Ian’s Bird of the Week/Moment – Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo

Ian’s Bird of the Week/Moment – Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo by Ian Montgomery

Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) by Ian

The bird of the week has, regrettably, been so irregular over the last year or so, that I can’t pretend anymore that it’s a weekly event, or even a monthly one for that matter. These days we’re supposed to achieve peace of mind by living in the now, I’ve renamed the series Bird of the Moment.

In the last one on Macaws, I finished with this photo of a Scarlet Macaw feeding on an introduced Terminalia tree in Costa Rica and mentioned that the fruit of same species (T. cappata) is equally popular with Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos along The Strand in Townsville. Here is a pair with the male on the right whispering sweet phrases to the female two days before Valentine’s Day: she looks very receptive. You can see the female has spots on the head, barring on the body and a barred panels in the tail against a background of red and yellow. The male has glossy black plumage and scarlet, unbarred panels in the tail.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) by Ian

These Cockatoos are quite common in the Townsville District and for me, it was love and first sight when I arrived here in 2002. They are spectacular birds, very large (to 65cm/25in in length) with a wonderful leisurely ‘rowing’ flight, long tails and a permanent smile. They are often heard before being seen both when perched and in flight, owing to their haunting, far-carrying, trumpeting calls, which are positively melodious compared with the ear-shattering screeches of their ubiquitous white relatives, the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. They’re remarkably tame too and seem to enjoy being photographed.

Terminalia sp

Terminalia grow readily from seedlings, and Jo Wieneke gave me some seedlings when I moved to Bluewater in 2013, which I planted with the sole aim of attracting these Cockatoos, above. These belong to a different species of Terminalia with smaller leaves and fruit. The fruit of T. cappata, the ‘Beach Almond’ are about the size of walnuts; these ones are more like smallish, hard, black olives. The three trees all lean to the left, a legacy of cyclone Yasi in 2011, called the ‘Yasi lean’. Since then the trees have tried to correct this defect by growing vertically at the base and the top – easiest to see in the left-most tree – and growing thicker branches on the right-hand side, presumably as a counter-balance.

The trees started flowering and fruiting about three years ago, and I was delighted when they had their first visit from a lone Black-Cockatoo. Last November, the trees had an abundant harvest, and a pair of Cockatoos came each evening at about 4:30 pm (and maybe before I surfaced in the morning) and thoroughly until they had completely stripped all fruit. The birds are wonderfully acrobatic (below) and their preferred way of eating is to snip off a twig, hold it in one foot, stand on the other foot, prise open the hard shell to get at the kernel in the middle and discard both the shells and the twigs.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) by Ian

The shells are quite hard and I cut one open to see what was inside and found the kernel is tiny, so it seemed like a lot of effort for a relatively small reward. In the photo below, the male is using the pointed tip of the upper mandible to extract the kernel from the cracked shell. They drop a lot of unopened fruit and several months later a small flock of cockatoos came round to feed on the ground under the trees.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) by Ian

The coloured panels on the tail are not easy to see except when the birds spread the tail feathers, either when taking off, landing or doing a sudden manoeuvre in flight. Presumably, it is an important signal to other members of the flock. Black-Cockatoos seem to form long-term pair-bonds which are maintained even when they flock, so I wonder whether the variability in the colour of the panels of females (the one below has much red and little yellow) help the males identify their mates.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) by Ian

The next photo shows a male just after take-off and showing his red panels to best advantage.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) by Ian

Here is a female on the beach at Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island. She looks as if she’s contemplating a swim – you can see the edge of the water in the background – but it is more likely that she is looking for fruits from the casuarinas growing along the foreshore. In the absence of introduced Terminalia trees, the birds feed on the fruit of native trees including those of Eucalyptus and Pandanus.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) by Ian

The Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo is the most widespread of the five species of Black-Cockatoo, all of which are Australian endemic.s (I’m not including the Palm Cockatoo which belongs to a different genus and occurs in Cape York and across New Guinea.) The other four species are the Glossy (eastern Australia); the Yellow-tailed (eastern and southern Australia and Tasmania) and the Long-billed and Short-billed (both have white tails and are restricted to SW Western Australia). The Red-tailed has five subspecies which differ in size and in the colour of the tail panels in females: the largest, nominate race banksii (Queensland and northern NSW); the large-billed macrorhynchus (Northern Territory and NW Western Australia); the smaller samueli in central Australia; also in (SW Western Australia); and graptogyne (western Victoria and SE South Australia).

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) by Ian

The three birds in the last photo belong to the large-billed race macrorhynchus, and presumably are a family with the female on the left and the male on the right. The bird in the centre has female-like plumage but a black bill – females have whitish bills – so is probably a juvenile male; juvenile males take about four years to acquire the adult male plumage. Family bonding would appear to be important and you often see these birds in groups of three.

I’ve been slack about the Bird of the Moment; I have however been working on the website. The latest inclusions include a gallery of Dragonflies and one of Butterflies and Moths, and there are various additions to the bird galleries.

Greetings,
Ian


Lee’s Addition:

“Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psalms 107:8 KJV)

Thanks, Ian, for an update. I had begun to think you were not able to provide any more of these great articles for us. You are missed when we fail to hear from you.

It appears that the series of blog posts of Ian’s will be renamed. Starting with his next article, the title will be “Ian’s Bird of the Moment.” It is an appropriate name for the series, as most birdwatchers are watching “birds of the moment.”

Not sure if you readers were aware, but Ian has been dealing with a serious eye problem. That is difficult for such a good photographer to deal with. Glad he is improving so he can keep us informed about God’s amazing flying avian wonders.

 

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Brown Wood Owl

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Brown Wood Owl ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 2/6/2017

I’ve chosen an owl this time because I want to talk about a beautiful book called The Enigma of the Owl. A complimentary copy of it arrived recently by air from the UK, because I supplied a photo of a Rufous Owl. I’ll come back to the book and the Rufous Owl in a moment, but first, here is the Brown Wood Owl, which, unlike the Rufous Owl, hasn’t ever featured as bird of the week.

Brown Wood Owl (Strix leptogrammica) by Ian

In 2007 I spent several days at an unashamedly spartan wildlife outfit called Uncle Tan’s Wildlife Adventures in near the Kinatabangan River in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. One doesn’t go there for the facilities – the best shower we had was during a monsoonal downpour when everyone repaired outside with soap and shampoo – but for the wonderful wildlife. There were regular wildlife-spotting boat trips by day and by night on the river and lots of interesting animals, including Orang Utans in the jungle near the camp. My main target was, successfully, the Buffy Fish Owl but we also came across the Brown Wood Owl in the forest between the camp and the river.

Brown Wood Owl (Strix leptogrammica) by Ian

This is a medium to large owl, 40-55cm/16-22in in length, a member of the globally widespread genus Strix which includes the well-known Tawny Owl of Europe, the Barred and Spotted Owls of North America and other representatives in Africa and South America but not Australia. The specific name leptogrammica means fine-lined and refers to the elegant barred underparts.

Brown Wood Owl (Strix leptogrammica) by Ian

We came across the Brown Wood Owl twice. The first two photos are of the same individual, but the second one is of another bird three days later.

Brown Wood Owl (Strix leptogrammica) by Ian

These three photos illustrate some of the difficulties of photographing owls. Most are nocturnal, many are shy (the Brown Wood Owl in particular prefers undisturbed forest and avoids areas of human habitation), so you need to be lucky to find them at their roosting sites. Roosting owls are prime targets for mobbing by other birds, so they often roost in hollows or in dense vegetation. In woodland, a bird in an unusually clear visible position like the first one here is often back-lit, while the second bird is well-lit but partially obscured by branches and leaves. I say this not just to make excuses but to express my admiration for many of the wonderful photos in The Enigma of the Owl.

So I’m happy to have had this photo of a Rufous Owl selected for inclusion in the book. The bird in the photo was the immature member of a family of three that roosted regularly for a while in 2008 in an easily accessible spot behind the Black Hawk Memorial in the Palmetum, one of the three botanic gardens in Townsville. The Memorial honours 18 Australian servicemen killed when two Black Hawk helicopters collided in Townsville in 1996.

Rufous Owl (Ninox rufa) by Ian

The general introduction to the book covers the taxonomy, physiology (visual and auditory), life-style and significance to humans of owls. The remainder of the book consists of detailed treatment of 80 of the approximately global 250 species of owls, with thorough natural histories of each species and about 200 spectacular photos, mostly covering a whole page and sometimes two pages. The 80 species are organised into chapters by region: North America; Central & South America; Eurasia; Africa; Southern Asia and Australasia; and Oceanic Islands. Each regional chapter has its own introduction.

Brown Wood Owl (Strix leptogrammica) by Ian

This is a terrific book and I highly recommend it. The UK edition is ₤32 and the US edition is $40 fantastic value for a large hard cover book of this quality. There isn’t an Australian edition but Italian, Japanese, French and German editions will be published later this year. My only quibble is that I think it would be better organised taxonomically rather than geographically, but that reflects my taxonomic and evolutionary tastes. That said, the taxonomic cover is very broad: there are representatives of all the important genera (about 22 out of about 27) and the missing ones are either obscure or fairly closely related to other ones already in the book.

Brown Wood Owl (Strix leptogrammica) by Ian

Back at the website, I have recently added global and Australasian thumbnails to all the non-bird taxonomic groups of ‘other wildlife’ to make them easier to find: http://www.birdway.com.au/global_wildlife_tn.php and http://www.birdway.com.au/aus_wildlife_tn.php.

Greetings
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:
Another neat looking Owl and what an adventure just to get their photos. I am glad that Ian shares his many birds that he works so hard to photograph. We sit back in our easy chairs and sometimes forget what it takes to come up with these photographs from our photographers. Thanks again, Ian, for sharing with us.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week Newsletters

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – (Eurasian) Three-toed Woodpecker

Ian’s Bird of the Week – (Eurasian) Three-toed Woodpecker ~ Ian Montgomery

[Actually his first on of the new year.]

First of all my best wishes for a contented and healthy New Year. There is one important change for birdway customers with the new year. I’m planning to officially deregister the birdway company at the end of the Australian financial year (30 June) so in preparation for that birdway stopped trading on 31 December. I’ve registered as a sole trader, so any future invoices will be made out by me rather in the name of the company and will not include GST.

I’ve also removed the books Diary of a Bird Photographer and Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland from the Apple Store, Google Play and Kobo Books. If you want to buy them, contact me directly, ian@birdway.com.au or ianbirdway@gmail.com. I’ve put instructions on the website: Diary of a Bird Photographer and Where to Find Birds on Northern Queensland. Having removed the middlemen and GST, I can now offer them at reduced prices of $5 and $15 respectively (Australian dollars or equivalent; foreign currencies preferably through PayPal). I’ll investigate direct purchase through the website, but for the moment I’ll email them to customers in the required format (ePub for Apple, Windows and Android computers, tablets and smart phones; Kindle for Amazon readers).

Back to the New Year: here’s the last photo that I took in 2016, a two day old new moon just after sunset on 31st December.

pic-pici-eurasian-three-toed-woodpecker-picoides-dorsalis-by-ian-1

New Year is often represented symbolically by a chubby baby wearing not much more than a top hat and a banner with the new year number on it. Here, perhaps more appropriately for us, is a new year baby Dollarbird taken from my house last Friday, 3 days after it left the nest. Junior is on the right looking relaxed, while an alert and anxious-looking parent is on the right.

pas-dollarbirdA pair of Dollarbirds nest regularly in a termite-ridden poplar gum near the house, which has plenty of nesting hollows thanks to the termites. The same tree is also the headquarters of the local band of Blue-winged Kookaburras, but the two species seem to co-habit quite peacefully, if not quietly. The dollarbird nest is at a great height, perhaps 25m/80ft, so the first introduction of the young birds to the outside world is a perilous decent to the ground that doesn’t always end well.

 

This year, the young bird landed in my neighbour’s garden on the 10th January. He has both a dog and a ride-on lawn mower that is his favourite toy and I warned him about the bird. The parents made lots of noise over the next three days, presumably in defence of the newcomer. Consequently, I assumed all was well but I was of course relieved to see it safely up in the tree.

That’s by way of a new year aside. I’ve chosen another hollow-nesting bird as the subject of this posting, the Eurasian Three-toed Woodpecker from the trip to Slovakia last June. Those of you who have been on the list for a while probably know that Woodpeckers are among my favourite birds, even though or perhaps because I’ve most lived in Woodpecker-deprived countries – Ireland and then Australia, though eastern Ireland has recently been colonised successfully by the Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Woodpeckers were among my target birds in Slovakia. Although we saw several species, the only one that I got good photos of was this one. A very closely related three-toed woodpecker also occurs in North America. There is disagreement as to whether they should be treated as the same or separate species, so it’s qualified here with ‘Eurasian’. The nesting hollow was close to the ground so I was able to set up the camera and tripod at a convenient distance (see second last photo) and wait for the adults to visit carrying food.

The males are distinguishable by having some yellow streaks on the crown. The yellow varies in intensity and was very pale in this male – first of the Woodpecker photos. He made only one visit during the hour or so I was there, so the female either did most of the work or had more success in finding food. This species is supposedly shy, but this pair didn’t take much notice of me, though the female sometimes perched on a tree closer to the camera and looked in my direction (photo directly above).

A little later, our guides found an active hollow of a Great Spotted Woodpecker with noisy young nearby. These adults were much shyer and wouldn’t approach the nest while I was in the vicinity, so I left them in peace after a little while. Unlike Dollarbirds, Woodpeckers can’t rely on termites to do all the work of burrowing for them and have to do it themselves. You can see on these photos that there were a few false starts chipping through the bark. Eurasian Three-toed Woodpeckers usually nest in Spruce.

pic-pici-eurasian-three-toed-woodpecker-picoides-dorsalis-by-ian-5

I was pleased with the photos that I got of the Slovakian Three-toed Woodpeckers. It was only later that I found that I had already photographed another nesting site in Finland, four years before (last photo). On this photo you can see that the bird has only three toes. All – I believe – other Woodpeckers have four toes and usually cling onto trees with two toes pointing forwards and two braced backwards. I find it hard to imagine what competitive advantage there would lead to the three-toed losing one of its toes.

Greetings
Ian


Lee’s Addition:

“…that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil!” (Habakkuk 2:9b KJV)

What an interesting Woodpecker and what a distance that camera is from the little avian wonder. Wow!

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More of Ian’s Bird of the Week articles:

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Crimson Finch

Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton) by Ian

Crimson Finch featured as bird of the week a little over eight years ago, but I’ve decided to have it again as a pair appeared in my backyard several weeks ago, the first time I’ve seen any in Bluewater.

Shortly earlier, I’d seen what looked like a female Satin Flycatcher having a splash in the pool. Satin Flycatchers are rare in North Queensland, though they do show up sometimes on migration. This one didn’t hang around for a photo while I got the camera, so I headed off around the property looking for it. Female Satin Flycatchers are notorious difficult to separate from their slightly duller cousins, female Leaden Flycatchers, so a photograph is essential not only for identification but also to convince anyone else.

Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton) Female by Ian

I didn’t find the Flycatcher, but I found the Crimson Finches, male in the first photo and female in the second, feeding on some unseasonable Guinea Grass. We’ve had an odd dry season with not much but sufficient rain at intervals to confuse some of the local plants – Guinea Grass usually seeds here at the end of the wet season (April). In North Queensland, Crimson Finches are usually found in dense grassland near wetlands, and these two were only about 50m from Bluewater Creek, which was still running at the time.

Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton) Fledgling by Ian

A couple of weeks later I photographed this very young Crimson Finch at the Townsville Town Common. When I approached, it was being fed by an adult male, who flew off leaving the young bird to its fate. You can see the very pale gape, typical of very young birds. Young Crimson Finches just have a reddish flush in the wings and tail.

Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton) Male by Ian

A few days after seeing the pair of Crimson Finches in the backyard, a male Crimson Finch obligingly appeared beside the pool when I was having a swim. I thought the plumage was more intensely coloured and with strong white spots on the flanks than the male member of the earlier pair – more like the one in the fourth photo. I wondered whether they were different individuals, with the first one being younger than the second. The one in the fourth photo was taken on a trip to the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia in 2009.

Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton) X Star Hybrid by Ian

On that same trip, I photographed this odd-looking individual at Kununurra. We decided that it was a hybrid between a Crimson Finch and a Star Finch, both of which were present at the time and both of which belong to the same genus, Neochmia, which includes two other Australian species: Red-browed and Plum-headed Finches.

I don’t really keep a yard list as such. If I did, the day I found the Crimson Finches would have been notable. Apart from the possible Satin Flycatcher, later that afternoon I flushed a female King Quail. This time I was armed not with the camera but a brush cutter as part of the fire season preparations.

Several weeks later I had the rest of the long grass cut by a man with a tractor. After he had finished, I went down to inspect the result and spotted a Blue-winged Kookaburra pouncing on something in the cut grass. This proved to be the King Quail, which flew off a high speed pursued by the Kookaburra. The Quail landed safely in some long grass and the Kookaburra perched in a nearby tree. If you ever tried to flush a quail a second time, you’ll know how elusive they are on the ground, so I hope the Kookaburra didn’t have quail for lunch.

Greetings
Ian
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His other birds mentioned:

Star Finch (Neochmia ruficauda) by Ian

Star Finch (Neochmia ruficauda) by Ian

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Red-browed Finch (Neochmia temporalis) by Ian

Red-browed Finch (Neochmia temporalis) by Ian

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Plum-headed Finch (Neochmia modesta) by Ian males

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Lee’s Addition:

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18 KJV)

I decided to put a photo of the three other finches mentioned in Ian’s newsletter. They all seem so colorful for a nice Christmas Eve day. Thanks, Ian, for sharing your photos with us and for a Christmas photo present. Trust you eyes are improving. We miss your newsletters.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Crimson Finch

pas-estr-crimson-finch-neochmia-phaeton-by-ian-1Ian’s Bird of the Week – Crimson Finch ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 11/10/16

Crimson Finch featured as bird of the week a little over eight years ago, but I’ve decided to have it again as a pair appeared in my backyard several weeks ago, the first time I’ve seen any in Bluewater.

Shortly earlier, I’d seen what looked like a female Satin Flycatcher having a splash in the pool. Satin Flycatchers are rare in North Queensland, though they do show up sometimes on migration. This one didn’t hang around for a photo while I got the camera, so I headed off around the property looking for it. Female Satin Flycatchers are notorious difficult to separate from their slightly duller cousins, female Leaden Flycatchers, so a photograph is essential not only for identification but also to convince anyone else.

Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton) Female by Ian

I didn’t find the Flycatcher, but I found the Crimson Finches, male in the first photo and female in the second, feeding on some unseasonable Guinea Grass. We’ve had an odd dry season with not much but sufficient rain at intervals to confuse some of the local plants – Guinea Grass usually seeds here at the end of the wet season (April). In North Queensland, Crimson Finches are usually found in dense grassland near wetlands, and these two were only about 50m from Bluewater Creek, which was still running at the time.

Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton) Fledgling by Ian

A couple of weeks later I photographed this very young Crimson Finch at the Townsville Town Common. When I approached, it was being fed by an adult male, who flew off leaving the young bird to its fate. You can see the very pale gape, typical of very young birds. Young Crimson Finches just have a reddish flush in the wings and tail.

Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton) Male by Ian

A few days after seeing the pair of Crimson Finches in the backyard, a male Crimson Finch obligingly appeared beside the pool when I was having a swim. I thought the plumage was more intensely coloured and with strong white spots on the flanks than the male member of the earlier pair – more like the one in the fourth photo. I wondered whether they were different individuals, with the first one being younger than the second. The one in the fourth photo was taken on a trip to the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia in 2009.

Crimson Finch (Neochmia phaeton) X Star Hybrid by Ian

On that same trip, I photographed this odd-looking individual at Kununurra. We decided that it was a hybrid between a Crimson Finch and a Star Finch, both of which were present at the time and both of which belong to the same genus, Neochmia, which includes two other Australian species: Red-browed and Plum-headed Finches.

I don’t really keep a yard list as such. If I did, the day I found the Crimson Finches would have been notable. Apart from the possible Satin Flycatcher, later that afternoon I flushed a female King Quail. This time I was armed not with the camera but a brush cutter as part of the fire season preparations.

Several weeks later I had the rest of the long grass cut by a man with a tractor. After he had finished, I went down to inspect the result and spotted a Blue-winged Kookaburra pouncing on something in the cut grass. This proved to be the King Quail, which flew off at high speed pursued by the Kookaburra. The Quail landed safely in some long grass and the Kookaburra perched in a nearby tree. If you ever tried to flush a quail a second time, you’ll know how elusive they are on the ground, so I hope the Kookaburra didn’t have quail for lunch.

Greetings
Ian


Lee’s Addition:

“Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.” (Mat 13:32 KJV)

Thanks again, Ian for another beautiful avian wonder for us to enjoy. That hybrid is quite interesting also. We have seen the Star Finch before, but this is an interesting mix. Also, glad you are putting these Birds of the Week out again.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s Birdway Finch photos

Estrildidae – Waxbills, Munias and allies

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Masked Booby

Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 10/14/16

Masked Booby was bird of the week in May 2011, but here it is again to acknowledge the recent use of one of my photos in an Australian, or more specifically, Norfolk Island, stamp.

Here is the original photo taken on Philip Island just off Norfolk Island in 2012. The differences between the sexes in Masked Boobies are subtle, with the main difference being in the colour of the bill: yellower in males than in females which have a bluish tint to the bill.

Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) by Ian

Here is another male Booby from the 2011 bird of the week, taken on an island in the Coral Sea east of Townsville. Note the difference in the colour of the eye. Masked Boobies generally have yellow irises, but those breeding on Norfolk Island, Lord Howe Island and Kermadec Island (off New Zealand) have dark brown irises and are sufficiently different in other less obvious respects to be treated as a separate race, sometimes known as the Tasman Booby (Sula dactylatra tasmani).

Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) by Ian

The next photo shows an adult female Masked Booby on Norfolk Island itself. Here you can see another difference characteristic of the tasmani subspecies: the legs and feet are khaki (those of the race personata found in the Coral Sea, off Western Australia and elsewhere across the Pacific have dark, almost black legs and feet.

Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) Female by Ian

Here is a juvenile at the same site on Norfolk Island as the female bird. The juveniles are somewhat similar in appearance to adult Brown Boobies and the best distinguishing field mark is the complete white collar of the juvenile Masked Booby. In Brown Boobies the brown of the head and neck is contiguous with the brown of the back and, in front, extends as far down as level with the wings and is sharply demarcated from the white breast.

Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) Juvenile by Ian

Here is another photo of a juvenile Masked Booby, this time in flight and at Lord Howe Island, the other Australian breeding colony of the Tasman subspecies. The white collar is clear visible in flight too, as is the extensive amount of white on the breast.

Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra) Juvenile by Ian

Masked Boobies breed on isolated islands throughout the tropics and sub-tropics. As well as occurring across the Pacific, they breed in the eastern and western Indian Ocean, the Red Sea and in the western and central Atlantic. The adults normally stay close to the breeding colonies, though young birds and some adults do range farther afield. So, they do occur occasional along the coast of mainland Australia.

The largest colony is found on an uninhabited coral cay called Clipperton Island or Ile de al Passion – it’s a French territory – off the coast of Mexico, with a population of perhaps 100,000 birds.

It was visited in 1958 by an American ornithologist called Kenneth Stager who was shocked to find that feral pigs had reduced the population of Masked Boobies to a mere 150 birds. Being an old-fashioned ornithologist, he had a gun with him to collect specimens so he singlehandedly shot all of the pigs, 58 in number, restoring the cay to to its pre-human state.

Other animals to benefit were the local red crabs and other nesting seabirds. It has the second largest colony of Brown Boobies and one of the relatively few colonies of the eastern Pacific Nazca Booby, very similar in appearance to the Masked, but better known on the Galapagos island and Isla de al Plata off the coast of Ecuador.

Ian Montgomery – Birdway – Photos


Lee’s Addition:

It has been well over a month since Ian produced one of his articles for us to enjoy. I wrote to Ian to see if he was okay, and here is part of his response. I trust he doesn’t mind, but this will help us think about and pray for his recovery.

“I did have problems with the second cataract operation as an interruption to the blood supply to the retina caused some loss of sight to the central part of the field of view – cloudiness, blurriness and lack of colour vision. Naturally that was a bit of a shock and for a while it made me reluctant to do anything which made me more conscious of it, particularly photography and working with images on the computer.

Anyway, the eye is gradually improving, though whether it will recover completely over the next six months or so is uncertain. Your email prompted me to stop vacillating about the bird of the week and get me into action, so thank you for that.”

More Ian’s Bird of the Week articles
Ian’s Bird of the Week – Long-tailed and White-winged Trillers – previous one
Gideon
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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Long-tailed and White-winged Trillers

White-winged Triller (Lalage tricolor) Breeding Male by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Long-tailed and White-winged Trillers ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 9/5/16

Here is a comparison of a New Caledonian species with a related Australian one in order to unsubtly bring to your attention a talk I’m giving on New Caledonian birds to Birding NSW this coming Tuesday 6th September at 7:30pm in Sydney. It’s in the Mitchell Theatre of the Sydney Mechanics School of Arts, Level 1, 280 Pitt Street between Park and Bathurst. The talk is entitled “Birds of New Caledonia: from strangely familiar to very strange” and arises from a visit to New Caledonia last year.

Many of the very strange birds featured as Birds of the Week in the second half of 2015, so here is a species familiar to Australian birders, the White-winged Triller and a rather similar one that occurs in New Caledonia, the Long-tailed Triller. Trillers are small relatives of the Cuckooshrikes and both groups are members of the Oriental-Australasian family the Campephagidae (“caterpillar gluttons”).

The White-winged is the more widespread of the two Australian Trillers, occurring throughout Australia. It is a summer breeding visitor to southern Australia and Tasmania, but present all year in northern Australia. Some of the migrants end up in southern New Guinea in the southern winter and vagrants have turned up in Lord Howe Island and New Zealand. Breeding males are black, grey and white (first photo) with black heads down as far as just below the eye, while females are brown and white with a buff supercilium (eyebrow) as in the second photo.

White-winged Triller (Lalage tricolor) Female by Ian

Non-breeding adult males (third photo) have an ‘eclipse’ plumage which looks more like the brown female including the pale supercilium but retaining the black flight feathers on the wings. Juveniles look fairly like the brown females but young males are intermediate between the juveniles and the eclipse males. This variability is a challenge for taxonomists, particular as there are close related populations in Indonesia and the Philippines which differ mainly in the amount of white on the wings in adult males and may or not be different species (White-shouldered and Pied Trillers respectively).

White-winged Triller (Lalage tricolor) Eclipse Male by Ian

In New Caledonia, there is one resident and quite common species, the Long-tailed Triller, which also occurs in Vanuatu and the southern Solomons. This species is about the same size as the White-winged Triller (17cm/7in) and the males differ from it in the amount of white on the wings, though individuals are variable. Females are similar, but have slightly brownish upperparts and buff on the white wing patches. I identified the one on the main island (Grande Terre) in the fourth photo as a male and the one on Ouvea in the fifth as a female, but now I’m not sure, particularly as these are of two different races and the field guides and handbooks are not very enlightening.

Long-tailed Triller (Lalage leucopyga) by Ian

Incidentally, the Long-tailed Triller was first described from Norfolk Island where it, the nominate race, is now extinct. Does that make it an Australian Triller?

Long-tailed Triller (Lalage leucopyga) Female by Ian

This all got a bit more involved than I’d intended. I had just wanted to illustrate similarities between Australian and New Caledonian birds, something I found very interesting. In case it leaves you cold and I’ve put you off coming to the talk, here is a reminded of the legendary Kagu which was our main target and should be on every birder’s bucket list. This is at the opposite end of the scale of taxonomic divergence, is the sole member of its family and shares its order with only one other species from South and Central America, the Sunbittern. Now that’s a challenge for evolutionary taxonomists and biogeographers!

Kagu by Ian

If you are at the meeting in Sydney next Tuesday, I’ll look forward to meeting you.

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:

Wow! Some more neat birds from their creator for you to show us. Thanks, Ian.

Ian’s Birds of the Week

Campephagidae Family Photos by Ian

Campephagidae – Cuckooshrikes Here

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Red Kite

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Red Kite ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 8/18/2016

Definitely bird of the month at the moment, I regret. Recently one of my cataracts worsened quickly, making it difficult to observe birds, take and edit photos: very discouraging to say the least. Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, I had the offending lens replaced ten days ago, resulting in a spectacular improvement in my eye sight. Now I’m looking forward to getting the other one done this coming Monday.

The Red Kite, like the Common Buzzard in the last edition of bird of the week, is another good news story in the recent history of raptors in Ireland. This time its recovery is a result of a successful reintroduction, rather than natural recolonisation with parallel reintroductions by the Irish Golden Eagle Trust in Co. Wicklow south of Dublin and by the RSPB in Co. Down south of Belfast, starting in 2007 and 2008 respectively. Introduced pairs nested successfully in both counties in 2010, and Irish-born Red Kites nested successfully in these counties in 2012 and 2013. In 2014, there were 16 pairs in Co. Down and in 2015 there were 47 pairs in Co. Wicklow, 2 pairs in Co. Wexford and 4 pairs in Dublin-Meath so the population seems to be thriving despite some deaths from rodenticides – Red Kites are partial to carrion.

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) by Ian

I had photographed Red Kites in Spain and Andorra in 2007 and 2014 (first photo), but I was keen to see them in Ireland too. The best place to see them in Co. Wicklow is in Avoca, where there is a winter roost which contained more than 60 birds in the 2015-2016 winter. I went there with my cousin Jean in June and after a distant view of a bird hunting along the Avoca River, she took me to another (secret) location where she had seen a pair of birds in March. Sure enough the birds were still there and nesting in a pine tree.

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) by Ian

We were of course anxious not to disturb the pair, so we parked at some distance from the nest and observed it from the car. So I make no apologies for the distance at which photos 2,3 and 4 were taken. No. 2 shows an adult bird flying towards the nest carrying food. No. 3 shows the same bird on the right of the nest being watched by two nestlings on the left. One of the nestlings looks nearly fledged while the second is less well-developed and still has downy white feathers. No. 4 shows the adult flying away from the nest still carrying the food, watched by the nestlings. The colour of the adult matches that of the tree but the blue wing tags give its location away.

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) by Ian

We wondered whether the adult was wary of us sitting in the car but it returned to the nest two minutes later and we drove away leaving them all in peace. By this time it was late evening so we drove back to Avoca village to see whether any non-breeding birds were using the roost. We parked in the car park opposite the church on the main street and were treated to several kites – and a Common Buzzard – circling over the town.. The one in the last photo flew right over our heads in the car park. You can see the wing tags on this one too.

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) by Ian

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) by Ian

Congratulations to both the Golden Eagle Trust and the RSPB on their wonderful work.

Greetings,
Ian


Lee’s Addition:

And the vulture, and the kite after his kind; (Leviticus 11:14 KJV)

I had begun to wonder where Ian had disappeared to. Concerned he may have been sick or hurt. Now we know. Thanks, Ian, for telling us about your cataract problem. Been there, done that. What a difference it makes when they put the lens implant in. Like you, I need one more, but mine isn’t “ripe” yet, as they tell me.

What a beautiful Kite. That last photo is my favorite!

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian Montgomery’s Birdway

Ian’s Birdway Kite’s

Accipitridae – Kites, Hawks and Eagles

Gideon

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Common Buzzard

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Common  Buzzard

~ By Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 7/09/16

More like bird of the month at the moment, I regret. Slovakia is famous for its raptors so they, along with owls and woodpeckers, were my primary target there with my sister Gillian in June. We did get to see the most interesting ones: Eastern Imperial Eagle, Golden Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, and Saker and Peregrine Falcon, but they were very shy and I had little success with their photography. I suspect it was because deer hunting is popular there – we saw many hides used by hunters – but perhaps also because it was the breeding season.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) by Ian

Ironically, I had more luck with raptors when we returned to Ireland. When I was a teenager there in the 1960s, Ireland was probably one of the worst countries in the world for raptors. All the larger and mid-size ones (Eagles, Buzzards, Harriers, etc) had been exterminated in the 19th and early 20th century, and some of the smaller ones like Peregrines and Sparrowhawks were rare as result of widespread use of pesticides such as DDT, the Silent Spring phenomenon. So the Common Kestrel was the only species that one saw regularly.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) by Ian
Things have improved since as a result of the banning of the most persistent pesticides, the re-introduction of some species and natural recolonisation by one species. I’ll deal with a re-introduction next time, but here is the recoloniser, the Common Buzzard which became extinct in Ireland in 1891. It recolonised Rathlin Island on the far north coast of Ireland twice, once in the 1930s and again after it became extinct a second time as the result of the myxomitosis rabbit-killing epidemic in the 1950s. Rathlin Island is a mere 30km/20miles from the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland, no distance for able-bodied young Buzzards in search of a territory.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) by Ian

Rathlin Island is also about as far as you can get in Northern Ireland from the Irish Republic, where strychnine was legally used to poison ‘pests’ by sheep farmers until it was outlawed in 1991. Far be it from me to jump to conclusions, but it seems a huge coincidence that the subsequent spread of the Common Buzzard to almost the whole of Ireland didn’t start until the 1990s and continues to this day. I saw my first Irish one in 1994 in Co. Louth just south of the border with Northern Ireland. Since then, its range extension has been spectacular. It is now, if not the commonest, certainly the easiest raptor to see in Ireland either soaring over fields or perched on light poles near Motorways. In 2015 it bred in at least 18 of the 32 counties. It is still uncommon in the west of Ireland, west of a line from about Sligo to Cork, though I did see one in Bantry, West Cork on this trip.

The bird in the photos did, unlike its Slovakian counterparts, an obliging fly-past when we visited the RSPB reserve at Portmore Lough. This was on the day after our return to Ireland, when we were staying with cousins at nearby rural Ballinderry in Northern Ireland. Portmore Lough, better known for its wildfowl and nesting Common Terns and Black-headed Gulls (they nest on the floating platform provided for their benefit, just visible behind the reeds in the photo), is an interesting place in its own right. It’s a shallow, almost circular lake perhaps 2km across and about the same distance from Lough Neagh, the largest lake in Ireland. Rumour has it that it was formed by an air-burst meteor or a meteorite about 1500 years ago.

Hunting Castle

Actually, the real reason for my trip to Europe was not raptors or Slovakia but the marriage of my sister Gillian’s son Ian at Huntington Castle in Co. Carlow to his fiancée Sinéad. Huntington Castle was ‘rebuilt’ in 1625, captured by Oliver Cromwell in 1650. It is, presumably, the subject of an ancient tune by the same name (I have a copy of a Scottish version dating from 1795) that I knew already from as a duet that we play on recorders in Townsville. The photo shows me playing it on a tenor recorder during the signing of the register and being watched very intently by my one year old great-nephew Loïc sitting on the lap of his mother Jeannine, one of nephew Ian’s two sisters. His other sister Elyena took the photo and my sister Gillian is holding the sheet music in the form of my iPad, a great family occasion.

What has Huntington Castle to do with Buzzards? Well, just as the celebrant was starting the ceremony and saying that the wedding date was the sixth anniversary of the couple’s meeting, a pair of Common Buzzards circled very deliberately just overhead. I, naturally, took that as a sign of a natural blessing on the wedding and like to think of the pair of birds as a totem of the married couple. Birds are frequently totems in Aboriginal Culture and, as I write, it is currently NAIDOC week in Australia, a time to celebrate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, culture and achievements.

Greetings (from back home in North Queensland)
Ian


Lee’s Addition”

“And these you shall regard as an abomination among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, the vulture, the buzzard,” (Leviticus 11:13 NKJV)

Not exactly sure why Ian added the third picture twice in his newsletter, but I deleted it. If he later updates it, I’ll correct this one. Anyway, seems as if Ian has been having too much fun lately. As he said, his Bird of the “Week” is turning into the Bird of the “Month.” I totally understand, so, he is off the hook, as far as I’m concerned.

Nice article and glad you got to attend the wedding. Thanks for the photo of you playing your recorder. The Common Buzzards were of course great as usual.

Ian’s Bird of the Week Newsletters

Ian’s Birdway Site

Accipitridae – Kites, Hawks and Eagles Family

Wordless Birds

Ian’s Bird of the Week – European Bee-eater

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – European Bee-eater by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 6/11/16

I met my sister Gilian in Vienna where we spent a couple of days before going by boat along the Danube to Bratislava, just across the border with Slovakia. We arranged to spend three days with birding guides with my targets being to photograph raptors, owls and woodpecker. We went on the first day to this large European Bee-eater colony just outside Bratislava.

The colony was in a sandy cliff at a site near Devin Castle which sits in a strategic location at the confluence of the Danube and Morava Rivers, both of which form the border between Austria and Slovakia. I was able to sit at the edge of the cliff and photograph both birds perched in the shrubs below me and flying to and from their burrows in the cliff. European Bee-eaters are vocal and make a soft trilling call similar to their close Australian relatives, the Rainbow Bee-eater and it was very pleasant watching and listening to them.

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) by Ian

“European” is a bit of a mis-nomer as they are migrants from sub-Saharan Africa and breed across the warmer parts of Eurasia from North Africa, through Europe to central Asia. Since the nineteenth century some have stayed behind to breed in South Africa, which they do in the southern summer and then move farther north in Africa in the southern autumn at the same time as their Eurasian counterparts are moving north to breed in the northern hemisphere. South African populations have declined in recent years so this situation may not last.

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) by Ian

Bees do make up a large part of their diet, though they will eat many other insects as well. After catching a bee, a bee-eater will take it back to a perch where it bangs the head of the unfortunate insect on the branch and then rubs its tail on the branch to get rid of the sting. If you look carefully at the photo below you will see that a lucky bee has just used up one of its nine lives, that is if they have that many like cats.

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) by Ian

The photo below shows both the bee-eater colony and in the distance Devin Castle on a 200m/600ft high rock. There are bee-eater burrows both in the bank on the left and in the bottom right of the photo.

European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) Bee-eater Colony near Devin Castle Slovakia by Ian

Devin Castle has a very interesting history and you can read about it here Devín Castle. The same site is an important one for fossils as well and our birding guide showed us some rocks that had mollusc fossils in it that looked like scallops.

I’m on a Dublin bus at the moment going to visit my niece. Thanks to the miracles of modern communication and the Irish SIM card in my mobile I can send this to you from my laptop.

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:

“Now for the house of my God I have prepared with all my might: gold for things to be made of gold, silver for things of silver, bronze for things of bronze, iron for things of iron, wood for things of wood, onyx stones, stones to be set, glistening stones of various colors, all kinds of precious stones, and marble slabs in abundance.” (1 Chronicles 29:2 NKJV) (emphasis mine)

I love those beautiful Bee-eaters and this European is just a colorful as the rest of them. I am glad that when the Lord created these avian beauties, He chose to give them such beautiful colors. Oh, what heaven must look like!

Thanks again, Ian, for sharing some more beautiful birds with us. Safe travels and great birding.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s Bee-eater Family Photos

Meropidae – Bee-eater Family

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Red-wattled Lapwing

Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Red-wattled Lapwing ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 4/19/16

While we’re on the subject of Lapwings, here is a rather smart Asian one, the Red-wattled Lapwing, which bears more than a passing resemblance to its close relative the Banded Lapwing of Australia. The Banded Lapwing differs in having a yellow eye-ring and yellow base to the bill, pink legs, and the black and white pattern on the head and neck is different too.

It’s usually found near water, like this one on the Yamuna River which flows through Delhi but is otherwise fairly catholic in its habitat preferences, which include cultivated land and it is quite common in some densely populated areas. Both House Crows and humans like its eggs but in India it has taken to nesting on pebbled roofs and walls instead of on the ground. This probably doesn’t inconvenience the crows too much, but studies have shows that this leads to a spectacular increase in hatching and fledging success. Like all plovers, the chicks are mobile at an early age but don’t fly till much later, so you’d wonder how well they fare running around on rooftops. Maybe they bounce well.

Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus) by Ian

It was originally described from Indian specimens, hence the specific name indicus. In fact it ranges quite widely from Turkey in the west through the southern part of the Middle East to all of southern and southeast Asia. The original type found in India is the nominate race, but three other sub-species are described. I came across the western race aigneri in Dubai a couple of years ago, third photo, when visiting an equestrian park where the main attraction was – no not horses – the Cream-coloured Courser This race has larger and paler than the Indian one, but otherwise rather similar. There is a third race in Sri Lanka and a fourth in southeast Asia which has a white cheek above a completely black collar and is also called the Black-necked Lapwing.

Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus aigneri) Western Race by Ian

The fourth photo shows a juvenile bird of the western race at the same place. The red wattle is incompletely developed, the crown is brownish and there are pale streaks on the throat. Otherwise, it is quite like the adult.

Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus aigneri) Western Race by Ian

Many thanks for those of you who responded to my successful call for house-sitters. I’m sorry to have disappointed some suitable applicants, but I’ll keep you in mind for future opportunities.

Greetings
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818

el 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:

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

What a great looking bird. I like the clean lines on them and the stately look of that first photo especially. Thanks, Ian, for sharing this beautiful Lapwing with us.

Lapwings are one of the birds in the Bible listed not to eat. These are too pretty and their legs are too skinny. :)

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Birds of the Bible – Lapwing

Bats

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Masked Lapwing

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

Newsletter – 4/5/16

This is a seriously overdue bird of the week, so I offer you my apologies. The reason or excuse, and the good news, is that I was working hard to complete the conversion of the birdway website to make it ‘mobile friendly’ and that is now finished. I’ve converted more than 1,600 galleries of birds and other wildlife and all the navigational pages, such as family thumbnails. Naturally I’ve thought up other improvements such as a top-level page of wildlife thumbnails but I’m taking a rest from the website to play catch-up with other effortlessly side-lined tasks such as 2015 tax returns :-).<

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) by Ian 1

The last bird of the week was the elegant and dignified Northern Lapwing, one of the birds that got me interested in birding more than 50 years ago. This week we have its loud and arrogant Australian cousin, the Masked Lapwing. Just in case you think I’m making an offensive comparison, I hasten to add that the other Australian Lapwing – and the only truly indigenous one – the Banded Lapwing is shy, dignified and attractive, which is probably why I’ve previously chosen it rather than the Masked Lapwing as bird of the week. It is, however, much rarer but I’ll let you draw your own conclusions from that.

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) by Ian 2

The Masked Lapwing comes in two forms, sufficiently different to cause taxonomists chronic and persisting migraines. The northern variety, the ‘Masked Lapwing/Plover’ in the strict sense, shown in the first photo has a huge yellow wattle and a black cap that tapers to a point on the nape, while the southern ‘Spur-winged Lapwing/Plover’, second photo has a wattle that is much smaller (posteriorly) and shorter (ventrally) and a larger black cap which extends as an incomplete black collar draped over the shoulders. There are other difference: the northern one is paler, smaller and shorter-winged but has a larger bill. Consequently, taxonomists disagree as to whether we’re dealing with one or two species.

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) by Ian 3

The IOC, which I’m following here, treats them as a single species, the northern one being the nominate race Vanellus miles (miles) and the southern being the sub-species V. miles novaehollandiae. The New Holland tag refers to its original entirely mainland Australian range from Central Queensland south to Victoria and east to South Australia, while the nominate race occurs in northern Australia, New Guinea, eastern Indonesia and Christmas Island. BirdLife International treats them as different species, with the southern form being given full specific status Vanellus novaehollandiae. Unfortunately the name Spur-winged Lapwing is already used for an African species V. spinosus, so Birdlife International calls the Australian one the ‘Black-shouldered Lapwing’, a name largely unused in Australia.

The problem with treating them as different species is that the two form hybridise over a broad zone from Far North to Central Queensland – Cairns to Mackay – a particular obstacle to identification in Townsville, more or less in the middle. The bird in the third photo is a typical Townsville one with a somewhat intermediate, largish wattle and black smudges both below the main cap and on the shoulders. It’s fairly like the pure northern variety found in Cairns, but I’m more comfortable treating it as hybrid miles x novaehollandiae and regarding them as a single species.

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) by Ian 4

The fourth photo shows another Townsville bird cooling off in a dam in a paddock. It’s also displaying the impressive carpal spurs on the wings, possessed by both the Masked and Spur-winged varieties. The Spur-winged race has dark tips on both the spurs and the bill. The spurs are used as weapons and the birds are very aggressive when nesting and the spurs are used both on the ground and in flight (below), with the parents dive-bombing intruders in spectacular fashion. The specific name miles mean ‘soldier’ in Latin. They’re noisy birds too, and not just when nesting. Their sharp, grating ‘kekekekeke’ or shrill repeated ‘kek’ calls are a familiar sound throughout their range, day and night.

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) by Ian 5

The ‘nest’ is just a scrape in the ground in short grass often near water and often in very vulnerable locations such as roadsides, parks, paddocks, gardens and airfields. They usually lay 3 or 4 large eggs and will re-lay if the clutch is lost to predation, mowing or being stepped on. Typical predators include birds such as Butcherbirds and reptiles such as Goannas (Monitor lizards).

Despite heavy losses, Masked Lapwings would appear to have benefitted from clearing of land following European settlement. In the past two hundred years, their range has expanded in Australia, and the southern race has become well established in Tasmania and colonised New Zealand, Lord Howe Island and, recently, New Caledonia, where it has bred since 1998. This is despite the fact that it relatively sedentary in Australia, although an altitudinal migrant in the Snowy Mountains.

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) eggs by Ian 6

As in all plovers, the eggs are large so the hatchlings are well developed and mobile at a very early age, below, after incubation by both parents for 28-30 days. They can also swim when very young. Until they fledge after 5-7 weeks, they remain very vulnerable to predation, relying on camouflage and their parents for survival.

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) Chicks by Ian 7

Below is an older youngster showing the barred plumage and an already developing wattle. They start feeding themselves from a very early age but remain dependent on the parents for up to six months. The parents maintain the pair bond from one year to another and often return to the same site to nest.

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles x novaehollandiae) Immature by Ian 6

So there you have it: noisy, aggressive and successful. Sounds like a very 21st century lifestyle to me.

Incidentally, because all the new web pages use embedded scripts to load common code such as headers, their file names end in ‘.php’ instead of ‘.htm’. If you use bookmarks to access the website, you’ll automatically get redirected to the correct file or, in the case of individual photo pages, to the first photo page in the gallery. You may care to update the bookmarks either by replacing them (easier) or, for the technically inclined, editing them to replace the ‘htm’ with ‘php’. If you do, the pages should load faster.

Greetings

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

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:

Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. (2 Timothy 2:3 KJV)

Thanks again, Ian. What a coincidence, we were at the Lowry Park Zoo today and guess what a took a picture of? A Masked Lapwing.

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) by Lee at LPZ

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles) by Lee at LPZ

It was nice being out birdwatching again after having been home-bound with bronchitis. Thanks for all your prayers for my recovery. Even the back was better today. Praise the Lord.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s Birdway

Ian’s Banded Lapwing

Wordless Toucan

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