Ian’s Bird of the Week – Oriental Pratincole

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Oriental Pratincole ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 11/12/156

This post is a bit late, so you get two species by way of amends!

I was at the opening of an excellent exhibition of North Queensland ‘breeding birds and their dream homes’ called Nestled at the Museum of Tropical Queensland in Townsville on Tuesday and got talking to one of the local members of BirdLife Townsville about the bird of the week. He requested something unusual of local interest that might occur here at this time of the year and mentioned Oriental Cuckoo and Oriental Plover. Oriental Cuckoo was bird of the week in December 2007 and I don’t have any good photos of Oriental Plover. I’ve only ever seen it in airports (Lockhart River and Norfolk Island) and I’ve never risked the wrath of airport security to get close to the birds. So the best I could come up with, Bill, is Oriental Pratincole photographed at the Townsville Town Common where a flock appeared nine years ago. I can’t get more local than that!

Oriental Pratincole (Glareola maldivarum) by Ian
Oriental Pratincoles breed in Asia with a patchy distribution from India to eastern Siberia, Mongolia and NE China. In the northern winter they migrate to Indonesia, Malaysia, New Guinea and northern Australia with perhaps 50,000 reaching our shores. They are late migrants arriving in the Top End of the Northern Territory during the build-up to the wet season (November) and their main Australian range is from the Gulf of Carpentaria in NW Queensland west to the north coast of Western Australia. They show a preference for dry inland plains with available water and feed mainly on insects such as grasshoppers. 2006 was, like this one, a very dry year in Townsville and these photos were taken on the dry bed of one of the wildlife observation ‘wetlands’ at the Common. They also turn up sometimes on the Atherton Tableland.

Oriental Pratincole (Glareola maldivarum) by Ian

Pratincoles are unusual birds somewhere between plovers and terns in appearance and morphology. They belong to a small family, the Glareolidae, which consists of 8 species of pratincoles in Eurasia, Africa and Australia and 9 species of mainly African Coursers. The odd name pratincole means ‘inhabitant of meadows’ with the ‘prat’ bit having the same root as ‘pratensis’ in the European Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis). The family name comes from the Latin for gravel, and that’s actually closer to the mark when it comes to preferred habitat.

Oriental Pratincole (Glareola maldivarum) by Ian

The Oriental Pratincole is distinguishable from the Australian Pratincole by its dumpier, shorter-tailed appearance, greyish-olive rather than buffish-brown plumage and by a black margin to the throat giving the appearance of a necklace. The Oriental Pratincole is normally in non-breeding plumage when in Australia, but both species have black-tipped bills with red bases when breeding. The Australian Pratincole has chestnut flanks and belly when breeding and the dark flanks are retained in non-breeding plumage.

AustralianPratincole (Stiltia isabella) by Ian

Pratincoles look very tern-like in flight with their long pointed wings. Both the local species have white rumps and black-tipped tails, but the tail of the Australian Pratincole is square, while that of the Oriental is forked.

Oriental Pratincole (Glareola maldivarum) by Ian

If you belonged to the bird of the week club a year ago, you may remember that the Cream-coloured Courser was, after the Crab Plover was my second most wanted bird in Dubai. Courser means ‘runner’, something they do very well and it was very appropriate to find them at the Polo Club and at the Al Asifa Endurance Stables. Incidentally, the bird of the week club currently has 981 members and you know I like milestones. Please encourage your friends to join so we can reach 1,000 either by signing up on the bird of the week page (recently redesigned for mobile devices) or by emailing me at ian@birdway.com.au.

Cream-colored Courser (Cursorius cursor) by Ian

Cream-colored Courser (Cursorius cursor) by Ian

Christmas is looming ever closer, so this wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory commercial. What do you give to the digitally-competent birder or nature-lover who has everything? An electronic book of course and both Apple and Kobo have facilities in their ebook stores for giving gifts. I’ve included a Giving Gifts section on the Publications page with help on how these stores let you give gifts. Google has facilities only for giving the equivalent of a gift token and not specific items. These book images are linked to their web pages:

And don’t forget Nestled at the Museum of Tropical Queensland if you are in, near or visiting Townsville.

Where To Find Birds - Ian

Ian's Book 2

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:

Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, But afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel. (Proverbs 20:17 NKJV)

Thanks, Ian, for another interesting bird to introduce us to. Also glad you help distinguish several apart. Most of us that have never seen these birds could mix them up. Thanks for sharing these neat birds with us.

Now that Ian is a published writer, his book might well be a prized gift for yourself or others.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Glareolidae – Coursers, Pratincoles

Cream-coloured Courser ~ 9-27-14

Crab Plover ~ 9-22-14

Who Paints The Leaves?

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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.

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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 QueenslandiTunes; Google 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 – Black-winged Stilt

White-headed Stilt (Himantopus leucocephalus) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Black-winged Stilt ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 3/30/14

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A few weeks ago, I included a photo of the Black Stilt of New Zealand in a piece on Black-fronted Tern, so I was surprised to find out that no other stilt has ever featured as bird of the week. That’s a serious omission given the spectacular appearance of all the members of this family, the Avocets and Stilts, Recurvirostridae, so here are three variants of the almost global Black-winged Stilt, starting with the one we get in Australasia, often called the White-headed Stilt.

There is disagreement over whether the various version of the Black-winged Stilt are species or merely sub-species. Some taxonomists, none naturally from New Zealand, have even dared to suggest that the Black Stilt is a mere subspecies too, as it sometimes hybridises with the White-headed which colonised New Zealand in the 19th century. The tendency now is to settle on four closely related species, the Black Stilt (Himantopus novaezelandiae) the nominate Eurasian and African Black-winged (H. himantopus), the Australasian White-headed (H. leucocephalus) the American (North and South) Black-necked (H. mexicanus). As we’ll see shortly, the English names are almost as confusing as the taxonomy as they all have black wings, two have white faces and two have black necks.

White-headed Stilt (Himantopus leucocephalus) by Ian

As a teenager in Ireland in the 1960s, browsing my Peterson Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe – which I have in front of me at the moment – birds like Avocets and Stilts seemed unbelievably exotic. The iconic Pied Avocet was, and still is, the poster child of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds following its successful reestablishment as a breeding species in Britain. I saw Pied Avocets in the RSPB Reserve at Minsmere in Suffolk in 1965 and American Avocets in Wyoming in 1970, but it wasn’t until I arrived in Sydney in 1971 that I saw my first Stilt and was amazed to find how widespread and abundant the White-headed is. Almost too much, as these are noisy birds and almost as much of a nuisance as Common Redshanks are in Ireland when you’re trying to stalk shy waders.

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) by Ian

I eventually encountered the nominate Black-winged in Zimbabwe in 1992 and again in Portugal in 2007. The female (very little black on the head) one in the third photo is being very vocal and making it quite clear that I am very unwelcome. This time at least she had very good reason for being aggressive as it had four newly-hatched chicks close by, wandering around looking rather bewildered, fourth photo (the fourth chick was farther to the left). Male nominate race birds have more but varying degrees of black on the head and neck, adding to the general confusion.

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) by Ian

Finally, fifth photo, here is the American version, the Black-necked. It has a black cap joined fore and aft by a curved band through the eye leaving a white spot above the eye, creating a bullseye effect. It’s showing us why stilts have such long legs and that needle-sharp bill is perfect for delicately snatching small items of prey from the surface of the water.

Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus mexicanus) by Ian

There are photos of all the Stilts and Avocet, except the poorly known Andean Avocet, here: http://www.birdway.com.au/recurvirostridae/index.htm.

This is a slightly hurried bird of the week, as I’m leaving for Cairns later today. We’ve had a late end to the wet season after a dry false alarm earlier in the month and I want to take more location photos for the book Where to find Birds in Northeast Queensland now that the weather has improved.

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:

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly and swarm with living creatures, and let birds fly over the earth in the open expanse of the heavens. (Genesis 1:20 AMP)

All three of these “black-winged” Stilts are very pretty. I like the clean lines on them. Thanks, Ian, for sharing these with us.

Our American Black-necked Stilt, which I have had the privilege of seeing several times, has a neat white eye-brow. You can tell they all belong to the same family – the Recurvirostridae – Stilts, Avocets. This family has 10 in it and Ian has 8 species photographed on his site.

I am still amazed at the variety of birds the Lord has created.

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Ian’s Recurvirostridae – Stilts, Avocets Family

Recurvirostridae – Stilts, Avocets Family

Recurvirostridae – Wikipedia (They show only 9, but the White-backed Stilt is now a species)

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