Nests can be in dead or live trees and are more likely to occur in areas where there is stringybark within a 3 km radius. Travelling a long way to feed is energetically costly, so it makes sense to nest near good food sources.
Many nest sites are in farming paddocks in dead trees, ringbarked over 100 years ago to improve pasture. Legislative changes have been introduced across the Red-tail range to protect these trees. Hollow trees benefit lots of birds, mammals and insects that are beneficial to farmers because they eat agricultural pests. Where possible it is of great benefit to retain them. If landholders wish to remove dead hollow trees, advice should be sought from their local Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning in Victoria or Department of Environment and Water in South Australia.
Red-tails usually pair and nest over spring and early summer (September to January); with those started between January to autumn likely to be re-nesting's after failures. However, Red-tails can nest year-round, especially in times when large quantities of seed are available. Unlike Yellow-tails, Red-tails lay only one egg, which the female incubates for around 30 days. It takes a relatively long time (around 3 months or 70-100 days) for Red-tail chicks to fledge or leave the nest. This places extra pressure on the parents as they are restricted to sourcing food from areas within a few kilometres from the nest. A major cause of nest failure in years when seed availability is low has been attributed to females leaving the nest to supplement the food brought to them by their mates (Jarmyn 2000).
Newly fledged birds may continue to be fed by the parents for a further six months after fledging.
Red-tails are also known to nest in artificial nesting hollows made by either mounting natural hollows, rescued from fallen trees, or nest boxes designed from plastic pipe. Nesting pairs have been found using the natural hollow nest boxes on numerous occasions; however their use of the plastic nest boxes has been limited. The Recovery Team are currently working on a project to install 90 artificial nest boxes across the Red-tail range using a new design based off cockatoo nest boxes in Western Australia. The boxes will be monitored over the next few years to determine if they are being used by Red-tails.
Protecting trees with hollows, encouraging natural regeneration and planting for the future will help to ensure that Red-tails have access to suitable nest trees both now and in the future.
Images Credit : Bob Mcpherson.
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