, and Lancewood-Bulwaddi communities in the Northern Territory.[5]

Breeding

 src=
Mud nest high in a fig tree

Apostlebirds are a socially living, cooperative breeding species with each breeding group generally containing only one breeding pair, the rest being either their helper offspring, kin or unrelated adult birds. Most group members help construct a mud nest, share in incubation of the eggs, and defense of the nest. Once the eggs are hatched, all members of the group help feed the chicks and keep the nest clean.

Apostlebirds are a fission-fusion society. In winter, birds flock in larger groups, and as breeding season approaches winter groups break into smaller breeding groups. This change in group size is a consequence of breeding groups merging in the winter and breaking apart again in the summer breeding season. Breeding groups use small, non overlapping home ranges around the nest site, while winter ranges are larger with groups freely interacting with other groups.[8]

Breeding season is from August to December. The nest is a deep cup-shaped structure made of grasses held together with mud or sometimes manure in a tree fork up to seven or eight metres above the ground. Three to five pale blue-white eggs sparsely splotched with brown and lavender shades are laid measuring 22 mm x 29 mm. They are tapered oval in shape.[9]

Conservation status

Apostlebirds are not listed as threatened on the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. However, their conservation status varies from state to state within Australia. For example:

  • The apostlebird is listed as threatened on the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act (1988).[10] Under this Act, an Action Statement for the recovery and future management of this species has not yet been prepared.[11]
  • On the 2007 advisory list of threatened vertebrate fauna in Victoria, the apostlebird is not listed as a threatened species.[12]

References

  1. ^ BirdLife International. (2016). Struthidea cinerea. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22705385A94015903.en
  2. ^ Simpson DP (1979). Cassell's Latin Dictionary (5th ed.). London: Cassell Ltd. p. 883. ISBN 0-304-52257-0.
  3. ^ Christidis L, Boles WE (2008). Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds. Canberra: CSIRO Publishing. p. 200. ISBN 978-0-643-06511-6.
  4. ^ Cracraft J, Barker FK, Braun M, Harshman J, Dyke GJ, Feinstein J, Stanley S, Cibois A, Schikler P, Beresford P, García-Moreno J, Sorenson MD, Yuri T, Mindell DP (2004). "Phylogenetic relationships among modern birds (Neornithes): toward an avian tree of life". In Cracraft J, Donoghue MJ (eds.). Assembling the tree of life. New York: Oxford Univ. Press. pp. 468–89. ISBN 0-19-517234-5.
  5. ^ a b c Slater, Peter (1974). A Field Guide to Australian Birds:Non-passerines. Adelaide: Rigby. p. 116. ISBN 0-85179-813-6.
  6. ^ Reader's Digest. 1997. "Complete Book of Australian Birds". Reader's Digest (Australia).
  7. ^ Bourke, P.A. (1940). "Notes on the Apostle-bird". Emu. 40 (4): 324–327. doi:10.1071/mu940323d.
  8. ^ Griesser, M.; Barnaby, J.; Schneider, N.A.; Figenschau, N.; Wright, J.; Griffith, S.C.; Kazem, A.; Russell, A.F. (2009). "Influence of Winter Ranging Behaviour on the Social Organization of a Cooperatively Breeding Bird Species, The Apostlebird". Ethology. 115 (9): 888–896. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0310.2009.01678.x.
  9. ^ Beruldsen, G (2003). Australian Birds: Their Nests and Eggs. Kenmore Hills, Qld: self. pp. 385–86. ISBN 0-646-42798-9.
  10. ^ Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria Archived 2008-10-06 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria Archived 2008-10-15 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment (2007). Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria - 2007. East Melbourne, Victoria: Department of Sustainability and Environment. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-74208-039-0.

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Apostlebird: Brief Summary

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The apostlebird (Struthidea cinerea), also known as the grey jumper, lousy jack,”awky sqwarky” or caw bird is a quick-moving, gray or black bird about 33 cm (13 in) long. It is a native to Australia where it roams woodlands, eating insects and seeds at, or near, ground level. Apostlebirds often travel in groups of about 12; for this reason they were named after the Biblical apostles, the twelve chief followers of Jesus Christ.

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