Ian’s Bird of the Week – Fiordland Penguin

Fiordland Penguin (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus) by IanIan’s Bird of the Week – Fiordland Penguin ~ Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 9-5-14

I was talking with a friend the other day about visiting New Zealand and my experience with photographing Fiordland Penguin in Milford Sound, so here it is as bird of the week and a change from Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland. It was my main reason for visiting Milford Sound, better known perhaps for its spectacular scenery and natural beauty, but if you go looking for wildlife then you find yourself in wonderful places anyway.

I camped the previous night in my rented campervan at Cascade Creek in Fiordland National Park, the nearest camping site to Milford Sound. It’s still a fair drive, so atypically I got up before dawn when the temperature was 3ºC to get to the sound early enough to get on the first tourist boat, as I’d been told that this provided the best chance of seeing the penguins. The boat I went on was one of the smaller ones so there were only a dozen or so passengers. I had a chat with the crew as departed and they were optimistic about finding the penguins.

Fiordland Penguin (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus) by Ian

Within ten minutes of leaving, they had located a nesting pair on the rocky shore. Very obligingly, they reversed the boat to what seemed perilously close to the rocks so that I could get some photos. The first photo shows one of them near the entrance to its nesting burrow, while the second is its mate wandering over the rocks closer to us.

Fiordland Penguin (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus) by Ian

I was very glad I’d make the early start, as we didn’t see many more penguins, though we did come across the party in the third photo about 20 minutes later. The bird in the foreground with the pale cheeks is a juvenile. An easier place to see them is Taronga Zoo in Sydney where their glass-sided tank provides great views of them at their best: they’re much more elegant gliding effortlessly through the water than hobbling around on rocks.

Fiordland Penguin (Eudyptes pachyrhynchus) by Ian

The wild population is estimated at about 3000 pairs and has suffered from predation by introduced mammals and the native Weka  which has been introduced to some islands where the penguins breed. I did see Wekas at Milford Sound, but I don’t know whether they are a problem there. The Fiordland Penguin is closely related to the Snares and Southern Rockhopper Penguins.

Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) by Ian

While on the subject of animals that are expert swimmers and clumsy on land, I’ve just completed a new gallery of turtles and their relatives on the website. It contains a rather motley collection that I’ve stumbled across when birding, including the marine Green Turtle, above, four Australian and an American freshwater species, a South African and an Asian tortoise. This Green Turtle was grazing on the mooring cable, visible on the right, on a visit Michaelmas Cay off Cairns last year with my sister Gillian from Ireland. I’m going on a visit to Ireland in ten days time. Next week I’ll tell you more about my plans and some of the birds that I hope to bring your way.

Greetings
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland: iTunesGoogle Play
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

The birds of the air, And the fish of the sea That pass through the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth! (Psalms 8:8-9 NKJV)

What an interesting bird to switch to. The Fiordland Penguins are neat looking with that eyebrow stripe and those feathers at the end of it. Penguins definitely “pass through the paths of the seas.” Also, did you notice he was out there in 3C, that is 37.4F for us North Americans. (Brrr!)

Penguins are members of the Spheniscidae – Penguins Family which has 18 members. Ian has photos of half of the Penguin Family on his Birdway site. The Fiordlands are “medium-sized, yellow-crested, black-and-white penguins, growing to approximately 60 cm (24 in) long and weighing on average 3.7 kg (8.2 lbs), with a weight range of 2 to 5.95 kg (4.4 to 13.1 lb). It has dark, bluish-grey upperparts with a darker head, and white underparts. It has a broad, yellow eyebrow-stripe which extends over the eye and drops down the neck. Most birds have three to six whitish stripes on the face.” (Wikipedia)

*

Ian’s Bird of the Week

Penguin Family at Birdway

Spheniscidae – Penguins Family

*

 

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Great Frigatebird

Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor) Male by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Great Frigatebird ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 8/28/14

This week’s good news is that the ebook Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland is now available on the iTunes store (in 51 countries). So if you have an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Mac (running OS X Maverick) this is for you! Here is the link: https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/where-to-find-birds-in-northern/id912789825?mt=11&uo=4. To make a connection with this week’s bird, the Great Frigatebird, here is a screen shot from iBooks to show you what you can expect. All the text items highlighted in purple and links to either other places in the book – typically places, birds or lists – or external websites. The images are the same size as the ones that are included in the bird of the week, so if you double-click, or double-tap, on them, you can enlarge them to full size.

Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor) by Ian

If you think about birds in northern Queensland, perhaps iconic rainforest species like the Cassowary or Victoria’s Riflebird come to mind. Fair enough, but there is much more to this region than rainforest, important though that is.The area also has wonderful wetlands, tropical savannah forest, mountain ranges, dry country habitats and, last but not least, the coast with its Barrier Reef, beaches, mangroves, mudflats, continental islands and coral cays. So it should be no surprise that over 400 species of birds occur here and you need a reference devoted to the region to do it justice. I’ve chosen a dramatic seabird to make the point.

The term ‘frigate’ was first applied in the 17th century to warships built for speed and manoeuvrability and frigates were often used by pirates to attach merchant shipping. Frigatebirds, also called Man o’ War Birds, got their name for their piratical habitats of harrying other seabirds like boobies and tropicbirds to make them drop their prey. In fact, studies have shown that piracy accounts for perhaps only 20% of their food, and they are expert fishers as well. They fish by snatching prey, such as squid and young turtles, from the surface of the sea or in flight, in the case of their favourite prey, flying fish.

Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor) Female by Ian

Despite their naval name, frigatebirds are wonderfully adapted for flying and are poor swimmers to the extent that they are reluctant to land on water, as they can take off only in strong winds and their plumage is not waterproof. They have very light bones making up only 5% of the body, huge pectoral muscles, enormous wing area, long forked tails for rudders and streamlined bodies with small heads. Despite their size, they are very light, soar effortlessly in good winds and are very acrobatic. Female Great Frigatebirds, larger than males, are about 1m/40in long, have a wingspan to 2.3m/90in but weight only 1.2-1.6kg/2.6-3.5lb.

Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor palmerstoni) Female by Ian

The male Great Frigatebird, first photo, is the only all-black frigatebird occurring in Australia – the other all-black males are the Magnificent Frigatebird of Atlantic Ocean and the eastern Pacific and the Ascencion Frigatebird of the east Atlantic. Frigatebirds are unusual among seabirds in drinking freshwater if they can get it, and this male is drinking at the mouth of freshwater stream on Christmas island by snatching a beak-full of water in flight. Frigatebirds also bathe in flight by splashing into the surface of the water and flying off. You can also see its red gular pouch. This is inflated to enormous size to impress females during courtship. I haven’t got a photo of displaying Great Frigatebird, but you can see a Magnificent Frigatebird doing so here: Magnificent_Frigatebird.

Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor palmerstoni) Juvenile by Ian

Female Great Frigatebirds have white breasts and care needs to be taken in distinguishing them from other female and juvenile frigatebirds – Lesser Frigatebirds of both sexes have white ‘spurs’ in the axil of the underwing, and Christmas Island Frigatebirds of both sexes, have white bellies. Birds in Indian Ocean waters in Australia belong to the nominate race minor, distinguished by the females having pink eye-rings, second photo. Birds in the Pacific belong to palmerstoni and usually have blue eye-rings, third photo, though doubt exists as to the validity of the races and the reliability of the fieldmarks.

Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor palmerstoni) Juvenile by IanBecause of their need for consistent winds, frigatebirds are restricted to tropical waters where they can rely on the trade winds. Adults are sedentary and remain close to their roosting sites and breeding colonies, mostly on small isolated islands. Non-breeding birds and immature birds are pelagic and move over huge distances. Trade winds are unusual in that they form cumulus clouds and hence thermals over water both by day and night, and frigatebirds make great use of these to soar as high as the cloud base and will fly at night if conditions are right. Pelagic frigatebirds use the front of storms to move around and can cope with high winds very well. This is why they appear in coastal areas after cyclones and are supposed to be called ‘rain-brothers’ by Australian aborigines, though I haven’t been able to verify this.

Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor palmerstoni) Juvenile by IanThe range of the Great Frigatebird includes the tropical Pacific, southern tropical Indian and western Atlantic Oceans. In Australia it breeds colonially on islands along the outer Great Barrier Reef, in the Coral Sea and on Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean, usually in mangroves. The juvenile in photos five and six was photographed on East Diamond Islet, about 600km east of Cairns http://www.satelliteviews.net/cgi-bin/w.cgi?c=cr&UF=34304&UN=456541&DG=ISL. Breeding birds form pair bonds and both parents share in the incubation and feeding of the young. The young develop very slowly. This is thought to adapt them to periods of starvation when the adults have trouble finding food, and remain under parental care for many months.

Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor) Female attacking Red-tailed Tropicbird by IanThe last photo shows a hapless Red-tailed Tropicbird near Christmas Island being harried by a female Great Frigatebird who has grabbed it by the tail-streamers. Frigatebirds hang out near seabird colonies waiting for birds carrying prey or with full crops returning to feed their young. It’s hard enough work being a parent without having to put up with this!

Greetings
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor) Male Displaying ©WikiC

Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor) Male Displaying ©WikiC

Lee’s Addition:

but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31 HCSB)

Thanks again, Ian, for introducing us to another interesting bird. We have seen the Magnificent Frigatebirds here in Florida, but these Great ones are also amazing. That fact about only 5% of their weight being the bone structure is another fantastic design from their Creator.

Frigatebirds belong to the Fregatidae – Frigatebirds Family which only has five species in it.

*
Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Lesser Frigatebird

Fregatidae – Frigatebirds Family

Great Frigatebird – Wikipedia

*

 

 

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Masked Woodswallow

Masked Woodswallow (Artamus personatus) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Masked Woodswallow ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 8/14/14

When I was taking location photos along the inland route to Paluma several weeks ago, I came across a mixed flock of a couple of hundred Masked and White-browed Woodswallows. The White-browed featured as bird of the week in 2005, but the Masked hasn’t so here it is. The males in particular, first photo, are very elegant with a sharply defined, very black mask, soft grey back, almost white underparts and a white crescent between the mask and the back of the head.

The females, second photo, are similar to the males with less contrasting plumage, only a subtle crescent, and a buff wash to the upper breast. The yellow specks on the mask and breast of this female are pollen – these primarily insectivorous birds also feed on nectar, particularly in northern Australia in winter.

Masked Woodswallow (Artamus personatus) by Ian
The female in the second photo and the juvenile in the third photo were in a mixed flock of Masked and White-browed that spent a week or so feeding on the locally common Fern-leaved Grevillea near where I live in 2005. The juveniles are similar to the females, but with browner plumage with pale spots and streaks.

Masked Woodswallow (Artamus personatus) by Ian

The ‘swallow’ part of the name comes from their buoyant, gliding flight and not because they are related to real swallows (family Hirundinidae). Rather, they are related to the Australian Magpie, Butcherbirds and Currawongs, usually combined in the one family, the Artamidae. There is an obvious similarity to the Magpie and Butcherbirds in their general form and bi-coloured bills and they are also quite aggressive, Woodswallows being quick to mob raptors in flight. The ‘personatus’ part of the scientific name comes from the Latin persona, meaning mask, a derivation that amused me when I though of show business ‘personalities’.

The White-browed and Masked Woodswallows are very closely related species, even though their respective plumages are quite distinct. They are both very nomadic and occur throughout mainland Australia, though not Tasmania. They often occur together in large mixed flocks. In eastern Australia, the White-browed predominates; in Western Australia, the Masked is more numerous and may occur alone. The two species will even nest together in small mixed colonies and occasionally interbreed.

Links:
Artamidae
Masked Woodswallow
White-browed Woodswallow

Greetings
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

“Even the stork in the heavens Knows her appointed times; And the turtledove, the swift, and the swallow Observe the time of their coming. But My people do not know the judgment of the LORD. (Jeremiah 8:7 NKJV)

What a neat looking bird. I especially like the clean line around his “mask”. We have seen Woodswallows in a zoo, but not this kind and not in the wild. That last photo is a super photo. Thanks, Ian, for sharing with us.

Swallows and Woodswallows are in two different families. Woodswallows are in the Artamidae – Woodswallows Family while the Hirundinidae Family has the Swallows and Martins.

Here is a photo of  White-breasted Woodswallows that we saw at Zoo Miami:

White-breasted Woodswallow (Artamus leucorynchus amydrus) by Lee ZM

White-breasted Woodswallow (Artamus leucorynchus amydrus) by Lee ZM

*

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Australian King Parrot

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Australian King Parrot ~ Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 7-31-14

Mea culpa again for the long delay since the last bird of the week. The good news is that, apart from dotting a few i’s, my current obsession Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland is finished, so with luck you may get more frequent BotWs in the future. Here is an attractive and surprising omission from the BotW series, the Australian King Parrot. It’s one of the most spectacular Australian parrots and deserves the ‘King’ moniker. The French call it la Perruche royale.

King Parrot by Ian

King Parrot by Ian

 

It’s quite common along the eastern seaboard of Australia, with a preference for fairly dense coastal and highland forests including rainforest. That can make it hard to see but it’s quite vocal and the whistling call of the males is a very characteristic sound of eastern forest. It responds readily to being fed and can get quite tame. The one in the first photo was taken at O’Reilly’s in Lamington National Park, where the birds will perch on arms and shoulders and pose happily for photos. The males are distinguished from the females by the brilliant scarlet of the breast extending onto the head and having a conspicuou peppermint green blaze on the wings.

 

Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) Male by Ian

Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) Male by Ian

The females are gorgeous too with scarlet lower breast and belly, green heads and pinkish necks. The one in the second photo was busy exploring hollows in trees, but it was hard to imagine that she was contemplating nesting in May. Both sexes have blue backs, third photo, but this is usually hidden by the folded wings. The wing blaze may be missing or inconspicuous in females.

 

Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) Female WikiC

Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) Female WikiC

It’s usually just called the King Parrot in Australia and I used to wonder vaguely about the ‘Australian’ qualification. The reason for it is that is a Papuan one in New Guinea and a Moluccan one in western New Guinea and the islands of eastern Indonesia. Both these are rather similar to the Australian one, but smaller and differ mainly in the colour or lack of the blaze on the wings, and the amount of blue in the plumage.

Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) Male Closeup by Ian

Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) Male Closeup by Ian

 

There are two races of the Australian species. The larger nominate race occurs along most of the east coast, while the smaller race minor (obviously) occurs in northeastern Queensland. The literature doesn’t say much about minor except that it’s smaller, and there’s disagreement in the field guides about how far south it occurs: choose between Cardwell, Townsville and Mackay. I suspect Townsville is correct as there a big gap between the Paluma Range population and the Eungella/Clark Range one near Mackay. Anyway, the male in photo 4 and the female in photo 5 were photographed on the Atherton Tableland and are certainly minor.

Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) by Ian

Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) by Ian

It seemed to me from the photos that I took there that the northern males had brighter and more extensive blue hind collars and the females had brighter wing-blazes than southern birds. My sample size was small, but it might be an interesting project to check out whether these differences are consistent and to establish the exact geographical ranges of the subspecies. In northeastern Queensland it is mainly a highland species, with some movement to the lowlands in winter and I have seen them very occasionally near where I live.

Links:
Australian King-Parrot (I should have put hyphens in the photo captions)
Red-winged Parrot

Anyway, back to dotting i’s. The next stage in the book is to check out publishing via Apple iBooks, Google Play, etc. That’s something I know nothing about, so it will be interesting to find out how it’s done.

Greetings

Ian<
**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17 KJV)

What beautifully created Parrots! They are just fantastic. Also, I was beginning to worry about Ian. It has been over a month since his last newsletter, Plum-headed Finches.

These parrots are members of the Psittacidae – Parrots Family. There are approximately 365 members, depending on whose list. The greatest diversity of parrots is in South America and Australasia.

Checkout all of Ian’s Parrot photos (around 50 species)

King Parrot at Wikipedia

Psittacidae – Parrots Family

*

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Plum-headed Finches

Plum-headed Finch (Neochmia modesta) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Plum-headed Finches ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 6-28-14

Bird of the week numbering has been a bit wonky lately, two #502s, no #503 to compensate, and two #504s and the one previous to this, Halls Babbler was #506 and should have been #507. Hopefully, we are back on track now with #508, the Plum-headed Finch. One of my favourite methods of bird photography is to relax by a water-hole in a comfortable camping chair and see what comes along. I did this at Bowra in April, and was treated to several pairs of Plum-headed Finches, presumably breeding as a result of rain several weeks earlier.

The ‘plum’ bit refers to the gorgeous cap, dark and extensive in the male, above, or paler and less extensive in the female, which has consequently space for a white eye-stripe. Males have black chins, females white ones. The specific modesta presumably refers to the understated colours, but I think the barred breast and flanks make them look very smart, and it’s always a pleasure to see them.

Plum-headed Finch (Neochmia modesta) by Ian Fem

The genus Neochmia contains only three other species, all of them Australian: Star, Red-browed and Crimson Finches, and none barred, so the Plum-headed looks quite distinctive. In the past it has been placed in its own genus, but mitochondrial studies show that it’s quite closely related to both the Star and Red-browed Finches. lum-headed Finch (Neochmia modesta) by Ian males

They have quite a widespread distribution in Queensland and New South Wales, but mainly inland and rather patchy. With an average length of 11cm/4.3in, they’re quite small. They’re popular as cage birds and used to be trapped a lot, but have been protected since 1972. Plum-headed Finch (Neochmia modesta) by Ian male

The bird in the fourth photo was photographed in the light of the setting sun, hence the lovely glow. I’ve been on the road for a few days taking (almost) the last location photos for Where to Find Birds in Northeastern Queensland so I’ll keep this short. One more day trip along the inland route to Paluma, and that’s it.

Links to the other members of the tribe:

Red-browed Finch
Crimson Finch
Star Finch

Best wishes

Ian

**************************************************

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. (Genesis 1:30 NKJV)

What a neat looking Finch, Ian. Thanks again for sharing with us. Plum-headed Finches belong to the Estrildidae – Waxbills, Munias & Allies Family which has 141 species.

*

Ian’s Finches:

Other Links:

*

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter – 5/21/14
One of the specialties at Bowra is the Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush a mainly terrestrial inhabitant of stony areas with scrubby bushes, particular mulga, in dry, but not desert, parts of western Queensland and NSW with a widely-separated population in Western Australia. It has suffered in eastern Australia from habitat clearance, but can usually be found at Bowra in an area called the Stony Ridge on the road that runs west of the homestead. This location, incidentally is also good for another specialty, Hall’s Babbler.
Quail-thrushes are shy and either sit tight and flush suddenly with a quail-like whirring of their wings or run for cover. The Chestnut-breasted usually runs, but this time we unwittingly encircled this male bird which took refuge in a dead tree, the first time I’ve seen any quail-thrush do so. It looked confused rather than alarmed and wandered for a long time from branch to branch providing unusually good opportunities for photography until it hopped down onto the ground and ran away. On this occasion we saw only the brightly coloured male; females have more subdued colours, brown replacing the all the black plumage except the spotty wing coverts and rely on camouflage to escape detection when nesting on the ground. Quail-thrushes feed on both insects and seeds and there are an Australasian taxon with about four species in Australia and one in New Guinea.
Quail-thrushes presumably get the quail part of their name from their terrestrial habits and whirring flight and the thrush part from their body shape. Cinclosoma is bird-taxonomy-speak for thrush in a confused sort of way. Confused because the Latin cinclus means thrush but derives from the Greek Kinklos a waterside bird of unknown type mentioned by Aristotle and others and though to be either an Old World Wagtail or a wader. To add to the confusion, Cinclidae refers to the Dipper family, not the thrushes, with Cinclus cinclus being the Eurasian White-breasted Dipper.
The confusion continues with actual taxonomy. The western race of the Chestnut-breasted is sometimes (IOC) treated as a separate species, the Western Quail-thrush. Meanwhile the geographically intermediate and closely-related Cinnamon Quail-thrush of central Australia desert country is sometimes split in two as well, with the Nullabor race being treated as a separate species, though it has also been lumped with the Chestnut-breasted. If that’s not enough, Birdlife International puts the Quail-thrushes in a family of their own, the Cinclosomatidae, while Birdlife Australia and the IOC lump with the Whipbirds and called them Psophodidae. (Birdlife International use to lump them and call them the Eupetidae.) I though you’d like to know! Let’s just enjoy the photos:
Greetings
Ian
**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au

Lee’s Addition:

The people asked, and He brought quail, And satisfied them with the bread of heaven. (Psa 105:40)

Thanks, Ian, for introducing us to another interesting bird. Your timing is perfect, as I am away from my computer for a few days.

Ian’s Bird of the Week
Odontophoridae - New World Quail Family

*

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Black-breasted Buzzard

Black-breasted Buzzard (Hamirostra melanosternon) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Black-breasted Buzzard ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 5/8/14

I went to Bowra Station near Cunnamulla, SW Queensland, to meet some birding pals from Victoria for Easter. Cunnamulla is almost exactly half-way between Bluewater and Melbourne by the shortest inland route (2,532km Bluewater-Melbourne CBD) and Bowra is an AWC reserve, famous for its dry country birds and wildlife. I returned with an intractable bout of flu which has left me horizontal for 2 weeks, but I am now much better and able to tackle long-neglected tasks like the Bird of the Week. So, here is something worth waiting for, one of the less-well known endemic Australian raptors, the Black-breasted Buzzard.

At the end of the drive from Bluewater to Bowra, I saw this raptor perched on road-kill – the euphemism used here for run-over native wildlife – near the entrance to Bowra, thought ‘that’s not a Black Kite’, turned the car round and picked up my camera to take the first photos of the trip. Reluctant to leave lunch behind, it tolerated my approach for about 30 seconds before flying away into the afternoon sunshine, second photo. In both photos, you can see the long, hooked bill that gives it its generic name (hamus is the Latin for hook), reddish crown and nape and the beginnings of it eponymous black-breast. In flight, you can see the characteristic white wing patches on the middle of the first six primary flight feathers, probably its best field mark and the complete absence of barring on the wing and tail feathers.

Black-breasted Buzzard (Hamirostra melanosternon) by Ian

This was the first time I’d seen a Black-breasted Buzzard either close up or perched. Mostly, one sees them singly and infrequently in flight soaring in the open skies of the drier parts of Australia. They’re common enough to have an official status of ‘Least Concern’ but uncommon enough to give me a thrill each time I see one. Apart from concerns of rarity, they’re impressive birds in their own right, being, I have just discovered, the third largest Australian raptor with a wingspan to 1.5m/5ft and an expert at soaring.

Two days later, we stopped for lunch at this dam at the far end of the property, about 15km/10 miles away from the entrance. A Black-breasted Buzzard soared high above us and then came round and flew overhead for a closer look, fourth photo. Comparing the pattern of wear on the flight feathers, indicates that this was the same individual. In this photo, the black breast of the adult bird is obvious as are the rusty flanks. Apart from dark blotches on the wing linings, the lack of barring is also apparent.

Black-breasted Buzzard (Hamirostra melanosternon) by Ian

Black-breasted Buzzards are known to feed on carrion and live prey, but their speciality is the eggs of large ground-nesting birds such as Brolgas, Bustards and even Emus. The latter have tough eggs which even that hooked beak would have trouble penetrating so, amazingly, these birds use stones to break them, dropping them from either a standing position or in flight. Though they are thought to belong to a rather ancient Australasian lineage of raptors this use of tools elevates them globally to the top of the class, sharing this position with the Egyptian Vulture which also throws stones at eggs. The Black-breasted Buzzard is the sole member of its genus (monotypic) and its closest relative is though to be the Square-tailed Kite, another monotypic, uncommon Australian endemic with dubious, gastronomic tastes, in its case nestlings. This ancient lineage is thought include a third Australian endemic, the Red Goshawk, and several New Guinea species including the long-tailed buzzards and perhaps the New Guinea Harpy Eagle. This just goes to show how indiscriminately common names like buzzards, goshawks, kites and eagles are applied to raptors.

Black-breasted Buzzard (Hamirostra melanosternon) juvenile by Ian

The last photo shows a juvenile Black-breasted Buzzard photographed at a joint pre-merger Birds Australia and Townsville BOCA outing to a dry country station called Pajingo, south of Charters Towers in 2009. As you can see the juvenile lacks the black breast of the adult, though pale patch on the wing is very similar. At the time, we unanimously agreed that this was a pale morph Little Eagle. I posted it at such on the Birdway website and it wasn’t until last year that the error was brought to my attention. This is what Steve Debus, one of the Australian experts on raptors said: “the image shows virtually no typical light-morph Little Eagle characters, such as the pale ‘M’, or the barring on flight feathers (including primary ‘fingers’) and tail, feathered legs etc.” and other points made were the long, slender bill of the Black-breasted Buzzard and the ‘chunkier’ head of the Little Eagle. Good to know.

Best wishes
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

But these you shall not eat: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard, (Deuteronomy 14:12 NKJV)

What a neat bird, but I agree with the verse. Don’t think I would care to eat a buzzard, especially after it eats “road-kill”  The colors on this Buzzard are really neat and would help it stay disguised until it is too late for its prey.

The Black-breasted Buzzard is a member of the Accipitridae – Kites, Hawks & Eagles Family.  Out of the 256 species in the family, 28 of them are Buzzards.

I just realized that I have not had any articles in the Birds of the Bible for Buzzards. Will have to make a page for them. Stay tuned.

See:

*

 

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Red-capped Parrot

Red-capped Parrot (Purpureicephalus spurius) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Red-capped Parrot ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 3/15/14

I’ve had a request for a Western Australian endemic from an American friend who is visiting WA this coming September. So here, Laurie, is the Red-capped Parrot which you should see there. The first photo shows a male of this fairly large (length to 38cm/15in), brightly coloured – some would say gaudy – parrot, which is reasonably common in suitable habitat in a relatively small area of southwestern Australia, mainly south of Perth, west of Esperance and within 100km of the coast.

The second photo shows a female, similar to but more subdued in colour than the male, with greenish patches in the red cap and under-tail coverts and less intense violet breast.

Red-capped Parrot (Purpureicephalus spurius) by Ian female

The female is perched in a Marri tree, a Western Australian bloodwood, Corymbia, formerly Eucapyptus, calphylla. This is the main food plant of the parrot and their ranges mostly coincide. Marri has tough woody globular nuts and the long pointed bill of the Red-capped Parrot is adapted to exploiting the one weakness in the nut defences – the valve through which the seed is shed. The parrots can prise out the seed without having to gnaw through the woody wall.

It’s clearly a fine source of bird food, as another Western Australian endemic Baudin’s or the Long-billed Cockatoo has evolved along identical lines for the same reason -an elegant example of parallel evolution. The male cockatoo in the third photo is showing us exactly how it’s done: piece of cake really, given the right equipment. Not surprisingly the range of this cockatoo is similar to that of the parrot.

Long-billed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus baudinii) by Ian

Actually, this bird featured as bird of the week in November 2006, but this is, if a repeat, at least a different photo. The first and third photos were taken on the same day. Kalgan is east of Albany on the way to the famous-for-birding Two Peoples Bay and Dunsborough is west of Bussleton near Cape Leeuwin. Cape Leeuwin has this splendid lighthouse built in 1895 and marks the point where the Indian Ocean meets the Southern Ocean.

Cape Leeuwin by Ian

I did take this one photo of the lighthouse on the same day, but my clearest memory is of a Rock Parrot feeding on the ground near it, but that bird featured as bird of the week in October 2006: http://www.birdway.com.au/psittacidae/rock_parrot/index.htm: a good day for unusual parrots.

Greetings
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” (Genesis 1:22 NKJV)

What a beautifully created Parrot. As you may know, Ian allows me to reproduce his newsletter. I use these to introduce us to the fantastic birds around the world. He has great photos on his site.

(This blog is birdwatching from a Christian perspective and therefore I do not believe in evolution, but realize birds have reproduced, producing different variations withing the families and orders. They are all still birds though.)

See:

Ian’s Bird of the Week

Parrot Family – Ian’s

Psittacidae – Parrots Family

Cockatoo Family – Ian’s

Cacatuidae – Cockatoos Family

*

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Yellowhammer

Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) by Ian 1

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Yellowhammer ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 2-17-14

Continuing the theme of finches and finch-like birds here’s a photo of a male Yellowhammer along the same lane in Co. Louth as the Eurasian Bullfinch. The Yellowhammer is a bunting and belongs to the family Emberizidae, which includes the New World Sparrows.

When the first photo was taken, the Hawthorn was in full bloom. The second photo was taken 12 days later – on the same day as last week’s Bullfinches – and the Hawthorn is almost finished. Yellowhammers have a characteristic rapid slightly nasal song often rendered as ‘little bit of bread and NO cheese’ with the ‘NO’ higher and the ‘cheese’ lower and longer than the other notes. Sadly, European populations of Yellowhammers have suffered from intensive farming and the removal of hedges.

Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) by Ian 2

Like many other European, or more strictly ‘British’ songbirds, Yellowhammers have been introduced into New Zealand where they have done well. Vagrants from the New Zealand population have been recorded on rare occasions on Lord Howe Island, so the Yellowhammer is the only member of the family on the Australian List. The third photo was taken in New Zealand when I was searching at a known site for the extremely rare Black Stilt on the Ahuriri River in the Waitaki Valley on the South Island. I had just parked nearby but stopped to take the Yellowhammer photo on the principle of a bird in the hand . .

Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) by Ian 3

In fact, less than ten minutes later I took this photo, which featured as bird of the week three days after I’d taken the photos (I couldn’t wait to show it off!).

Black Stilt (Himantopus novaezelandiae) by Ian

The sharp-eyed among you would have noticed that the sequence number of the Black Stilt is 44 greater than that of the Yellowhammer so it was a busy ten minutes and you might wonder what featured in the intervening photos. Well, they were of a smart New Zealand tern called the Black-fronted as there was a small colony of them nesting in the pebbles beside the river. That hasn’t featured as bird of the week, so I’ll hold it over till next time.

Best wishes
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth. (Genesis 7:3 NKJV)

The Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) is a passerine bird in the bunting family Emberizidae. It is common in all sorts of open areas with some scrub or trees and form small flocks in winter.

The Yellowhammer is a robust 15.5–17 cm long bird, with a thick seed-eater’s bill. The male has a bright yellow head, yellow underparts, and a heavily streaked brown back. The female is much duller, and more streaked below. The familiar, if somewhat monotonous, song of the cock is often described as A little bit of bread and no cheese, although the song varies greatly in space. Its name is thought to be from the German word ammer meaning bunting.

Its natural diet consists of insects when feeding young, and otherwise seeds. The nest is on the ground. 3-6 eggs are laid, which show the hair-like markings characteristic of those of buntings.

*

Ian’s Emberizidae Family Photos

Emberizidae – Buntings, New World Sparrows & Allies

Ian’s Bird of the Week

*

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Eurasian Bullfinch

Eurasian Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) by Ian

Eurasian Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Eurasian Bullfinch ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 2/3/14

In response to last week’s photos of the Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, I received a photo of an American Evening Grosbeak – thank you Jeff – with a similar large pale finch bill. Typical Northern Hemisphere finches such as the Evening Grosbeak belong to the family Fringillidae while all the native Australian finches belong to the family Estrildidae, so I thought it might be of interest to say a little about finch taxonomy and change, as what we think of as typical finch seed-eating bills appear to have arisen independently in more than one instance.

So, this week’s bird is for a change a Fringillid finch, the Eurasian Bullfinch and a favourite of mine since I was a birding teenager in Ireland many years ago. the male is perhaps the most colourful of European song birds and it was always, and still is, a thrill for me to see one. They aren’t uncommon, but are secretive and usually occur in pairs rather than flocks so are easy to overlook unless you look out for their characteristic white rumps as they fly out of the thick foliage of hedges, probably their favourite habitat.

Eurasian Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) by Ian

Eurasian Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) by Ian

The bird in the first two photos is feeding on the flowers of the Blackthorn and both its English name and its scientific one Prunus spinosa reveal why it is a popular hedge shrub for stock, having been around a lot longer than barbed wire. It has other uses to including making Blackthorn walking sticks and clubs, such as Shillelaghs. It produces an attractive look fruit called sloes, which look a bit like black grapes but are very astringent.

(edited)
Eurasian Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) Female by Ian

Eurasian Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) Female by Ian

Back to Bullfinches. The female, third photo, has a latte-coloured breast instead of a salmon pink one, but is just as elegant and was the partner of the male in the other two photos. The hedge in question is near my sister’s house in Co. Louth in an area (below) where there are still plenty of hedges and is good for other song birds like Yellowhammers and Winter Wrens.

Looking North from near Clogherhead by Ian

Recent DNA work has shed some light on the inter-relationships between various families of song birds with thick seed-eating bills, the most familiar of which are the Fringillid finches, the Estrildid finches, the Eurasian Sparrows (Passeridae), the Buntings and North American Sparrows (Emberizidae). These were originally ascribed to the same superfamily Passeroidea by Sibley and Ahlquist (1990) and that grouping is still largely intact but includes other families that do not have thick bills, including the Sunbirds and Flowerpeckers such as the Mistletoebird (Nectariniidae), the Pipits and Eurasian Wagtails (Motacillidae) and the New World Wood Warblers (Parulidae).

It now seems that the Sunbirds and Flowerpeckers split off first, then the Estrildid Finches and Weavers (Ploceidae), then probably the Sparrows and finally the Wagtails and Pipits, the Fringillid Finches  the Buntings and New World Sparrows and the New World Warblers. From this we can conclude that Estrildid and Fringillid Finches are not closely related and that a traditional morphological approach to classification would have failed to link the Wagtails and New World Warblers to the Fringillidae.

In case all this taxonomic detail leaves you cold, I’ve included links to the all the families mentioned on the Birdway website so can check out the photos instead. The sharp-eyed among you will notice that the BirdLife International sequence of families on the website is not quite the same as the order here. That’s because it predates the latest sequence which I’ve extracted from a 2012 paper on global bird diversity in Nature by Jetz et al. No doubt the grouping and order will change again in the future.

Best wishes
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. (Luke 14:23)

What a beautifully colored bird and, of course, Ian took great photos. Even Ian gets into the “taxonomic detail.” Those recent DNA work he mentioned is shaking up the birding community. These studies keeping bird guide book writers busy.

The Bullfinch is a bulky bull-headed bird. The upper parts are grey; the flight feathers and short thick bill are black; as are the cap and face in adults (they are greyish-brown in juveniles), and the white rump and wing bars are striking in flight. The adult male has red underparts, but females and young birds have grey-buff underparts. The song of this unobtrusive bird contains fluted whistles.

(Wikipedia)

See Ian’s Bird of the Week and the various links in the article.

*

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Chestnut-breasted Mannikin/Munia

Chestnut-breasted Mannikin (Lonchura castaneothorax) by Ian

Chestnut-breasted Mannikin (Lonchura castaneothorax) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Chestnut-breasted Mannikin/Munia ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 1-23-14

Please accept my apologies that it is over a month since the last bird of the week. I seem to have been distracted by Christmas, New Year, etc.

Anyway, here is a spontaneous one. I’m in the public library in Ingham at the moment getting my car serviced. I was planning to work on the book Where to Find Birds in Northeast Queensland, but had a nagging feeling that I should really do the bird of the week. I found a table at the back of the library with a pleasant view over the adjacent Tyto Wetlands and spotted 3 Chestnut-breasted Mannikins feeding on the ornamental grass seeds just outside the window.

Chestnut-breasted Mannikin (Lonchura castaneothorax) by Ian

Chestnut-breasted Mannikin (Lonchura castaneothorax) by Ian

I had my camera with me and got a couple of photos of one before they noticed me (second photo) and flew away. The photos are a bit cloudy having been taken through glass, but it was good quality plate glass. Members of the genus Lonchura are usually called Mannikins in Australia but they also occur in Asia where the name Munia is used.

This incidentally, is the view of Tyto Wetlands from the library. The dark speck on the lawn in the foreground on the left hand side is the bird in the first two photos.

Chestnut-breasted Mannikin at Tyto Wetlands by Ian

Chestnut-breasted Mannikin at Tyto Wetlands by Ian

Tyto Wetlands gets its name from the Barn Owl genus Tyto as it is a known haunt of the elusive Eastern Grass Owl Tyto longimembris which nest sometimes in the grassy area between the wetlands and the local airstrip. I have seen them here on a number of occasions and they have been reported here quite recently, but no photos unfortunately yet.

Ingham is quite a small sugar-cane town so it is greatly to their credit that they, under the guidance and encouragement of John Young of recent Night Parrot fame, have created this wonderful wetland and sanctuary. There is also a large wetland centre near the highway, well worth a visit if you are passing this way.

Now back to the book. I finished the bird section and am now taking photos of as many as possible of the locations and that quest has taken me to some interesting spots that I’ve never visited before.

Best wishes
Ian

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: 0411 602 737 +61-411 602 737
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

Then adorn yourself with majesty and splendor, And array yourself with glory and beauty. (Job 40:10 NKJV)

Sounds like you were as busy as the rest of us. What a beautiful bird. I love the clean lines where the colors change. Another neat creation.

Munia and Mannikins belong to two different families. This Chestnut-breasted Mannikin is actually one of the 151 species in the Estrildidae – Waxbills, Munias & Allies Family. There is a family with Manakins that can confuse someone because of the close spelling.  (Mannikin vs Manakin) The  Pipridae – Manakins Family has 52 species in their family.

See:

Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s Estrildidae Family Photos

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Yellow-rumped Munia/Mannikin

Estrildidae – Waxbills, Munias & Allies Family

Pipridae – Manakins Family

*

Bird of the Week – New Zealand Pigeon

New Zealand Pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) by Ian

Bird of the Week – New Zealand Pigeon ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 12/24/13

Well, Christmas is nearly on us and I’ve put up the ‘icicle’ Christmas lights beside the almost too-warm pool (29ºC), so I thought a bird photo including some real Southern Hemisphere snow would be correspondingly inappropriate. This proved difficult as I usually avoid the snow and the best candidate, the Kea of New Zealand was bird of the week two years ago even though the snow was incidental to the story about Keas’ passion for dismantling motor vehicles.

So I settled for this one of New Zealand Pigeon. The three-pronged smudge above its head is snow, believe it or not, and it’s actually the isolated three-pointed star visible above and to the right of the main tree in the second photo – taken at about the same time and place in the spectacular surroundings of Milford Sound in the Fiordland of the south west of the South Island.

New Zealand - Milford Sound by IanI was there one evening to book a place on an early cruise the next morning to search for fiordland penguins, and having done so went for a stroll and encountered various local inhabitants including Paradise Shelduck, New Zealand Pigeons and, near the car park, a Weka. the third photo shows the same pigeon on the same branch from a better angle and you can see the beautiful purple and green iridescence of the plumage contrasting with the snow-white belly. With a length to 50cm/20in and a weight up to 800g/28oz, these are large birds, as big or bigger than Imperial-Pigeons, Wompoo Fruit-Doves and Eurasian Wood Pigeons.

New Zealand Pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) by Ian

They’re very confiding, and this one and its mate, sitting on another branch in the same tree, just watched me as I walked around them taking photos from different angles. They look plump and gastronomically appealing, so it’s not surprising that the population declined after human settlement until protection was granted in 1921. The Norfolk Island sub-species wasn’t so lucky: it was still around in the 1830s but there have been no records since 1900.

New Zealand Pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae) by Ian

The following morning dawned bright and sunny, last photo, and a very obliging cruise-boat captain found me a pair of nesting Fiordland Penguins within 10 minutes of leaving the jetty and took us almost alarming close so that I could get some photos: http://www.birdway.com.au/spheniscidae/fjordland_penguin/index.htm.

New Zealand - Milford Sound by Ian

Now there’s some real snow on the mountains on the left. I wish you a safe and peaceful Christmas and an enjoyable and enriching 2014.
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

Thanks, Ian, and Merry Christmas to you. I like the clean line between the green and the white on its breast. (Could have used it for the birds series.)

It appears that Ian gets around quite a bit lately. Since he started helping with that book, his search for certain birds has intensified. All for our benefit. We get to enjoy his great photographs of some very neat species.

I trust you enjoy reading his newsletters about his birdwatching adventures as well as I enjoy them. To see all of his articles here:

Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s Doves and Pigeon Photos – Columbidae Family

New Zealand Pigeon – NZ Birds Online

New Zealand Pigeon – ARKive

New Zealand Pigeon – Wikipedia

*