Ian’s Bird of the Week – Black-faced Monarch ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter ~ 4/15/15
On the way to Orbost in East Gippsland in March on the great owl hunt, we stopped for a break at Fairy Dell Nature Reserve between Bairnsdale and Lakes Entrance. This has a lovely walk through temperate rainforest along a creek with plenty of interesting birds – we saw our first Lyrebird of the weekend here. We also found this Black-faced Monarch showing its black face to great advantage through the fronds of a tree fern.
Black-faced Monarchs are usually inconspicuous solitary inhabitants of dense forest and are best located by their calls, the most distinctive of which is a vibrant fluty call, rendered by Pizzey and Knight as ‘Why-you, which-you’. Here they search for insects, sometimes making sallies after flying insects when they are easier to spot. The combination of grey back and wings, black face and rich, rufous underparts is striking, though the rufous breast is best seen in the gloom of the forest using a flash, as in the second photo taken in the highlands of Northeastern Queensland. These two photos encompass most of the breeding range of this species along the east coast of Australia from Melbourne to Cape York.
These birds are resident in the highlands of Northeastern Queensland but breeding summer visitors to areas farther south. In winter many migrate to southern and eastern New Guinea, and some immature birds spend their first summer there. In the lowlands of Northeastern Queensland, around Townsville for example, we see them only as passage migrants in March-April and September-October and I saw one last week along Bluewater Creek near the house, reminding me that autumn is here. The bird in the third photo is an immature one photographed on the creek ten years ago. Juvenile lack the black face, have brownish wings and dark bills with a pinkish edge to the base of the lower mandible – which you can just see in this photo.
Black-faced Monarch build beautiful, conical nests wedged into the fork of a shrub or sapling in moist gullies. This is constructed of fibrous plant material, including ferns and moss, glued together using gossamer from spiders’ webs as in the fourth photo.
Autumn here means warm, clear sunny days and (relatively) cool nights with low humidity, very welcome after the wet season and my favourite time of the year. The wet usually leaves a legacy of lush green grassland and forest, though this year it has been fairly dry with good rain only in January. The Dollarbirds have left for the winter and the forests and gardens are rather silent without the loud calls of the Koels and Channel-billed Cuckoos, leaving just the Blue-winged Kookaburras and Bar-shouldered Doves to fill the gap.
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 firstname.lastname@example.org
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland: iTunes; Google Play Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au
“If a bird’s nest happens to be before you along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, with the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall surely let the mother go, and take the young for yourself, that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days”. (Deuteronomy 22:6-7 NKJV)
What a nice looking bird, Ian. That breast color reminds me of our American Robin’s outfit. Thanks again for sharing so many birds with us over the weeks. With over 10,000 of the Lord’s avian creations flying around, you nor I will ever cover them all.
Here is the Black-faced Monarch’s call from xeno-canto:
You can see Ian’s Monarch family photos at Monarch Flycatchers & Allies [Family: Monarchidae]
Monarchidae – Monarchs Family