Ian’s Bird of the Moment – Brahminy Kite

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) by Ian

Surprise, surprise – another bird of the moment at last. The Brahminy Kite last featured as bird of the week in August 2003. In those days you got a single photo and a short paragraph of text, so here is a more thorough treatment. This is one of my favourite Australian raptors and the adults are striking looking birds with their white and chestnut plumage. They’re a common sight along the coast here in North Queensland, and the bird in the first two photos was photographed at Toomulla Beach, about 40km northwest of Townsville and not far from where I live in Bluewater.

The hooked beak is like that of the White-bellied Sea-Eagle, so it’s no surprise that they are adapted to eating fish, for which they both hunt and scavenge and are usually found near water, mainly coastal but also along larger rivers. They have, however, very broad tastes and will eat any flesh that they can catch or find, both vertebrate and invertebrate. It’s not unusual to see them cruising main roads looking for road-kill. With a length of about 50cm/20in and a wingspan of 1.2m/47in , they’re much smaller than sea-eagles (80cm/31in and 1.8-2.2m/71-87in), but their preferred habitat and diet means that they’re are often called sea-eagles by the general population.

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) by Ian

The names “Brahminy” and Haliastur indus give a clue as to their geographical range, as they were first described in India. Their range extends from Pakistan in the west through south and southwest Asia to eastern China and Taiwan, and south through the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia to New Guinea and Australia. In Australia its range is mainly tropical from Carnarvon in Western Australia across northern Australia and down the east coast as far as about Myall Lakes in New South Wales, though it is uncommon south of Cape Byron. Its population in New South Wales contracted northwards owing to the use of persistent organochloride insecticides in the third quarter of the 20th century, but there is some evidence of recovery since then.

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) by Ian

Immature birds differ greatly in appearance from the adults, third photo, and are easily confused with other raptors such as, in Australia, pale phase Little Eagles or immature Black-breasted Buzzards. Immature birds are also rather similar to their only close relative the Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus), though Brahminy Kites have much shorter, rather eagle-like tails and shorter wings.Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) by Ian

You may remember that I visited Slovakia in June 2016 with my sister Gillian. The main birding target was eagles, but despite the best efforts of our guides we had only limited success with such species as Lesser Spotted Eagle Eastern Imperial Eagle and Golden Eagle, and the local raptors didn’t seem at all keen on having their photos taken. So, there was a certain irony when I returned to Bluewater and found that my excellent house minders, Julie and Ed, had discovered a pair of Brahminy Kites nesting in my neighbour’s property, about 100m from my house (fifth photo). The grass is greener, etc. etc.

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) by Ian

The birds attended the nest for about three months but disappointingly without success. The nest was high up, about 25m/80ft from the ground, so it wasn’t possible to see into it, so I don’t know what happened. Anyway, you can understand my delight when the birds returned again this year and restored the nest, sixth photo.

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) by Ian

At the beginning of last week I finally spotted a healthy looking chick. It survived the unseasonable heavy rain we had last week (150mm/6in in five days) so I set up the camera and tripod, table, chair and coffee near the house and watched them in comfort at an unobtrusive distance for most of Friday afternoon. Sure enough, both adults arrived with food. The first, seventh photo, produced a flying fox (fruit bat), a Black Flying-fox I think, and spent an hour carefully tearing off tiny strips of muscle and feeding to the chick.

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) by Ian

I was impressed with the gentle way the parent fed the youngster and itself. Eventually, the chick seemed satisfied, and lost interest in the meal. The adult bird slipped away as quietly as it had arrived – I didn’t see it leave – and I presume it took the remains of the fruit bat with it.

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) by Ian

Within half an hour, the other adult arrived with a frog, I think a Green Tree Frog (ninth photo). This adult has whiter plumage and a longer beak than its partner, so they are not hard to distinguish.

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) by Ian

The chick seemed satiated and not very interested, so the adult hungrily ate some of the frog itself and after a little while flew off taking the frog with it and went down to nearby Bluewater Creek.

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) by Ian

Brahminy Kites usually lay 2 or 3 eggs, and often only one chick survives to fledging. Incubation takes about 35 days, and fledging 7 to 8 weeks. The young birds remain dependent on the adults for a further two months. This chick is about half the length of the adults and is beginning to grow proper feathers, including flight feathers on the wings, though these currently appear as just short quills.

Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) by Ian

I can see the nest through the trees from my back verandah, so it is easy to check on it. I plan to photograph progress over the coming weeks. A furry mammal, probably road-kill, was on the menu today.

Greetings
Ian


Fantastic photos of the Brahminy Kite. It sure has been a while since Ian had a “Moment” to share another of his interesting post with us. Thanks, Ian. We always enjoy seeing and learning about your birds.

For more of Ian’s Bird of the Week – Moments

“And the vulture, and the kite after his kind;” (Leviticus 11:14 KJV)
“Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” (Genesis 1:20 NKJV)

Accipitridae – Kites, Hawks & Eagles Family

Birds of the Bible – Gledes and Kites

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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 – 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 – 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 – 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 – 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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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Black Bittern

Black Bittern (Dupetor flavicollis) by Ian

Well, thanks to your moral and spiritual support yet again, here is the Black Bittern. This bogey bird was the North Queensland bird that I’ve spent the most time trying unsuccessfully to photograph since the Red-necked Crake. Ian Worcester (“Sauce”) of Daintree River Wild Watch, knows the wildlife of the Daintree River like the back of his hand and took us straight to an active Black Bittern nest where we disturbed this female (females have browner plumage than males) who retreated into the depths of the tree and adopted the frozen posture so typical of bitterns. You can see from the greenish blur in the bottom half of the photo that I had to take this photo through a small gap in the vegetation.

With the Black Bittern spell broken within minutes of leaving the wharf, I was free to relax and enjoy the view and whatever else the trip had to offer, while hoping for more and better Bittern photos of course. We left the wharf at about 6:30am and I took this view looking up the river at 6:42am after photographing the Bittern.

Daintree River NE QueenslandWe continued up the river and into Stewarts Creek and visited the nests of a few more bitterns and of a couple of Great-billed Herons. We saw a couple of Bitterns flying away, as usual, and it was over an hour before the male in this photo hung around long enough for a photo. The male has blackish plumage with a slight blue sheen and buff streaks below the head. Both sexes share incubation and care of the young and this one had left the nest like the first one and moved to the back of the tree where he also froze.

Black Bittern (Dupetor flavicollis) by Ian

Looking from the bright area on the river into the deep shadows of the riverine forest made the birds extraordinarily difficult to see. The photo below is a full-frame image from a 400mm telephoto lens and the bird is almost invisible. The bill and neck stripe of the bird were aligned so perfectly with the twig behind that I couldn’t help wonder whether it was deliberate. The rest of the body just looked like a limb of a tree.

Black Bittern (Dupetor flavicollis) by Ian

Here is one of the nests, an untidy collection of sticks wedged in a branch 4 or 5 metres above the surface of the river. Something white is just visible in the nest, but I can’t tell whether it’s an egg or a fluffy chick.

Black Bittern (Dupetor flavicollis) Nest by Ian

Anyway, that was it for Black Bittern photos. We went out a second time later in the morning and revisited a couple of the nests including the one near the wharf, but we didn’t see any more birds. I’ve since discovered from Handbook of Birds of the World that Black Bitterns are “crepuscular and nocturnal with peak activity at dusk and dawn” so that may be why. None of the Australian field guides mention this and maybe this is why I’ve had difficulty finding them before.

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:

Deliver me, O LORD, from mine enemies: I flee unto thee to hide me. (Psalms 143:9 KJV)

Thanks, Ian, and, yes, I was selfishly praying that you would find “your bird” this time. Every time you succeed, we get to see another great series of avian photos.

When the Lord created these Black Bitterns, He definitely had their protection in mind. Did you all notice that 4th photo? You can hardly find the Bittern. He looks like a branch.

Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number. (Job 9:10 KJV)

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s Birdway – Ardeidae – Global Herons, Egrets, Bitterns

Black Bittern – Wikipedia

Wordless Birds

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Oriental Plover

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Oriental Plover by Ian Montgomery

 Newsletter – 12/10/14
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You may remember that we had Oriental Pratincole as bird of the week early last month as I couldn’t fulfil a request from a local birder for Oriental Plover. Since then, Rex Whitehead, a bird photographer in Mt Isa, 900km west of Townsville as sent me some lovely Oriental Plover photos that he took very recently on Lake Moondarra, a reservoir just outside Mt Isa.
The first two photos are of adult birds in non-breeding plumage. These are elegant mid-sized plovers slightly smaller than Golden Plovers with a length 22-25cm/8.5-10in. The second photo shows the slim profile well. The third photo is of a juvenile bird, and like many plover species it has buff fringes to the dorsal feathers.
The entire population of about 70,000 birds breeds in Mongolia and adjacent areas of southern Siberia and northwestern China and migrates to northern Australia for the northern winter. In both regions it is a bird of dry arid areas and in Australia it visits the coast less frequently and in response to severe drought inland. Some birds reach the southern states, but it’s main range is north of the Tropic of Capricorn. On migration in both directions it appears in large numbers in the Yangtze Valley but records are rare both in more northerly parts of China and in Indonesia. So it is assumed that it is a long distant migrant and does the entire journey in two hops.
In breeding plumage it has a chestnut breast-band with a dark lower edge which forms a sharp border to the white breast. With some reluctance I’ve included a poor distant shot of mine taken at Norfolk Island airport in March 2012 to illustrate the breeding plumage and do a size comparison with the Pacific Golden Plover. if you look carefully you can see the chestnut breast-band on the Oriental Plover and the Pacific Golden Plover is also coming into breeding plumage. Oriental Plovers can run swiftly and the specific name veredus is the Latin for a swift horse.
I’ve been busy working on the website to make it ‘mobile friendly’ so Christmas has approached stealthily and more-or-less unnoticed. I did see in my calendar program yesterday that there is a full moon on Christmas Day and the same program reminded me today that there is a New Moon tomorrow. That gave me a shock as it means Christmas only a couple of weeks away. So, don’t forget the gift giving facilities on the Apple Store and Kobo Books and the ebooks Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland and Diary of a Bird Photographer! Use the Gifting Gifts section in the Publications Page for links and instructions. Both the thumbnails below are linked to their newly mobile friendly pages on the website.
    
I released the new mobile friendly home page a few days ago. This involved breaking it up into smaller parts to make it more manageable – it had grown to become a monster over the years. The home page now has links to all its erstwhile components like thumbnails to bird families (‘Visual Links’ in the menus), the bird of the week index page, and recent additions. The alphabetic and taxonomic indices are collectively called Text Links, and like the Visual Links are all inter-connected. The move to a mobile world has provided an opportunity for a complete redesign to make the website more consistent and easier to use but, given its size, it will be many months before all the family and species pages get updated but I’ll keep you posted.
Greetings
Ian

Lee’s Addition:

[Even the migratory birds are punctual to their seasons.] Yes, the stork [excelling in the great height of her flight] in the heavens knows her appointed times [of migration], and the turtledove, the swallow, and the crane observe the time of their return. But My people do not know the law of the Lord [which the lower animals instinctively recognize in so far as it applies to them]. (Jeremiah 8:7 AMP)

Wow! If you looked at all the links Ian shared, he has really been busy updating his Birdway website. I’m impressed! The Oriental Plover is also very interesting.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Charadriidae – Plovers  Family

Wordless Birds

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Northern Rosella

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Northern Rosella ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 11/3015

Last week we had the Crimson Rosella, one of the group of blue-cheeked Rosellas. This week  here is the Northern Rosella  a representative of the other group of Rosellas, the white-cheeked Rosellas. The other members of this group are the Pale-headed Rosella and the Eastern Rosella, both of which have featured as bird of the week previously.
These three have adjoining distributions with the Northern Rosella being found from Derby in NW Western Australia through the Top End of the Northern Territory to the far NW of Queensland; the Pale-headed ranges from Cape York and the eastern Gulf of Carpentaria through coastal Queensland to NE New South Wales, while the Eastern Rosella ranges from SE Queensland through coastal New South Wales through Victoria to eastern South Australia and also occurs in Tasmania. The ranges of the Pale-headed and Eastern overlap in SE Queensland and NE New South Wales and the two interbreed to some extent. There is a fourth species in SW Western Australia, the Western Rosella but it has yellow cheeks.
The Northern Rosella is the only one with a black cap, first photo. It isn’t a common bird and I have seen it only a few times on trips to the Northern Territory. Most records in the Territory are in a triangle bounded by Darwin in the north, Katherine in the south and Jabiru in the east, but this is perhaps the area most frequented by bird watchers. In NW Western Australia another population is centred in the Kimberley region and around Kununurra.
The bird in the first photo was photographed at Edith Falls, second photo, a delightful oasis in the dry country just north of Katherine. When I was there, a resemblance to the Garden of Eden was heightened by an incident in the middle of the night at the camp ground. I had some neighbours, noisy to begin with, who did a lot of yelling at about 2am. The next day I was having a swim in the lake and found out from some other campers that one of the noisy group had stepped on a Death Adder on the way to the toilet block and had to be rushed to Katherine Base Hospital for antivenom. Venomous snakes are a fact of life in Australia so don’t let the incident put you off going to Edith Falls; just watch where you walk even in the middle of the night.
The second photo of a Northern Rosella was taken in the evening sunlight at Chainman Creek near Katherine on a different trip. I presumed chainman was something to do with chain gang, but apparently a chainman is a surveyor who holds the measuring chain. While we’re on derivations, Platycercus is Greek for flat- or broad-tailed and venustus is Latin for beautiful or charming. I think you’ll agree that this is a lovely parrot.
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 QueenslandiTunesGoogle Play Kobo Books
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au

Lee’s Addition:

So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:21 NKJV)

Another delightful Rosella from Ian. Thanks again for sharing your newsletters with us. Ian has written about several others over the time here on the blog.

Ian’s Other Rosella Newsletters:

More Ian’s Bird of the Week

Psittaculidae – Old World Parrots

Is There A God?

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Crimson Rosella

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Crimson Rosella ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 11/20/15

Some birds are very obvious choices for bird of the week because they are beautiful and popular. Ironically, I can overlook them for exactly that reason as I assume they’ve featured previously. Here is one such, the Crimson Rosella, an iconic and popular bird of the forests of eastern and southeastern Australia.

Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans) by Ian

Normally rather shy in its natural habitat and can become quite tame in parks and gardens. It’s popularity is reflected in the fact that it has been introduced to New Zealand and Norfolk Island and (unsuccessfully) to Lord Howe Island. It nests in tree hollows and is regarded by conservationists as a pest on Norfolk Island as it competes with the smaller, endangered Norfolk Parakeet for nest sites.

Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans) by Ian

It feeds mainly on the seeds and fruit of trees and will forage on the ground for the grass seed, like the bird in the third photo. It’s a very vocal species and its ringing calls are a characteristic sound of forests in eastern Australia. Out of the breeding season, it is found in small flocks but it is territorial when breeding and the pair bond is though to persist for several years or longer.

Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans) by Ian

Juvenile birds of the eastern nominate race are mainly olive green with blue cheeks and patches of red on the head, breast and undertail-coverts. The nominate race extends from Cooroy in Southeastern Queensland to about Kingston in eastern South Australia.

Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans) by Ian

Farther north, an isolated population of the race nigrescens (‘blackish’) occurs from Eungella near Mackay north to the Atherton Tableland. This is smaller and darker than the nominate race, fifth photo, and is mainly a bird of highland rainforest.

Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans) by Ian

Juveniles of this northern race are much more like the adults than their southern relatives and have brownish-black feathers on the back instead of green (sixth photo).

Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans) by Ian

Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans) by Ian

In southeastern Australia the populations of blue-cheeked Rosellas look very different and were for a long time treated as two different species, the Yellow Rosella, seventh photo, of the river systems of southern New South Wales and northern Victoria, and the orange-plumaged Adelaide Rosella of South Australia from the Flinders Ranges in the north to the Fleurieu Peninsula south of Adelaide (no photo). Yellow and Adelaide Rosellas interbreed where their ranges meet along the Murray River in South Australia. The two are now treated as races of the Crimson Rosella, flaveolus and adelaidae respectively.

Yellow Rosella (Platycercus elegans flaveolus) by Ian 4

Yellow Rosella (Platycercus elegans flaveolus) by Ian 4

The Yellow Rosella looks very like the other blue-cheeked Rosella, the Green Rosella of Tasmania. It is, however, retained as a separate species. I included this photo of the Yellow Rosella when the Green Rosella was bird of the week in March 2013.

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 the corresponding web pages:

Where To Find Birds - Ian

Ian's Book 2

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  iTunesGoogle Play Kobo Books


Lee’s Addition:

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly. (Psalms 84:11 NKJV)

Thanks again, Ian, for sharing some more avian wonders. I especially like the second photos. That little guy looks like he is walking with an attitude. :)

Cause me to hear Your lovingkindness in the morning, For in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You. (Psalms 143:8 NKJV)

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More Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s Psittacidae – Parrots Family

Pale-headed Rosella ~ 8-24-14

Psittaculidae – Old World Parrots (Here)

Wordless Birds – Hummers

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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

**************************************************
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:

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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