Antarctic Peninsula

Region: Antarctica

Destinations: Falkland Islands

Name: Tussac-bird, Tussock-bird, Blackish Cinclodes (Cinclodes antarcticus)

Length: 18 to 23 cm.

Location: Falklands, southern tip of South America.

Conservation status: Near Threatened.

Diet: Mainly small invertebrates, also carrion and food scraps from humans and other animals .

Appearance: Uniform dark brown plumage. Faint reddish-brown stripe on wings. Slightly paler stripe above eyes. Long dark bill with slight downward curve, pale yellow spot at the base.

How do Tussac-birds feed?

For the most part Tussac-birds forage amongst beached seaweed found along shorelines. They will however pick at carrion and the remains of food left by animals and humans in other nearby locations.

Are Tussac-birds social?

Tussac-birds are somewhat notorious for being very tame when near humans.

What are Tussac-birds birthing rituals like?

The Tussac-bird breeding season runs from September through to December. Nests are cup-shaped, placed amongst rocks, grass clumps, bigger holes, or in buildings. They are constructed of grass and lined with feathers.

1 to 3 white eggs with red spots are laid, often 2 broods per breeding season. The eggs are incubated for a period of 2 weeks. After hatching the chicks fledge after an additional 2 weeks.

How long do Tussac-birds live?

Passerines in general live about 3 years in the wild.

How many Tussac-birds are there today?

There are an estimated 10,000 breeding pairs of Tussac-birds found on the Falkland Islands.

Do Tussac-birds have any natural predators?

Tussac-birds are prey for rats and cats.

7 Terrific Tussac-bird Facts

  • Tussacs are quite tame and are known to approach humans.
  • Tussac-birds have been preyed upon by rats and cats on the mainland and the islands of the Falklands that have had those predators introduced by man. They are therefore much scarcer in those locations versus the healthier populations found on the outer Falkland islands that remain cat and rat-free.
  • There are two recognised subspecies of Tussac-birds: Cinclodes antarcticus antarcticus and Cinclodes antarcticus maculirostris, the latter being the slightly larger of the two.
  • Tussac-birds are a bit of an oddity in that they are one of the only examples of passerines that stay along coasts.
  • If you’re looking to spot some Tussac-birds they are quite often found in close proximity to seal and sea-lion haul-out locations.
  • One reason given for Tussac-birds’ friendliness towards humans may be that human feet turn up tasty ground-hugging insects and grubs.
  • Tussac-birds aren’t shy about going after food. They have been spotted dipping down to drink blood from the wounds of angry sea lions and seals.

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