Ian’s Bird of the Week – Small Lifou White-eye

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Small Lifou White-eye (and random Sacred Kingfisher) ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 8/27/15

I’m a night-owl, as you may know already, so here is a photo of a noteworthy event: boarding a flight to the Loyalty Islands in complete darkness at 6:00am at Magenta, the domestic airport in Noumea. The goal was to check out several endemic species of birds that occur on two of the Loyalty Islands, Lifou and Ouvéa. The Lifou endemics were supposed to be easy to find near the airport, so we spent a morning there looking for them on foot before flying on to Ouvéa where we had booked a rental car and accommodation for the night (more about Ouvéa next time).

Magenta, the domestic airport in Noumea by Ian

Magenta, the domestic airport in Noumea by Ian

The Loyalty Islands, part of the French Territory of New Caledonia, are supposedly named after an obscure whaling ship called Loyalty or Loyalist built in Nova Scotia in 1788 that is thought to have come across them in 1790. The first recorded Western contact was three years later when another whaler, the Britannia, found them on a voyage from Norfolk Island to Batavia. Melanesians settled the islands about 3000 years ago and the French annexed them in the mid-nineteenth century.

Map of Lifou - New Caledonia

Map of Lifou – New Caledonia

Lifou has two endemic White-eyes, cousins of the Silvereye which also occurs there. The endemic ones are called, accurately but unimaginatively, the Small and Large Lifou White-eyes. The small one we found without difficulty and it is indeed small with a length of 10-11cm/4-4-4.3in and weighting 7.5-9g/0.26-0.31g. Its diagnostic feature is the white flanks, most obvious in the third of its photos.

Small Lifou White-eye (Zosterops minutus) by Ian

We search quite hard but unsuccessfully for the Large Lifou White-eye. It’s very large for a White-eye (15cm/6in) making it even larger than the Giant White-eye (Megazosterops palauensis) of Palau. Interestingly both of these large species lack the white eye-rings that gives them, and the Silvereye, their common names. The Small Lifou White-eye feeds mainly on insects while the large one shows a preference for fruit. This specialisation in diet and divergence in size is to expected in similar species occupying the same habitat, but these two seem to have taken it to extremes.

Small Lifou White-eye (Zosterops minutus) by Ian

The Small Lifou White-eye is close related to the slightly larger Green-backed White-eye (fourth White-eye photo). It occurs on the main island of Grande Terre, the Isle of Pines (south of Grande Terre) and on Maré southwest of Lifou. Meanwhile there are three local races of the Silvereye, one on Grande Terre and the Isle of Pines, another on Maré and Ouvéa and the third on Lifou.

Small Lifou White-eye (Zosterops minutus) by Ian

This complex pattern of colonisation and speciation is typical of members of the family, the Zosteropidae. This is a very successful Old World family with almost 100 species in Africa, Asia and Australasia. They seem to be experts at colonizing out of the way islands, occurring on many islands in the Indian and eastern Pacific Oceans, where they settle down and develop new races and species. White-eyes are very sociable, so it is easy to imagine flocks being blown around by storms or cyclones and making landfall in sufficient numbers to colonise new places.

Green-backed White-eye (Zosterops xanthochroa) by Ian

For the random bird of the week, here’s another species that is good at island hopping, the Sacred Kingfisher. Well known throughout all but the driest parts of mainland Australia it also occurs on some southwest Pacific islands including those of New Zealand and New Caledonia. It has one race on Grande Terre and the Isle of Pines and, you guessed it, another one on the Loyalty Islands, below. This race has very buff underparts and a shorter, slightly flattened bill.

Sacred Kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus) by Ian

Finishing on a quite unrelated matter, you may have come across recent news, if you live in Australia, about the ultimate in elusive birds , the Night Parrot and the work that Steve Murphy has been doing since its rediscovery by John Young. Bush Heritage Australia is raising money to create a sanctuary to protect this population in southwest Queensland. I’ve already made my (modest) donation and I’d ask you to do so too using this link to make a very practical contribution (yours doesn’t need to be modest) to conserving a very special bird.

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 Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! (John 4:35 NKJV)

I love those EYES! Every since learning about the White-eyes, they have become one of my favorite species. Thanks, Ian for sharing these adorable birds with us. Kingfishers are also a favorite.

My problem is that when I use my “eyes” to view the Lord’s fantastic birds, how can I not have a problem figuring out which ones are my “most” favorites. I love all of the Lord’s Avian Wonders. I trust you do also.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s Birdway Zosteropidae Family

Zosteropidae – White-eyes

Wordless Birds

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Goliath Imperial Pigeon

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Goliath Imperial Pigeon ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 8/17/15

A characteristic sound of montane forests in New Caledonia is the far-carrying call of this splendid pigeon, the Goliath or New Caledonian Imperial Pigeon. The tone is similar to someone blowing in a (large) bottle but the rhythm accelerates like the sound of a table-tennis ball being dropped on a table. Needless to say, we started calling it the ping-pong pigeon. We first heard them in the dense forests of Rivière Bleue, but had trouble actually seeing any apart from one that flew off from feeding on Pandanus fruit. We eventually tracked this one through the forest and found it putting on a display.

Goliath Imperial Pigeon (Ducula goliath) by IanThe display is similar to that of the domestic pigeon, alternating between puffing out the crop to show the silvery-tipped bifurcated feathers to best advantage (first photo) and bowing (second photo). The head, upperparts and breast are a steely grey while the breast is a rich rufous colour and the vent pale. The iris is a vivid orange red. With a length of up to 51cm/20in and weighing up to 720g/1.6lb, this is a huge pigeon, which unfortunately makes it good to eat. For comparison the Torresian (Pied) Imperial Pigeon of northern and northeastern Australia measures up to 44cm in length and 550g in weight.

Goliath Imperial Pigeon (Ducula goliath) by Ian

It is endemic to the main island of New Caledonia (Grande Terre) and the Isle of Pines. The population has suffered from habitat loss and hunting, so it remains common only in protected areas and is currently listed as Near Threatened. After our hard work finding it in Rivière Bleue we were amused to find one on perched in the open on a power line beside the road to Mount Koghi two days later, third photo. We also heard several and photographed one at Les Grandes Fougères.

Goliath Imperial Pigeon (Ducula goliath) by Ian

The subject of each bird of the week is usually a species that hasn’t featured previously. This tends to mean that I don’t get to share with you new photos of previous subjects. So I’ve decided to include random photos from time to time, such as this one of a Noisy Pitta. I was contacted by a neighbour recently with a wonderful, well-watered garden in which this Pitta has recently taken up residence. Pittas are such beautiful birds and I like this photo because of the way the bird is framed by the leaves behind it.

Noisy Pitta (Pitta versicolor) by Ian

Greetings,
Ian

P.S. (Be warned: this is a commercial break!) Did you know that some ebook sellers provide facilities of giving book as gifts. Maybe you know someone who would enjoy Where to Find Birds in Northeastern Queensland ($13.20 to $22). Kobo books has ebook readers from most devices and computer so check out their page on gifts. With Kobo you go to this page first and then browse for the item you want to give. With Apple iPads and iPhones, you find the item first e.g. Where to Find Birds on Northeastern Queensland in the iTunes Store and then select the Share icon at top right and select Gift:

COL-Colu Goliath Imperial Pigeon (Ducula goliath) by Ian AD

I haven’t found a similar facility in the iTunes store accessed from an Apple computer (the share icon is peculiar to iOS). You can however give gift cards with suggestions from iTunes, Google Play and Kobo.

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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 Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Victoria Crowned Pigeon by Dan at National Aviary

Victoria Crowned Pigeon by Dan at National Aviary

Lee’s Addition:

And a champion went out of the camp of the Philistines named Goliath of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span [almost ten feet]. (1 Samuel 17:4 AMP)

We have seen the Victoria Crowned Pigeons at Zoos and they are typically 73 to 75 cm (29 to 30 in) long. Ian’s 51cm/20in Goliath Imperial Pigeon is not too far behind. The well-known rock dove is 29 to 37 cm (11 to 15 in) long, for comparison.  However you look at it, they are quite big. One source mentioned that the Goliaths are very strong flyers.

That is also a great photo of the Noisy Pitta. Thanks, Ian for sharing your photos with us each week (or whenever).

Ian’s Bird of the Week newsletters

Columbidae – Pigeons, Doves Family

Wordless Birds

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Yellow-bellied Robin/Flyrobin

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Yellow-bellied Robin ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 8-7-15

If your familiar with Australian birds you might assume – initially – that this photo was taken in an Australian rainforest, though you might have trouble pinning down the actual species.

Yellow-bellied Flyrobin (Microeca or Eopsaltria flaviventis) by Ian

Its dumpy shape and short tail suggested strongly to me the Pale-yellow Robin (Tregellasio capito) of coastal eastern Australia, second photo, but the colour pattern on the breast is more like the Western Yellow Robin (Eopsaltria griseogularis) of coastal southwestern Australia (no photo, sorry). It’s behaviour was very like that of the Pale-yellow Robin, often perching at precipitous angles on steep branches on the vertical trunks of trees.

Pale-yellow Robin (Tregellasia capito) by Ian

In fact I assumed that it was in the same genus as the Pale-Yellow (Tregellasio) and was surprised the find later that it was either in the same genus as the Eastern and Western Yellow Robins (Eopsaltria) or in the process of being moved to Microeca, the genus that includes the Jacky Winter, the Lemon-bellied and Yellow-legged Flycatchers or Flyrobins as the purists would have, being Australasian Robins. The reason for the move is based on genetic studies (Loynes et al , 2007).

Yellow-bellied Flyrobin (Microeca or Eopsaltria flaviventis) by Ian

The fourth photo shows the Lemon-bellied Flycatcher/Flyrobin for comparison; it featured as bird of the week almost exactly ten years ago.

Lemon-bellied Flyrobin (Microeca flavigaster) by Ian

When we were in New Caledonia, I was intrigued by the call of the Yellow-bellied (Fly)robin. It didn’t sound like the Pale-yellow Robin or the any of the Yellow Robins, all of which have rather monotonous repeated calls. The Yellow-bellied sounded rather like the rhythmic ‘squeaky bicycle wheel’ songs of the unrelated Gerygones. It does, however, sound rather like that of the Lemon-bellied Flycatcher/Flyrobin, however, which supports the genetic analysis and the subsequent taxonomic switch. If you want to compare them, you can do so here http://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Microeca-flavigaster and http://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Microeca-flaviventris.

Both these web pages show distribution maps, so it would be interesting to speculate whether the ancestors of the Yellow-bellied got to New Caledonia from New Guinea or from Australia. Either way they’d either have had to do some island hopping or got carried across by one of the many cyclones that track from east to west across the southwestern Pacific.

Yellow-bellied Flyrobin (Microeca or Eopsaltria flaviventis) by Ian

Anyway, enough about taxonomy and back to the original point about similarities between the birds of Australia and those of New Caledonia. So far, the birds of the week have dealt with the more unusual ones that represent either families (the Kagu) or genera (Horned Parakeet, Crow Honeyeater) not found in Australia. Most of the other endemic species have counterparts in the same genus in Australia. That had its own fascination coming across familiar-looking but different species but we were left in no doubt that we were still in the Australasian ecozone. To handle this on the Birdway website, the original Australian section – which became Australia and New Zealand after 2012 – is now becoming the Australasian section and I’ve put a map of the ecozone on the home page to support this.

I’ve more or less finished putting the New Caledonian bird photos on the website: http://www.birdway.com.au/index.htm#updates. Here are links to some species with Australian counterparts that probably won’t feature as bird of the week that may be of interest:

Greetings
Ian

P.S. (Be warned: this is a commercial break!) If you’ve ever been to Northern Queensland, might ever go there or are interested in the region (who couldn’t be?) then your life isn’t complete without the ebook Where to Find Birds in Northeastern Queensland. The price ranges from AUD13.22 on Google Play to AUD22.00 in the Apple iTunes Store.

**************************************************
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 QueenslandiTunesGoogle Play Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

What an adorable little Flyrobin. As Ian said, the name Robin or Flyrobin is in flux. When I check the I.O.C. list, which is what this blog uses, the Microeca flavivetris is called the Yellow-bellied Flyrobin.

Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper comparable to him. (Genesis 2:19-20 NKJV)

Wonder is Adam kept changing the names.? While checking out the I.O.C., I realized that the new 5.3 version is out. Guess I’ll have to start updating the site again. :) or maybe it is :(

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s Birdway Site

Good News

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Crow Honeyeater

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Crow Honeyeater ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 7/31/15

I mentioned last week that the Horned Parakeet was second on my wanted list for New Caledonia but probably third on Joy’s. I knew that number two for Joy, after the Kagu, was this week’s species, the Crow Honeyeater, chosen by her for its scarcity as it is the rarest of the surviving New Caledonian endemics. I’m excluding the four critically endangered/probably extinct endemics: NC (New Caledonian) Rail (last definite record 1890), NC Lorikeet (1860), NC Nightjar (1939) and NC Owlet-Nightjar (possible sight record 1998).

Current estimates of the population of Crow Honeyeater are as low as 250 individuals, based on the density of 18 known pairs in a recent study in Rivière Bleue. Some think this is an overestimate and the population is thought to be continuing to decline. The reasons for this are uncertain with loss of habitat and introduced rats being proposed. It’s preferred habitat is primary rainforest but it is now absent from areas of apparently suitable habitat and its smaller Fijian relative, the Giant Honeyeater Gymnomyza viridis being apparently unaffected by rats. So there may be other factors involved that are not understood.

Crow Honeyeater (Gymnomyza aubryana) by Ian

In any case, I hadn’t really expected to see it so it didn’t make my seriously wanted list – I try to avoid unreasonable expectations to prevent disappointment. But our guide Jean Marc Meriot wasn’t going to be discouraged by such pessimism and, after we had had our fill of Kagus, worked very hard indeed to find one.

Crow Honeyeater (Gymnomyza aubryana) by Ian

Eventually, after lunch this very obliging bird appeared suddenly and perched in full view on an uncluttered perch near the road through the dense forest and posed for photographs. Unlike the Horned Parakeet, it was a brief encounter, but the bird displayed a number of poses in that time including a wing stretch, second photo, and an apparent wave, third photo.

Crow Honeyeater (Gymnomyza aubryana) by Ian

This is a huge honeyeater, and as far as I can ascertain vies with the Yellow Wattlebird of Tasmania as the world’s largest. Length varies from at 35-42.5cm/14-17in with males being larger and recorded at 211-284g/7.4-10oz and two females at 152g/5.4oz and 159g/5.6oz. This compares with the longer-tailed Yellow Wattlebird with males ranging from 44-50cm/17-20in and 135-260g/4.8-9.2oz and females 37-43cm/15-17in and 105-190g/3.7-6.7. So, I’d declare the Crow Honeyeater the winner as the heaviest, and the Yellow Wattlebird as the winner in the length stakes.

Incidentally, the ‘Giant’ Honeyeater of Fiji is a mere 25-31cm/10-12in and similar in size to the only other close relative of the Crow Honeyeater, the Mao of Samoa (Gymnomyza samoensis). Neither the Giant Honeyeater nor the Moa is black and neither has facial wattles, so the Crow Honeyeater is quite special. The bird we saw had red wattles, but they can be yellowish, while the feet are pinkish-yellow and juveniles lack wattles.

It makes me sad to write this as its future looks rather bleak. So, I hope the bird in the third photo is just pausing in mid-itch – it had been been itching its ear a moment earlier – and not waving goodbye on behalf of its kind. To end on a brighter note, there are about nearly 20 other New Caledonian endemics that are doing rather better, and several others that are endemic to New Caledonian and Vanuatu, so New Caledonia’s record is fairly good compared with many other islands in the Pacific. We got photos of nearly all of these, so I’ll have more to say about them in the future. I’ve been busy putting them up on the website and you can find them via the Recent Additions thumbnails on the website: http://www.birdway.com.au/index.htm#updates.

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 Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


PAS-Meli Giant Honeyeater (Gymnomyza viridis) by Tom Tarrant

PAS-Meli Giant Honeyeater (Gymnomyza viridis) by Tom Tarrant

Lee’s Addition:

More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. (Psalms 19:10 KJV)

Added a photo of a Giant Honeyeater. When I first looked at the photos, I thought it was a Mynah, but as Ian explains, this is a different species. It was the eyes.

Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) by Ian

Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis) by Ian

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Ian’s Bird of the Week
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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Kagu, Episode 2

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Kagu, Episode 2 ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 7/13/15

Before, I forget again, here is the email of our Jean-Marc our guide at Rivière Bleue that I meant to include last week: jean-marc.meriot@province-sud.nc. He works as a ranger in the park, is very knowledgeable, speaks good English and worked very hard to get us the birds we wanted. The fee was 2000 CFP per hour for both of us (about 24 AUD). We had great fun with him.

Another terrific national park that we visited was Les Grandes Fougères a huge national park that was established as recently as 2008. Les Grandes Fougéres means the Great Ferns and refers to the Giant Tree Fern, endemic to New Caledonia which can reach a height of 30m. It’s claimed to be the tallest tree fern in the world, despite its scientific name (above), though it may have a rival in the shape of another very tall one in Vanuatu, but I haven’t been able to track that one down.

Parc des Grandes Fougères is inland from La Foa, which is on the east coast highway about 70km north of the International Airport, which is itself about 45km north of the capital Nouméa. The road is good and the park is easy to find. There are well-signed walking tracks and you can get a map from the ticket office at the entrance. We saw a juvenile Kagu making a fast getaway on our first visit there and we returned for a second visit on our last full day in New Caledonia.

On that second visit, at lunchtime we got chatting to a local family who shared the only picnic table in the vicinity. They were showing the park to the grandparents visiting from France, and excitedly recounted their encounter with a pair of Kagus at the next spot on our itinerary, a Banyan tree were there was a T-junction on the walking track near a stream.

We knew by then that Kagus are territorial and that their territories are usually about 20 hectares. So we searched in the region of the Banyan along the three tracks. We were on the one not on our original itinerary approaching a cut-out log that had fallen across the track when a family of kagus going in the opposite direction jumped up onto the log and, seeing us, froze. The first kagu photo shows Ma on the cut out part, Pa on the left of the photo and Junior barely visible under Ma’s tail.

The second kagu photo shows, Pa and Ma still like statues and Junior, still unaware, leaping onto the log without a care in the world. I said ‘Oh my God!’, they looked as if they said “Oh mon Dieu!’ and we all just looked at each other. These photos are full frame using only 180mm of the 100-400mm zoom so you can imagine how close we were.

The next photo shows Ma, still otherwise motionless, turning to Pa and saying ‘Alors????!!!!”. The kagu consensus seemed to be to stick to plan A, more or less, and they eventually headed down the hill to the stream. We followed them there and both we and the kagus met up with some other hikers – be warned, the park is quite popular on Sundays.

Here is Pa, fourth kagu photo, contemplating crossing the stream while the fifth photo shows Junior (note the barring on the wings) crossing back across the stream and having a drink in the general confusion. I got the impression that while cats lick their fur to avoid looking indecisive, kagus drink.

More confusion was to follow, this time caused by another kagu. Pa tried to lead Junior past us to a quieter spot further down the stream away from the tracks, when he (Pa) got distracted by an intruder, abandoned Junior and confronted the other male. I just happened to be taking an iPhone video of Pa when this happened and I’ve posted it on Youtube. The last kagu photo shows Pa and the intruder doing their threat display which consists of the two birds circling each other at close quarters with their wings hanging loose and their crests erected.

After that, we decided it was time to leave them in peace. The whole encounter lasted about 40 minutes and it was a fitting climax to our visit to New Caledonia. The photo of the displaying kagus was one of the last photos that I took on the trip.

Kagus aren’t just great birds in their own right, they are also of great taxonomic and bio-geographical interest. The Kagu is the single member of its family, the Rhynochetidae. It’s only rather distant living relative appears to be the Sun Bittern of South America, also the member of a single-species family the Eurypigidae. These two families used to be included in a heterogenous collection of birds in the Crane order (Gruiformes), but recent DNA studies (Hackett et al 2008) have led to their elevation to their own two-species order the Eurypigiformes. This makes them very distinguished – the other 39 or so orders of birds contain about 10,000 species.

The traditional bio-geographical explanation for this is that both species had a Gondwana ancestor that existed on New Caledonia when it separated from Gondwana. Recent studies (see Grandcolas et al 2008) indicate that New Caledonia has probably been completely submerged since then and all terrestrial plants and animals have colonised since then. If this is correct, then either the simple Sun Bittern – Kagu relationship is incorrect or their ancestors found some other way to get to where they are now, such as island hopping with extinctions obliterating their tracks. The mystery remains…

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 Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

My heart is troubled and does not rest; days of affliction come to meet me. (Job 30:27 AMP)

I think the daddy Kagu went to afflict the other Kagu. :)

Thanks Ian, for another episode to your Kagu adventure. They are really pretty and amazed that they let you get so close. We enjoyed your first episode also: Ian’s Bird of the Week – Kagu

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Kagu

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

Newsletter ~ 7/5/15

Well mission accomplie thanks to your moral and spiritual support, so here is the iconic Kagu of New Caledonia after a great trip there. We went to Rivière Bleue national park about 90min drive west of the capital Noumea, meeting our excellent guide Jean-Marc Meriot at the park entrance at 7:00am. He took us straight to a Kagu territory where we had a wonderful time with these strange and fascinating birds. They were bigger than I’d expected being 50-55cm/20-22in long.

Kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus) by Ian
The first one we saw was a very shy juvenile running away through the forest so Joy and I were a bit afraid that we might have difficulty getting decent photos. We needn’t have worried as we soon encountered a family party only too willing to join in the fun, though poor light in the rainforest was a bit of a problem. It had been very wet on the previous couple of days so it was very wet underfoot, or around beak and face perhaps if you’re a Kagu and probe in the earth for your food.

Adult Kagus have very long crests that droop down their back or over their wings. There’s some disagreement about differences between the sexes in the literature, but Guy Dutson in his Birds of Melanesia says that the females have fine barring on the upper wing. If that’s the case, the bird in the first photo would be a male and the one in the female in the second. Juveniles have barring too, but much more, which confuses the situation slightly.

Kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus) by IanKagus are flightless but still have fairly long wings used for balance when rushing around and in threat displays when they show the striking black, grey and white barring on the flight feathers. The best we could get out of them was a throaty hiss when we startled them and brief views of the wings when flapped in motion, but can you see the barring just showing in the bird in the second and third photos (same individual). The one in the third photo has just grabbed an earth worm. These form an important part of the diet when the soil is damp, but they also eat lots of other invertebrates and small vertebrates such as lizards and mice. Apparently they can consume the millipedes without ill effects that other birds avoid because of the noxious substances they exude.

Kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus) by Ian

Kagus form strong pair bonds that can last for years and vigorously defend territories of about 20 hectares or 50 acres in extent. They lay a single large egg in a rough nest on the ground and the young birds can stay in the parental territory for a year or two. Both adults share incubation and feeding of the young bird.

Kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus) by Ian

This family was so tame that eventually we gave up using our expensive Canon gear – the birds were often too close to focus with a telephoto lens – and resorted to our phones. Joy took the fourth photo of me taking the fifth photo with my iPhone and I was startled to discover that the quality was nearly as good as with the Canon and the iPhone performed better in poor light. Smart phones have come a long way. I even took some videos and I’ll share one with you in due course.

Kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus) by Ian

Kagus are rated as endangered, though recent conservation efforts have improved the situation. They suffer from predation by dogs, pigs and rats and Captain Cook started the rot in 1774 when he introduced dogs. They’ve also suffered from logging of rainforest and fragmentation of their habitat by clearing. The population reached a low of perhaps 600-700 birds in 1991 but has increased since and is thought to be about 1500 now as a result of predator control and captive breeding and reintroduction.

Kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus) by Ian

Conservation is helped by its iconic status and it is widely used as symbol of New Caledonia. Here it is on the 1000 French Pacific Franc note (about 12 AUD), which of course we called the Kagu. This image shows the threat display that we failed to see properly or photograph.

The bird to its left on the note is one of the Horned Parakeets and I’ll have more to say about them in the near future. In fact one of these nearly upstaged the Kagu as photographic bird of the trip and it was only a very delightful encounter with a Kagu family in a different national park on our last full day that restored the Kagu to #1 status. So I’m going to break with tradition and have the same species as bird of the week twice running so that I can give that final chance meeting due space. The Kagu was, after all, the main reason for our visit and I haven’t had time yet to touch on its very interesting taxonomy.

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 Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings, (Psalms 17:8 KJV)

Great photos as usual, Ian. We’re glad our prayers are helping you see more of the Lord’s great birds.

I had hoped to see a Kagu at either the Houston or San Diego Zoo on this last trip. Both places had their Kagus “off exhibit.” One of them was ill, but not sure why the other one was not being shown. At least Ian was able to find them, in the wild, which is actually better.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Great Crested Grebe

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

Newsletter ~ 6/20/15

I’m going to weave a tangled web of French connections around this bird of the week, but the first and most important is that in honour of Loïc, my great nephew and first child of my niece Jeannine and her husband Carlos who live in Strasbourg in Alsace. He was due today, but arrived safe and well four days early.

Clearly, a bird photographed in France was required but the choice was very limited: Carrion Crow, Common Coot or Great Crested Grebe. The latter was bird of the week in July 2007, so I toyed with the idea of Coot but, given that in the British Isles people say ‘you silly coot’ in the same tone that Australian say ‘you silly galah’ I decided that coot was better saved for a non-dedicated bird of the week.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) by Ian

So here is an elegant grebe in non-breeding plumage in a park near where my niece lives in Strasbourg last October. She took my sister Gillian and I there to look for some White Storks that had been nesting there, but they had already left for the winter so the grebes and coots attracted my attention instead. If my sums are correct in working back from today’s date, little Loïc would have been with us too, though probably not much older than the egg in the nest in the second photo. This egg was probably freshly laid, as Great Crested Grebes usually lay 3 or 4 eggs. Maybe it arrived early too, as the parent is busy adding nesting material to the structure.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) by IanThis nest was on Lake Alexandrina on the South Island of New Zealand, so it’s apparent that this species has a huge range extending from Ireland in the West and all the way through Eurasia to Australasia and in northern and southern Africa. It is however absent from the tropical regions of Africa and various tropical areas of Asia such as Indonesia.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) by IanThe third photo shows one of the New Zealand birds in full breeding plumage with the elongated crest and head plumes that give it scientific (cristatus), English and French name Grèbe Huppé. I’ll come back to huppé later. The 2007 bird of the week photos were of some breeding birds in Portugal and here is another one from that series: proud parent with two gorgeous striped youngsters. As this posting is celebrating a new family, I’d like to think that the photo is prophetic and that Loïc can look forward to a lovely sibling in due course.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) by IanGreat Crested Grebes mostly feed on fish, quite large ones at that, but this one Portugese one, fifth photo, has seized this hapless frog, whose expression seems a rather sad combination of pleading for help and accepting its fate.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) by IanAnother French connection is that I’m on a flight to New Caledonia and had thought that I would be on French territory when Loïc arrived, but he decided not to wait but I will try and skype the happy trio from Noumea.

I mentioned a few weeks ago, that our primary target is the very special Kagu, a rare, crested pigeon-sized terrestrial species endemic to New Caledonia. It’s taxonomically special too, being the only member of its family (Rhynchochetidae) and belong to an order that has only one distant relative, the Sunbittern of South America (according to Birdlife International).

The Kagu is crested too, so it’s French name is – you’ve guessed it, go to the top of the class – Kagou huppé. Huppé is slang in French for upper crust, smart, posh which seems highly appropriate. So, as usual I’m relying on your spiritual and moral support to produce au autre oiseau huppé for the next bird of the week. Joy and I have booked a guide at Rivière Bleue National Park next Tuesday, its main breeding locality and pride and joy of the park.

Forty one minutes to go before we reach Noumea.
Greetings
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Check the latest website updates:
http://www.birdway.com.au/#updates


Lee’s Addition:

Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26 NKJV)

That frog is in total shock. Yiiikess! He is thinking! What a great capture of all them, Ian. Thanks again for sharing these weekly birds of the week.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Diamond Dove

Before I get to the Diamond Dove, I have an appeal to any members who have been on the Bird of the Week list since 2003 and who have kept copies of the postings. It’s a long shot I know, but I lost the text of some of the early ones in a hard disk crash and I’ve nearly finished compiling the first volume covering 2002 to 2009 of the ebook Diary of a Bird Photographer. I have all the photos but not the descriptions of: Red-capped Plover 9 March 2003, Bank Myna 1 June 2003, Spinifex Pigeon 2 July 2003, Leaden Flycatcher 29 July 2003, Australian Pelican 7 July 2003 and Noisy Pitta 15 February 2004. If you have them, I’d be very grateful if you’d let me have the text by email and the first six respondents who can provide each of the missing ones will get a free copy of the ebook when it’s published.

Diamond Dove (Geopelia cuneata) by Ian 1Back to the Diamond Dove. Having cut the recent camping trip short, I didn’t come back with the anticipated collection of photos of dry country birds, but here is one such species from earlier trips as compensation. This delightful, tiny dove is found in arid country throughout mainland Australia. It depends on the availability of water and moves long distances in time of drought. It’s comparable in length to its close relative the Peaceful Dove (both about 19-24cm/7.5-9.5in) but has a relatively much longer tail and smaller body. So it tips the scales at a mere 28-43g/1-1.5 compared with 41-66g/1.5-2.3 for the Peaceful Dove.

Diamond Dove (Geopelia cuneata) by Ian

You can see how small it is in the second photo where it is drinking with finches just after dawn – being a late riser I can’t help boasting when I get up early. There are two points of interest in this photo. The finches in question are Gouldian – there had to be a good reason for me to get up in the dark at 5:30am in Kununurra and drive 100km to Wyndham. There are more photos of the Gouldians here. The other point is that the dove is demonstrating the drinking skill of members of the Pigeon and Dove family, the Columbidae. They drink by sucking and swallowing and don’t have to first sip and then tip their heads back like almost all other birds do. Apparently, they can drink six times faster in this way, maybe a useful survival strategy in a very vulnerable situation. Incidentally, I also photographed drinking Crested Dove at the same spot 15 minutes later, by which time the finches had left.

Diamond Dove (Geopelia cuneata) by Ian

Diamond Doves have strikingly red eye-rings, quite unlike the blue-grey ones of Peaceful Doves, and small white spots on the wing coverts which give them their common name. The eye-rings are red in adults, and although those of males are supposed to be larger and brighter than those of females, and females are supposed to have browner plumage, I can’t find any consistent differences. The one in the third photo has a brownish wash on the wings and a very striking eye-ring, which would make it trans-gender according to those criteria. That photo was taken just south of Townsville. 2007 was a very dry year in eastern Australia (see below) and at such times, Diamond Doves may show up quite close to the coast.

Diamond Dove (Geopelia cuneata) by Ian
The bird in the fourth photo is a juvenile and has not yet developed the red eye-ring and red legs of the adult. The barring on the head and breast reveals its close relationship to the Peaceful Dove, but note that it has the diagnostic white spots of the Diamond Dove on the wing coverts.

Diamond Dove (Geopelia cuneata) by Ian

Regarding the Scientific name, Geopelia means ‘ground dove’ in Greek and refers to the feeding habits of member of this genus. Diamond Doves feed predominantly on grass seeds and usually very small ones at that. The specific name cuneata means ‘wedge-shaped’, coming from the Latin cuneus meaning a ‘wedge’. I suppose it must refer to the pointed tail, but it isn’t what I usually think of as a wedge-shaped tail, compared with the wedge-tailed eagle and shearwater.

Diamond Dove (Geopelia cuneata) by Ian

“cuneiform ground dove”

Needless to say, I couldn’t resist Googling deeper into the related word ‘cuneiform’, which refers to the wedge-shaped characters used mainly on clay tablets in ancient Mesopotamia and Persia. This led me to the website of the Pennsylvanian Museum which gives you the opportunity to write your initials as a monogram ‘like a Babylonian’. The above image shows the result for ‘DOVE’, clearly not just any dove of course but a cuneiform ground dove.

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 Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. (Matthew 10:16 KJV)

These doves are quite small in comparison to other members of the Columbidae family. During our trip we saw the Western (Blue) Crowned and Victoria Crowned Pigeons, which are some of the larger members of the family.

The way they drink, by sucking is very interesting. I am sure the Lord had a reason for creating them this way. May have to research that some day.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Galah

Galah (Eolophus roseicapilla) by Ian at Birdway
Ian’s Bird of the Week – Galah ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 6/6/15

I’m back home after cutting short the camping trip in Western Queensland owing to a foot problem which made both camping and walking difficult. The foot is responding well to treatment at home in preparation for the New Caledonian trip in two weeks time. So I didn’t return with lots photos of dry country species for you but I did get treated to a fine display by an extrovert male Galah who came along to distract me while I was putting up my tent in Hughenden.

He wasn’t the only distractor; the camp site know-all gave me a lecture on the order in which to assemble my tent. The Galah was more welcome and I encouraged him, unlike the human, verbally. You can imagine the conversation going a bit like this.
‘I’ve heard that you bring birds fame and fortune with your Bird of the Week email. Can I be your bird of the week?’

‘Sorry Galah was BotW in 2006 (below). I like to have a different species each time.’

‘Ah, pleeeease!!!’ (below)

Galah (Eolophus roseicapilla) by Ian at Birdway

‘Well, okay, we’ll see. But you’ll have to do something spectacular to make it worth my while.’

‘How about this? I’ll look cute and demented at the same time.’

Galah (Eolophus roseicapilla) by Ian at Birdway

‘Mmmmh. Not bad but the juvenile Galah did that in 2006 and simultaneously begged for food.’

‘I can hang upside-down and look at you at the same time without losing my grip.’

Galah (Eolophus roseicapilla) by Ian at Birdway

‘That’s better! Anything else?’

‘I can hang upside-down with just one claw, no safety net, raise my crest and nibble my other foot simultaneously without falling off.’

Galah (Eolophus roseicapilla) by Ian at Birdway

‘Now that’s impressive: you win. You can be the next bird of the week.’
‘Whoopee, thank you!!! Happy camping!’

Galah (Eolophus roseicapilla) by Ian at Birdway

At that point the camp-site know-all came along.

The Galah said: ‘Oh no! I’m out of here!’ and flew away. Despite their name, Galahs aren’t stupid.

Galah (Eolophus roseicapilla) by Ian at Birdway

Just in case you are wondering why I said the bird was a male, it’s all in the eyes. Males have dark brown irises, females have red ones as in the photo above taken on a different occasion at Pentland not that far from Hugenden. This is also the case in Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo.

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 QueenslandiTunesGoogle Play Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

The works of the LORD are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein. (Psalms 111:2 KJV)

What a delightful newsletter. Sorry about your foot though, Ian. We will be praying that you heal quickly so you can make that next trip. Who knows what adventure you will come back to tell us about?

As many of my readers know, the Galah has become on of my favorite birds. Every since our encounter with the Galah at Brevard Zoo, when this photo was taken.

Galah (Eolophus roseicapilla) and Dan

Galah (Eolophus roseicapilla) and Dan

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – White-browed Scrubwren

Ian’s Bird of the Week – White-browed Scrubwren ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 5/28/15

I said in the last bird of the week that the Atherton Scrubwren was ‘probably the least distinctive of the Wet Tropics Endemics’. By that I meant it was hard to identify with certainty owing to lack of distinguishing field marks and I didn’t intend to imply that it was otherwise undistinguished. I’m actually very fond of scrubwrens. They are assertive little birds with lots of character, so here is the most widespread one, the White-browed Scrubwren by way of amends! It occurs right along the coasts of eastern, southern and western Australia from Mossman – not far north of where we were at Lake Tinaburra a few weeks ago – in far north Queensland (FNQ) to just north of Carnarvon in Western Australia. The one in the first photo was in the company of the Atherton Scrubwrens near the ‘amenities’ block in the campground.

White-browed Scrubwren (Sericornis frontalis) by Ian

White-browed Scrubwrens vary in plumage by location and there has been considerable disagreement among avian taxonomists over the centuries over how to divide them into species and sub-species or races. Schodde and Mason described 12 races in their authoritative Directory of Australian Birds (1999). However, the various races grade into each other and are often only distinguishable in the hand or museum. Criteria such as “feet pale flesh, drying consistently pale brownish cream, lower mandible drying variously bone to sometimes rather dusky” is not something even the most patient field worker would use.

White-browed Scrubwren (Sericornis frontalis) by Ian

So, it’s more usual now to lump these races into 3 mainland groups and the treat the Tasmanian ones as a separate species. We’ll take a clockwise trip from Tinaburra in FNQ to Cheynes Beach in southwest Western Australia to look at these, and then come back to the Tasmanian species. The females are paler, less-contrasty versions of the males, so we’ll just consider males, once we’ve looked at the two sexes in the distinctive Queensland race, laevigaster. The one in the first photo is a female, while the one in the second is a male. Both sexes have pale underparts that look pale yellow or buff, strong white eyebrow extending well behind the eyes and no white line just under the eye (suborbital). The male has a strikingly black mask extending over the ear-coverts, and is, in my opinion, the smartest of the White-browed Scrubwrens and looks somewhat like a pale Yellow-throated Scrubwren.

White-browed Scrubwren (Sericornis frontalis) by Ian

South of the Queensland border we encounter the nominate race group, frontalis. This group extends all the way through New South Wales and Victoria into eastern South Australia. The one in the third photo, taken in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, is more rufous on the back and flanks than the Queensland race, the black on the face is limited to the lores in front of the eye (the ear coverts are grey), the eyebrow fizzles out behind the eye and the there is a faint suborbital white line.

White-browed Scrubwren (Sericornis frontalis) by Ian

The birding singing lustily in the fourth photo near Melbourne is also of the nominate group, though it looks darker overall and has even less of an eyebrow.

White-browed Scrubwren (Sericornis frontalis) by Ian

When we get to Western Australia, we encounter the ‘spotted Scrubwren’, race maculatus with dark spots on the throat and breast, buffish underparts, a long eyebrow, a clear suborbital line and, like the nominate group, the black face mask limited to in front of the eye.

The sixth photo shows the Tasmanian one It was first described as a separate species by Gould in 1838; lumped in with the other White-browed Scrubwrens in the 20th century and now restored to the grand status of a full species in the 21st century. In taxonomy, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, a quote from 1849, though Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr probably wasn’t thinking of taxonomy at the time. He did, however, have two varieties of Dahlia and a bamboo named after him. Anyway, The Tasmanian one is very dark, though in other ways such as its faint white markings on the head it looks quite like the Victorian one in the fourth photo, though the white epaulettes are very distinct. It’s also quite large by Scrubwren standards (12-14cm/4-5in in length).

Tasmanian Scrubwren (Sericornis humilis) by Ian

Scrubwrens inhabit dense undergrowth, but as long as that is provided they occur in wide variety of habitats from rainforest to scrubby heaths and are quite common. They are both vocal and curious, responding well to ‘pishing’ noises, so they are easier to find than their choice of habitat would suggest. They’re very active, foraging near the ground, often in leaf litter for insects or other invertebrates. The breed in pairs or groups consisting of a breeding pair and helper birds, an arrangement that seems remarkably widespread across Australian bird families.

I’m off the western Queensland on Saturday. Hopefully, I’ll have some interesting dry country birds for you but don’t expect anything for another couple of weeks.

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 Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” (Gen 1:20)

I find these Scrubwrens that Ian has been introducing very cute and interesting. Last week’s Atherton Scrubwren and now these two species are the little bird types that drive me crazy trying to photograph. Ian has a knack for getting great photos. Thanks, Ian, for sharing these with us. Happy hunting on you new quest.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s Whole Acanthizidae Family

Acanthizidae – Australasian Warblers

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Atherton Scrubwren

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Atherton Scrubwren ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 05-18-15

I’ve just spent a few relaxing days camping with friends on the shores of Lake Tinaroo on the Atherton Tableland west of Cairns, so here is the eponymous Atherton Scrubwren a pair of which were foraging in the undergrowth on the edge of the rainforest behind the toilet block. You do of course take your camera with you everywhere, don’t you?
Lake Tinaroo by Ian

This is one of about a dozen bird species that are endemic to the Wet Tropics of Northeastern Queensland. Like several others, e.g. the Golden Bowerbird and the Mountain Thornbill, it is a bird of the highland rainforest, usually found about 600m/2000ft, occasionally down to 400m/1300ft. Lake Tinaroo is at an altitude of 670m/2200ft and be reached by the Gillies Highway from Gordonvale. This highway follows an extraordinary and interminably windy route up the escarpment from the coast, and is the only route on which I suffer from motion sickness even when I’m doing the driving. It is very scenic with spectacular views over the Goldsborough Valley, if you are feeling well enough to appreciate them.

Atherton Scrubwren (Sericornis keri) by Ian

The Atherton Scrubwren is probably the least distinctive of the Wet Tropics endemics, being small (13.5cm/5.3in long), brown and unobtrusive and very similar to the more widespread, slightly smaller Large-billed Scrubwren (third photo) found in rainforests along the east coast of Australia from Cooktown in NE Queensland almost to Melbourne. Their ranges overlap in the Wet Tropics below 750m/2500ft, the usual upper limit of the Large-billed, and the species differ in subtle differences in colour and facial pattern and foraging behaviour.

Atherton Scrubwren (Sericornis keri) by IanThe best field-marks are the difference in angle of the bill: straight in the Atherton (second photo) and bent slightly upwards in the Large-billed (third photo). The Atherton forages on or closes to the ground (the one in photos 1 and 2 was about 30cm/12in above the ground), while the Large-billed is arboreal and forages on the branches and in the foliage of trees. The Atherton has a buff eye-stripe which merges with the lower part of the face and throat, has dark flanks and under-tail coverts and a yellowish wash on the breast and underside. The Large-billed is supposed to have a beady eye, but that’s getting even more subtle.

Large-bill Scrubwren by IanDespite the similarities between these two species, genetic studies indicate that the Atherton Scrubwren is probably more closely related to the well-known – and easier to identify – White-browed Scrubwren which occurs in eastern, southern and western Australia and was also present near where we were camping.

Greetings
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Check the latest website updates:
http://www.birdway.com.au/#updates/


Lee’s Addition:

Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” (Mat 13:31-32)

Ian has introduced us to some more of his Australian Scrubwrens, plus a tip to always carry your camera. They seem to be such tiny birds. Glad they posed for Ian at that beautiful lake.

Ian’s Whole Acanthizidae Family

Acanthizidae – Australasian Warblers

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – White-necked Heron

White-faced Heron (Ardea Pacifica) by IanIan’s Bird of the Week – White-necked Heron ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 5/29/15

Continuing last week’s theme (White-faced Heron) of common – but in these pages neglected – Australian herons here is the other very widespread species, the White-necked or Pacific. It’s not as abundant or as well-known as the White-faced, but much bigger and a striking bird with its white head and neck and slate-grey back and wings. In length it varies from 76-106cm/30-42in with wingspan to 160cm/63in.

In breeding plumage, it develops plum-coloured plumes on the back (first photo at sunrise) and shoulders (second photo at sunset). It’s predominantly a bird of freshwater and is only rarely seen in estuaries. It’s quite partial to small shallow ponds and is widespread in inland Australia when water is available, moving to more coastal areas in dry seasons. So it can turn up almost anywhere in the country. In southern Australia it breeds in Spring and Summer; in northern Australia it can breed at any time of the year depending on rainfall – the one in the second photo was photographed in mid-winter in Townsville, but the first half of 2008 was very wet in northern Australia.

White-faced Heron (Ardea Pacifica) by IanAccording to the field guides, non-breeding birds have rows of grey spots on the front of the neck, like the one in the third photo. The neck is supposedly completely white in breeding plumage, but it is not unusual to see birds with both purple plumes and grey neck spots. Both the second and third photos show the white patches on the leading edge of the wing. These are obvious (and diagnostic) in flight when they look like the landing lights of a passenger aircraft.

White-faced Heron (Ardea Pacifica) by IanThe bird in the fourth photo was in Boulia, in far western Queensland north of Birdsville. The field guides and HBW (Handbook of Birds of the World) are vague about juvenile plumage but are supposed to have more spots on the neck than non-breeding adults and may have greyish head and neck. the one in the Boulia bird has a white head and neck with grey spots on the sides of the neck, while the bird in the fifth photo has a grey head and neck.

White-faced Heron (Ardea Pacifica) by IanI assume that both of these are juveniles. Both have pale spots on the wings, but I can’t find are reference to that in the field guides. I haven’t got HANZAB (Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds) so if anyone reading this does, I’d be grateful for any illuminating feedback on juvenile plumage.

White-faced Heron (Ardea Pacifica) by IanThe White-necked Heron breeds only on mainland Australia. It does, however, turn up regularly in Tasmania and southern New Guinea and has been recorded as a vagrant on Norfolk Island and in New Zealand.

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 Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

the stork, the heron of any kind; the hoopoe and the bat. (Deuteronomy 14:18 ESV)

Thanks again, Ian. I really like that reflection in that fourth photo. Also, those spots on the non-breeding heron are very noticeable. We don’t have those here in the US of course, since they are native to your area. They sort of look like our Great Egret on the top part and our Great Blue Heron on the body part.

What you might consider common, we would consider it a delight to see and the other way around. Our common birds would by your delight to see.

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Ian’s Birds of the Week

Ian’s Heron Family

Ardeidae – Herons, Bitterns

Ian’s Home Page

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