Ian’s Irregular Bird – Painted Birds

In July I went on an overland bird-watching trip organised by a friend of mine in Melbourne. The main goal was finding arid country birds for two English birders. I tagged along to take some photos. We met up in Melbourne. Then we drove through Western Victoria to the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, along the Birdsville Track and through Western Queensland to Mt Isa. I flew home from there, while the others continued to the Gulf of Carpentaria and finally to Cairns, so that the English pair could fly back to London.
Australia has four species of bird called “Painted”, and we saw three of these on the trip, so I thought I’d do a Painted edition of the Irregular Bird. The first that we saw, and perhaps the one best deserving the moniker, is the Painted Buttonquail. It’s quite a work of art, meticulously and delicately decorated with a grey, rufous and black background highlighted with white streaks and spots. The result is both strikingly beautiful and brilliantly camouflaged against the woodland leaf litter where it occurs.
Buttonquails are strange quail-like birds related to waders rather than game birds. They are well represented in Australia with seven of the seventeen global species, the others being distributed throughout Asia, Africa and Southern Europe. They’re cryptic and hard to see, though the feeding habits of the Painted make it easier to find than the others. They search for food by rotating in a tight circle in leaf litter, like the pair in the second photo, leaving circular bare patches called “platelets”. Fresh platelets in an area known for them are a good indication that careful searching for them is justified.
Buttonquails are one of the groups of birds where there is a gender reversal in display, incubating the eggs and rearing the young. So the females are more brightly coloured. Note that the female on the right of this pair has brighter rufous plumage on the shoulders, and she is larger than her male partner.
The next painted species we encountered was this Painted Honeyeater in central Western Queensland. This is an inland species breeding mainly in Victoria and New South Wales. In winter it migrates north and can be found sparsely distributed through southern and Western Queensland and the eastern part of the Northern Territory. It’s paint job isn’t as carefully executed as in some of the other painted birds, though it has bold yellow stripes on the wings. delicate black streaks on the flanks and a pink bill.
Species number three was the Painted Finch, a striking bird of arid country such as spinifex with a wide mainly tropical distribution from Western Queensland through the Northern Territory to Western Australia. Both sexes are red and brown with black heavily daubed with white spots. The male, in front in the first photo, has more red than the female behind him. The bird in the second photo is also a female.
I’ve included the only other painted Australia bird, the Australian Painted-snipe, a bird of grassy wetlands. It’s rare and endangered owing to habitat loss and hard to find, though it turns up unexpectedly in different places.
The one in this photo is a male. Females are larger and more colourful, and you’re right: there’s a swapping of gender roles here too. It seems to be a habit among painted bird species, artistic license I suppose. Painted-snipes form their own family but they are thought to be related to Jacanas, which also swap roles. Maybe I should do an Irregular Bird on Australian Rainbow birds, though the sexes in these are almost identical and their preferences may be gender fluid for all we know.
Greetings
Ian

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: 0411 602 737 +61-411 602 737
Preferred Email: ianbirdway@gmail.com

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

Lee’s Addition:

Thanks, Ian for another irregular birding report. Looks like your birding trips are as irregular as ours are. (We have not been birding in months.)
What beautiful birds with designs and colors from their Creator. It is amazing that these colors also help protect them by blending them in with their surroundings. Thanks again for sharing your latest adventure with us.
“That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 KJV)
See all of Ian’s Articles:

Please leave a Comment. They are encouraging.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s