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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

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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/
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.

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Ian’s Finches:

Other Links:

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Hall's Babbler (Pomatostomus halli) by IanHere is another of the Bowra specialties, Hall’s Babbler, which has a restricted range in dry scrubland in western Queensland north to about Winton and northwestern New South Wales south to about Brewarrina.

If you think it looks just like a White-browed Babbler, you won’t be surprised to hear that it was overlooked as a separate species until 1963 and was first described in 1964. It was named after Harold Hall who funded five controversial bird collecting Australian expeditions in the 1960s and the species was detected, and presumably ‘collected’, on the first of these. It’s larger than the White-browed, 23-25cm/9-10 in length versus 18-22cm/7-9in, is darker overall, has a shorter white bib abruptly shading into the dark belly and a much wider eyebrow. DNA studies suggest that it’s actually more closely related to the Grey-crowned Babbler. It’s voice is described pithily by Pizzey and Knight as ‘squeaky chatterings … lacks “yahoo” of Grey-crowned and madder staccato outbursts of White-browed’. Babblers are clearly birds of great character.

Hall's Babbler (Pomatostomus halli) by Ian

It’s quite common at Bowra in suitable habitat, mainly mulga scrub, and on this occasion we found a party of about 20. Like all Australasian babblers, they’re very social and move erratically through the scrub bouncing along the ground and up into bushes like tennis balls. They’re delightful to watch, and infuriating to photograph as the tangled, twiggy mulga plays havoc with automatic focus – no time for manual – and they keep ducking out of sight. You can be lucky and get ones, like the bird in the second photo, that hesitate briefly, between bounces, in the open to look for food. There had been some good rain a couple of months before our visit, and the birds had been breeding – the one in the third photo with the yellow gape is a juvenile.

Hall's Babbler (Pomatostomus halli) by Ian

Bowra is unusual in that it’s in a relatively small area where the ranges of all four Australian babblers overlap. The other restricted range species, the Chestnut-crowned is at the northern end of its range and also fairly easy to find, while the widespread more northern species, the Grey-crowned, meets the mainly southern White-browed.

I’ve had several emails recently from prominent birders commenting on the excellence of the digital version of Pizzey and Knight. Things they like particularly are the combination of both illustrations and photos (including over 1200 of mine), the great library of bird calls by Fred Van Gessel, portability (phone, tablet and PC), comprehensiveness – all of the more than 900 species recorded in Australia and its territories and ease of generating bird lists by location. The good news is that the price has been reduced to $49.95 and it comes in iPhone/iPad, Android and Windows versions. Go here http://www.gibbonmm.com.au for more information, product tours and links to the appropriate stores, and here http://www.birdway.com.au/meropidae/rainbowbeeeater/source/rainbow_bee_eater_15231.htm to see the photo of the Rainbow Bee-eater below.

Hall's Babbler (Pomatostomus halli) by Ian

My apologies for the delay since the last bird of the week. I’m having a major drive to finish Where to Find Birds in Northeastern Queensland and other things are getting pushed temporarily into the background.

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:

But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. (2 Timothy 2:16 NKJV)

Here is what a Hall’s Babbler sounds like:

Thanks again Ian for sharing another interesting bird from your part of the world.

Our Hall’s Babbler is a member of the Pomatostomidae – Australasian Babblers Family. There are only five species in the family.

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Hall’s Babbler – Wikipedia

Ian’s Bird of the Week

Pomatostomidae – Australasian Babblers Family

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Great Blue Heron by Dan

Great Blue Heron by Dan

And the stork, the heron after her kind, and the lapwing, and the bat. (Leviticus 11:19 KJV)

Herons are a favorite bird species of mine. We see them frequently here in central Florida. One of their characteristics that impress me is their patience. It is common to see them standing almost still except for their neck swaying slowly back and forth.

Oh, that I had the patience like these Storks.

These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. (Psalms 104:27 KJV)

Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD. (Psalms 27:14 KJV)

Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. (James 1:3 KJV)

Herons belong to the  Ardeidae – Herons, Bitterns Family and are a Bird of the Bible.

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“Peace Medley”  by Faith Baptist Choir

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Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) Jax Zoo by Lee

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) Maturing at Jax Zoo by Lee

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalms 103:1-5 KJV)

Last week at the Jacksonville Zoo, we saw this “rag-tag” Eagle. We found out that he is around five years old and has been going through his transition. They said that in the last two weeks he has really started to change. As you may know, Bald Eagles get their “bald” head when they mature. I have seen Eagles with an all black heads and the all white heads, but never in the process of maturing. I am glad that we were able to see him in this stage of his life.

Now for a much better photo by Dan:

Bald Eagle maturing at Jax Zoo by Dan

Bald Eagle maturing at Jax Zoo by Dan

Actually, it may be a “she.” I forgot to ask. Both male and females get the “bald” head after about five years of so.

The above verse, “so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” reminds of the Lord’s watch-care of the birds, but more importantly, over us. When I see this eagle, it reminds me of times when we mature as Christians. Sometimes we seem a little “rag-tag” in our development, but as we keep our eyes on the Lord, He helps us mature as we should.

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) Jax Zoo by Lee

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) Jax Zoo by Lee

Here are some of the photos we took of the two eagles and a friendly Black-crowned Night-heron that was keeping them company. The Heron was wild and flew out later. These two Eagles were injured and can never return to the wild.

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Also:

Changed From the Inside Out

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