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 – 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

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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:

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 – Northern Lapwing

 

Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Northern Lapwing ~ Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 3/14/16

I’m wading through all the non-Australian galleries on the website making them ‘mobile-friendly’, and I came across what is for me an iconic species. It brought back memories of when I first saw Northern Lapwings in September 1961 on the way back from summer holidays in Co. Kerry. The Lapwings were gathered in large flocks with Golden Plover on the Curragh in Co. Kildare, a large grassy plain west of Dublin probably better known for its race track. I was very struck by the crests of the Lapwings – they seemed very exotic by Irish standards – and I was motivated to find out what they were.

I was 14 then and already interested in wildlife but birds hadn’t previously attracted my attention until several interesting sightings that year which included, in addition to the Lapwings, a good view of a Common Kingfisher and a mysterious sandpiper on a golf course in Co. Kerry, probably a Common Redshank Anyway, my parents responded to my interest and gave me, when we got home, a copy of the classic Peterson et al. Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe. At Christmas 1961, a pair of binoculars came my way, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) by Ian

Northern Lapwings are a characteristic bird of farmland and marshes in Europe, occurring on both arable land and pasture. They breed throughout Britain and Ireland and their numbers are augment in winter by migrants from northern Europe. The bird in the first two photos is a male in breeding plumage. Breeding males have longer crests and more black on the face and throat than females. When I photographed these I was in a hide in Finland at the lek where Ruffs were displaying, but birds of other species came from time to time. The Lapwings were nesting and this young fledgling was wandering around the hide.

Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) Chick by Ian

In non-breeding plumage, the crests are shorter, the throat is white and there are buffish fringes on the feathers covering the wings (fourth photo). This one is feeding in the estuary of the River Boyne downstream from Drogheda.

Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) by Ian

I’m making good progress with website. I’ve finished more than 1,100 galleries and have less than 400 to go. I hope to finish them off in a few weeks, and maybe you’ll get the bird of the week more regularly then!

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:

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

Ian, thanks for all your hard work on the website. It can be very time-consuming when working behind the scenes. (I know from experience.) When you finish, we will be here waiting on the great Bird of the Week articles you share with us. Lapwings have become one of my favorite birds to watch at the zoos. Though, I don’t think I have seen the Northern one.

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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/
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 – Great Frigatebird

Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor) Male by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Great Frigatebird ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 8/28/14

This week’s good news is that the ebook Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland is now available on the iTunes store (in 51 countries). So if you have an iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Mac (running OS X Maverick) this is for you! Here is the link: https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/where-to-find-birds-in-northern/id912789825?mt=11&uo=4. To make a connection with this week’s bird, the Great Frigatebird, here is a screen shot from iBooks to show you what you can expect. All the text items highlighted in purple and links to either other places in the book – typically places, birds or lists – or external websites. The images are the same size as the ones that are included in the bird of the week, so if you double-click, or double-tap, on them, you can enlarge them to full size.

Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor) by Ian

If you think about birds in northern Queensland, perhaps iconic rainforest species like the Cassowary or Victoria’s Riflebird come to mind. Fair enough, but there is much more to this region than rainforest, important though that is.The area also has wonderful wetlands, tropical savannah forest, mountain ranges, dry country habitats and, last but not least, the coast with its Barrier Reef, beaches, mangroves, mudflats, continental islands and coral cays. So it should be no surprise that over 400 species of birds occur here and you need a reference devoted to the region to do it justice. I’ve chosen a dramatic seabird to make the point.

The term ‘frigate’ was first applied in the 17th century to warships built for speed and manoeuvrability and frigates were often used by pirates to attach merchant shipping. Frigatebirds, also called Man o’ War Birds, got their name for their piratical habitats of harrying other seabirds like boobies and tropicbirds to make them drop their prey. In fact, studies have shown that piracy accounts for perhaps only 20% of their food, and they are expert fishers as well. They fish by snatching prey, such as squid and young turtles, from the surface of the sea or in flight, in the case of their favourite prey, flying fish.

Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor) Female by Ian

Despite their naval name, frigatebirds are wonderfully adapted for flying and are poor swimmers to the extent that they are reluctant to land on water, as they can take off only in strong winds and their plumage is not waterproof. They have very light bones making up only 5% of the body, huge pectoral muscles, enormous wing area, long forked tails for rudders and streamlined bodies with small heads. Despite their size, they are very light, soar effortlessly in good winds and are very acrobatic. Female Great Frigatebirds, larger than males, are about 1m/40in long, have a wingspan to 2.3m/90in but weight only 1.2-1.6kg/2.6-3.5lb.

Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor palmerstoni) Female by Ian

The male Great Frigatebird, first photo, is the only all-black frigatebird occurring in Australia – the other all-black males are the Magnificent Frigatebird of Atlantic Ocean and the eastern Pacific and the Ascencion Frigatebird of the east Atlantic. Frigatebirds are unusual among seabirds in drinking freshwater if they can get it, and this male is drinking at the mouth of freshwater stream on Christmas island by snatching a beak-full of water in flight. Frigatebirds also bathe in flight by splashing into the surface of the water and flying off. You can also see its red gular pouch. This is inflated to enormous size to impress females during courtship. I haven’t got a photo of displaying Great Frigatebird, but you can see a Magnificent Frigatebird doing so here: Magnificent_Frigatebird.

Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor palmerstoni) Juvenile by Ian

Female Great Frigatebirds have white breasts and care needs to be taken in distinguishing them from other female and juvenile frigatebirds – Lesser Frigatebirds of both sexes have white ‘spurs’ in the axil of the underwing, and Christmas Island Frigatebirds of both sexes, have white bellies. Birds in Indian Ocean waters in Australia belong to the nominate race minor, distinguished by the females having pink eye-rings, second photo. Birds in the Pacific belong to palmerstoni and usually have blue eye-rings, third photo, though doubt exists as to the validity of the races and the reliability of the fieldmarks.

Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor palmerstoni) Juvenile by IanBecause of their need for consistent winds, frigatebirds are restricted to tropical waters where they can rely on the trade winds. Adults are sedentary and remain close to their roosting sites and breeding colonies, mostly on small isolated islands. Non-breeding birds and immature birds are pelagic and move over huge distances. Trade winds are unusual in that they form cumulus clouds and hence thermals over water both by day and night, and frigatebirds make great use of these to soar as high as the cloud base and will fly at night if conditions are right. Pelagic frigatebirds use the front of storms to move around and can cope with high winds very well. This is why they appear in coastal areas after cyclones and are supposed to be called ‘rain-brothers’ by Australian aborigines, though I haven’t been able to verify this.

Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor palmerstoni) Juvenile by IanThe range of the Great Frigatebird includes the tropical Pacific, southern tropical Indian and western Atlantic Oceans. In Australia it breeds colonially on islands along the outer Great Barrier Reef, in the Coral Sea and on Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands in the Indian Ocean, usually in mangroves. The juvenile in photos five and six was photographed on East Diamond Islet, about 600km east of Cairns http://www.satelliteviews.net/cgi-bin/w.cgi?c=cr&UF=34304&UN=456541&DG=ISL. Breeding birds form pair bonds and both parents share in the incubation and feeding of the young. The young develop very slowly. This is thought to adapt them to periods of starvation when the adults have trouble finding food, and remain under parental care for many months.

Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor) Female attacking Red-tailed Tropicbird by IanThe last photo shows a hapless Red-tailed Tropicbird near Christmas Island being harried by a female Great Frigatebird who has grabbed it by the tail-streamers. Frigatebirds hang out near seabird colonies waiting for birds carrying prey or with full crops returning to feed their young. It’s hard enough work being a parent without having to put up with this!

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


Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor) Male Displaying ©WikiC

Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor) Male Displaying ©WikiC

Lee’s Addition:

but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31 HCSB)

Thanks again, Ian, for introducing us to another interesting bird. We have seen the Magnificent Frigatebirds here in Florida, but these Great ones are also amazing. That fact about only 5% of their weight being the bone structure is another fantastic design from their Creator.

Frigatebirds belong to the Fregatidae – Frigatebirds Family which only has five species in it.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Lesser Frigatebird

Fregatidae – Frigatebirds Family

Great Frigatebird – Wikipedia

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Whistling Kite

Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus) by Ian

Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus) by Ian

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

I’ve just revised the eagle, hawk and allies galleries (Acciptridae http://www.birdway.com.au/accipitridae/index.htm ) on the website with the new format, larger image sizes and regional indices with different background colours. Eagles and hawks attract great interest generally and are the most popular targets for internet searches on the website. They’re also popular with birders and are a challenge to identify in flight, so a good place to start is the widespread and common Whistling Kite – the one we probably check most often to make sure it isn’t something more unusual like a Square-tailed Kite or Little Eagle.

Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus) by Ian

Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus) by Ian

At 50-60cm/20-24in in length and with a wingspan of about 1.2m/47in, the Whistling Kite is just one of about a dozen Australian species of raptors in this size range and with colours in varying shades of coffee. So, leaving size and beverages aside, identification relies on other features particular underwing pattern, relative sizes and shapes of wings and tail and style of flight. As you can see in the first two photos, Whistling Kites have distinctive wing patterns, with the most notable feature being the contrasting outer very dark primaries*, very pale 3 or 4 inner primaries and very dark secondaries. The resulting pattern is a white spot on the trailing edge of the wing and a pale right-angle formed by the leading under-wing coverts and the pale primaries. This is diagnostic: other raptors have pale patches – windows or bull-eyes – but usually in the ‘palm’ of the hand or the leading edge and lack an abrupt right-angle.

Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus) by Ian

Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus) by Ian

*The primary flight feathers, usually numbering 9 -11 inmost species of birds (except Grebes, Storks and Flamingos – 12 –  and Ostriches – 16) and are attached to the ‘hand’ part of the wing (metacarpals and phalanges of the large second digit). The secondaries, very variable in number, are attached to the ulna of the ‘forearm’ between the ‘elbow’ (not obvious in birds as the humerus is short and thick for attachment of the large pectoral muscle) and the ‘wrist’ – the forward-pointing angle in the middle of the leading edge.

Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus) by Ian

Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus) by Ian

The tail of the Whistling Kite is characteristic too: long, latte coloured and paddle-shaped with a rounded and you can see in the first that the Whistling Kites swivel the tail like a paddle for steering. Most other raptors have darker tails with barring – the Whistling Kite has faint, barely visible bars. Whistling Kites glide with horizontally curved – rather than flat or angled wings – a bit like seagulls one draws as a kid and have a rather floppy untidy flight. When perched, they usually do so in an upright stance, rather like a Brown Falcon, as in the third photo. They build a typical raptor nest – bulky, with large sticks – high in a tree and re-used so that it gets very large after a number of years.

The Whistling Kite gets its name from its distinctively un-raptor-like call. Its is common throughout Australia except in the driest areas of western South Australia and eastern Western Australia. They take live prey including fish, so they are frequenty found near both fresh and salt water, but also feed on carrion and are often seen cruising along highways, along with Black Kites, Brahminy Kites and Wedge-tailed Eagles, looking for road-kills. Their only close relative is the Brahminy Kite, and these two species comprise (globally) the genus Haliastur.

Back at the website, I’ve applied the new format to the Cockatoos and Estrildid Finches, both also popular targets:
Best wishes,
Ian

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: ian@birdway.com.au
Website: http://birdway.com.au

Lee’s Addition:
Ian has been working hard on his website and it is really looking good. Ian, I like the new format. Click on his links for some really nice photographs of birds and other critters. Birdway.com.au
From his site, “28 May 2010: this site contains more than 5,000 photos of 1,234 bird species in the wild – 596 of these are on the main Australian list of Christidis & Boles, 2008 – and 83 photos of 23 species of reptiles and Australian mammals.”

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

The Kite is a member of the Accipitridae Family and has 250 members. They are in the Accipitriformes Order. The family has Kites, Hawks, Eagles, and their allies. The Kite is also one of the Birds of the Bible and is in the “unclean” list of birds not to be eaten.

*

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Red-capped Robin

Red-capped Robin by Ian

Red-capped Robin by Ian

Ian’s Newsletter:

“The Red-capped Robin is the most widespread of the 5 red-breasted Robins that occur in mainland Australia. It prefers drier habitats and is found across Australia west of the Great Dividing Range and south of the Tropic of Capricornia but does not occur in Tasmania.

The red cap of the male is both distinctive and diagnostic (first photo) and even the brown female has a reddish cap (second photo) making her easier to identify than the other female Robins. With a length of 11 – 12 cm./4.3 – 4.7 in., it is the smallest of the Robins. Typically, it perches in low branches and flies down onto the ground to pick up insect prey.

Flame Robin by Ian

Flame Robin by Ian

In the early days of European settlement of the colonies, any small bird with a red breast was likely to be called a Robin after the familiar European Robin so it isn’t surprising to find that such birds are not necessarily closely related. The European Robin is a member of the Old World Flycatchers, The American Robin is a Thrush, while all the Australasian Robins belong to a separate family the Australo-Papuan Robins (Petroicidae ).

On the website, I’ve recently reorganized the galleries for:
Petrels & Shearwaters;
Bee-eaters;
and added night-time photos of:
Australian Owlet-Nightjar;
Tawny Frogmouth;
and – just for the record – Stubble Quail.

Best wishes,
Ian


Lee’s Additions:

Red-capped Robin female by Ian

Red-capped Robin female by Ian

What a cute and beautiful bird. You will have to visit Ian’s site and see all his Red-capped Robin Photos. From what I have read about them, they may be small, but they stay on the move or are defending their turf. This from Wikipedia:

“The Red-capped Robin typically perches in a prominent location low to the ground, often flicking its wings and tail. It is very active and does not stay still for long.[27] The female has been reported as being fairly tame, while the male is more wary of human contact.[28]

The Red-capped Robin is territorial during the breeding season; the area occupied has been measured between 0.25 and 1.2 ha (0.6–3 acres).[16] A pair lives and forages within their territory before dispersing in autumn.[16] The male proclaims ownership by singing loudly from a suitable perch at the territory boundary, and confronts other males with a harsh scolding call should they make an incursion.[29] Two males have been seen to face off one another 30 cm to 1 m (12–40 in) apart, flicking wings and maneuvering for position in a threat display while the female is actually incubating her eggs.”

He sends the springs into the valleys; They flow among the hills. They give drink to every beast of the field; The wild donkeys quench their thirst. By them the birds of the heavens have their home; They sing among the branches. (Psalms 104:10-12 NKJV)

There favorite food (96%) is beetles with ants most of the remainder. They do like locust, butterflies, dragon and damselflies, etc. It likes to pounce on it prey on the ground. It catches some flying, but is a specialist for ground attacks.

The sad part about this bird is the treat from loss of habitat. They used to be common in the western suburbs of Sydney, but now has almost disappeared for the there and the Sydney Basin. Other places are noticing declines of this neat Red-capped Robin. Two other threats are the feral cats and other birds raiding the nest and young.

This is of a Red-capped Robin taking on a mirror. Ignore the last part. By jezau2

See:
Ian’s Bird of the Week for more of these articles.

Ian’s Birdway Website

Birdway Images of  Global Australo-Papaun Robins – Family: Petroicidae

Australo-Papaun Robins Petroicidae by Bird Families of the World

Red-capped Robin at Wikipedia


Ian’s Bird of the Week – Brush and Common Bronzewings

Brush Bronzewing by Birdway

Brush Bronzewing by Birdway

I’ve just revised the Dove and Pigeon galleries on the website () and it set me thinking how many gorgeous members of this family occur in Australia. Some, like the Fruit-Doves, are spectacularly so, while others are more subtle. The subtler ones included the Bronzewings and their allies such as the Crested and Spinifex Pigeons, a group of several genera endemic to Australia and New Guinea.

Common Bronzewing by Ian

Common Bronzewing by Ian

The Bronzewings get their name from iridescent feathers in their wing coverts. These are shown in display and at other times are not conspicuous unless the light is at the right angle, rather like the iridescent feathers of hummingbirds. The first photo shows a Brush Bronzewing which has two rows of iridescent feathers, one reddish and the other bluish green. The second photo shows a Common Bronzewing at sunset and it has several rows of bronze-green feathers and one dark blue row. This bird is a female; male Common Bronzewings have even brighter feathers.

The Brush Bronzewing occurs in scrub and forest in coastal southern Australia from Fraser Island in Queensland to Dongara in Western Australia, including Tasmania. The Common Bronzewing is widespread throughout Australia except in the driest areas such as eastern Western Australia. The Common Bronzewing in particular is wary and takes flight readily, so often the best way to observe it is at water holes. This one was photographed last Sunday while we were sitting quietly near a dam; at least 50 Common Bronzewings came in to drink and this one perched nervously on a post quite close to us before proceeding down to the water.

Best wishes, Ian

See Ian’s Bird of the Week for more of these articles.
See Ian’s Birdway Website


Lee’s additions:

Ian’s remark about the “Common Bronzewing in particular is wary and takes flight readily” caught my eye. Also Wikipedia says, “They tend to browse quietly until disturbed, then remain still, their earthy browns blending into the earth and leaf litter until the intruder approaches too closely, at which point the bronzewing takes off with an explosive burst of sudden wing clapping and feather noise, and disappears from sight within moments.” Both remarks reminded me of scripture.

They will walk after the LORD, He will roar like a lion; Indeed He will roar And His sons will come trembling from the west. They will come trembling like birds from Egypt And like doves from the land of Assyria; And I will settle them in their houses, declares the LORD. (Hosea 11:10-11 NASB)

Why do the birds tremble and seem wary of people. The reason is that God put in them the fear of man after the global flood in Noah’s day.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20

The fact that they blend in to their surroundings is part of the Lord’s creative love for the birds. He provides for their protection.

Flock Bronzewing by Ian

Flock Bronzewing by Ian

Here is some more information about the “Bronzewing Pigeon” according to Wikipedia:
The dividing line between the bronzewings and the rock pigeons is arbitrary: essentially, rock pigeons are bronzewings without bronze on their wings. Members of the group include:

* The Common Bronzewing (Phaps calcoptera) is a large, bulky pigeon with a small head, found in all parts of Australia bar some of the deep desert, Cape York Peninsula, and urban areas. Its advertising call is an extraordinary mournful whooo repeated at metronomic intervals for an interminable length of time. Although rather wary by nature, birds in the urban fringes become quite used to humans.

* The Brush Bronzewing (Phaps elegans) is uncommon, probably threatened. Marginally smaller than the Common Bronzewing and rather secretive—except for its call, which is slightly faster and higher-pitched but maintained through the hottest days with equally monotonous determination. Brush Bronzewings nest low down, often on the ground, and are very vulnerable to feral cats and foxes.

Crested Pigeon by Ian

Crested Pigeon by Ian

* Flock Bronzewings (Phaps histrionica) roam the grasslands of the northern half of the continent. Once found in enormous flocks, they are still to be seen in their thousands. Pizzey’s description of their habits is memorable: “When locally abundant, at end of day, undulating, shearwater-like flocks fly to water, settle short distance away, and walk in. Thirsty latecomers may drop directly into water and drink while spreadeagled, before springing off.”

* Crested Pigeons (Ocyphaps lophotes) are distinctive, common, and widespread. Usually seen in small flocks in open woodlands or grasslands, it is always close to water. With the clearing of much forest and the provision of water in arid regions for cattle, Crested Pigeons have increased in number.

Spinifex Pigeon

Spinifex Pigeon

* The Spinifex Pigeon (Geophaps plumifera) is an unmistakable ground-dwelling small pigeon, reddish-bronze in colour and prominently crested, with a unique upright, military stance. When dirturbed it prefers to run erratically, breaking into rapid, noisy flight only if pressed. A desert specialist, it is found in the arid and semi-arid zones of the northern half of the continent.
* The Partridge Pigeon (Geophaps smithii) is a dull brown bird about 26 cm long found only in pairs or small flocks in the grasslands of northern Northern Territory and northern Western Australia.

* The Squatter Pigeon (Geophaps scripta), like the very similar Partridge Pidgeon, spends feeds, roosts, and nests on the ground, and prefers infertile sandy soils and gravel where the grass grows only thinly, allowing easy movement. Squatter Pigeons are restricted to the eastern half of Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales.

Some interesting articles about iridescent colors on birds and butterflies:

From Blue-t-ful Beetles, Birds, `n Butterflies, this quote:
“The strikingly iridescent blue seen in some butterfly, beetle, and bird feathers is well-known and enjoyed by scientists and laymen alike. This is due to creatures (and some plants) reflecting or absorbing certain frequencies of light due to the external chemical composition of their body. In past decades, it has been realized that although the color of these structures is clearly and unusually blue—no blue pigment can be found!
The South American butterfly, Morpho rhetenor, has wings composed of extremely tiny scales like all members of the Lepidoptera. Biologists magnified scales of the upper wing surface 20,000 times and saw “a regular grid of precisely constructed wedge-shaped ridges spaced at intervals of about 0.00022 mm. This pattern is repeated so accurately that the maximum deviation is only 0.00002 mm. No earthly workshop specializing in miniaturization [nanotechnology], would be able to make one single wing scale with this required precision.“1 Detailed investigation of other butterflies reveals iridescence due to “nanoscale structures that produce ultra-high reflectivity and narrow-band spectral purity.”

From God’s Rainbow in Living Color by Catherine Myers:
Unique Colors
Butterflies’ wings are covered with tiny scales that create their colors and patterns. Under a microscope, the tiny scales resemble roofing tiles that overlap in different patterns.
Wing colors originate from two sourcespigmentation (color in the scale itself) or iridescence (light from the sun that changes color as it bends within the scales). Earth tones (brown, orange, yellow, white, and black) come from pigments. Iridescent colors (blue, green, copper, silver, and gold) arise from special scales that bend light into different colors. Because the scales act like a prism and separate light into different wavelengths, some butterflies actually appear to change color during flight.

See:
Ian’s Bird of the Week for more of these articles.
Ian’s Birdway Website


Ian’s Bird of the Week – White-browed Babbler

White-Browed Babbler by Birdway

White-Browed Babbler by Birdway

“If you had a bird popularity poll with Australian birders, I imagine that Babblers would do well. I hope so anyway, as it would show that pretty colours aren’t everything and character still counts in an often superficial world!

I photographed these White-browed Babblers when staying with friends in Talbot in rural Victoria northwest of Melbourne. This species is found in dry woodland in the southern half of the continent, mainly west of the Great Divide and south of the Tropic of Capricorn. Although wren-like in shape, they are much larger, the White-browed is 18-22cm./7-8.5in. in length and is the smallest of the four Australian species.

White-browed Babbler by Birdway

White-browed Babbler by Birdway

Babblers are highly social, noisy and exuberant. The live in groups of 3 to about a dozen and do everything together, including roosting, breeding and, as in the second photo, bathing. They build a number of domed nest in their territory; apparently only one of these is used for nesting, so the others are thought to be used for roosting. When disturbed by an observer, they chatter scoldingly, and move away, appearing to bounce rather than fly on their short wings. Their gregarious habits have earned them lots of common names such as Happy Family, Cackler, Go-aways, Twelve Apostles and Jumper, names applied rather indiscriminately to both this and the other widespread species, the Grey-crowned Babbler.

The four Australian species and a fifth found in PNG comprise the Australo-Papuan Babblers (family Pomatostomidae). These used to be included with the superficially similar Old World Babblers in the family Timaliidae http://www.birdway.com.au//timaliini/index.htm . It is now apparent that the two groups are not closely related.”

I’ve revised the Australo-Papuan Babblers on the website with new photos of 3 of the 4 species:
I’ve also added new photos to these waders:
Common Greenshank
Red-necked Stint
Bar-tailed Godwit
Black-tailed Godwit
Sooty Oystercatcher .
At the moment, I’m doing the ducks and have added photos, taken in Ireland, of:
Mute Swan
Tufted Duck
Eurasian Wigeon.

Please visit Ian Montgomery’s Birdway site for many interesting Birds of the World photography. He is a fantastic photographer. (Bolding by Lee)


Lee’s addition:
What an interesting bird and I love their common names – Happy Family, Cacker which bring to mind the following verses:

And my soul shall be joyful in the LORD; It shall rejoice in His salvation. (Psalms 35:9 NKJV)
Oh come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the LORD is the great God, And the great King above all gods. (Psalms 95:1-3 NKJV)”

“The Australo-Papuan or Australian babblers are endemic to Australia-New Guinea. The Australo-Papuan babblers are medium-sized terrestrial birds with sombre plumage and long decurved bills. The wings are short and round, and the tail is long and often held fanned which makes it look broad as well. The feet and legs are strong and adapted to a terrestrial existence. There is no sexual dimorphism in the plumage, which is composed of brown, russet and grey colours, often with striking white markings on the face and throat. The plumage of juvenile birds is similar to that of adults.
Five species in one genus are currently recognised, although the red-breasted subspecies rubeculus of the Grey-crowned Babbler may prove to be a separate species. Further investigation is required.

Chestnut-crowned Babbler by Birdway

Chestnut-crowned Babbler by Birdway

All five species are ground-feeding omnivores and highly social. Babblers live in family groups and small flocks of up to about 20 individuals and forage communally, calling loudly to one another all day long. They feed principally on insects and other invertebrates, but will also take seeds, fruits and small vertebrates. Most food is obtained on the ground, although they will also forage in low bushes; the Grey-crowned Babbler and New Guinea Babbler feed more extensively in vegetation than the other species. The long bill is used to probe and overturn large objects. They will also hold objects with one foot and hammer them with the bill in order to extract food.

Australo-Papuan babblers are monogamous breeders which defend territories. The breeding pair will be aided in breeding by a number of helpers from its group. A number of groups may have more than one breeding pair. Extra male helpers aid the male in his responsibilities whereas the females aid the main breeding male in hers. They have an extended breeding season. Australo-Papuan babblers construct large nests for communal roosting, and these nests may be used for breeding, or new nests may be constructed. There may be a lrage number of nests used by the group in a small area. When the female is breeding she alone uses the breeding nest. Nest construction, both of roosting and breeding nests, is undertaken by all birds in the group. Between one to six eggs are laid (the number and range varies by species) and are usually incubated by the breeding female alone (although a helper female may aid occasionally). The Breeding male and other helper males feed the breeding female during incubation. Incubation lasts between 19-25 days. The female broods the chicks until they are able to thermoregulate, and the chicks fledge after 16-23 days. After leaving the nest the chicks will continue to be fed by the adults for a number of months.”

The five species are the New Guinea Babbler, Grey-crowned Babbler, White-browed Babbler, Hall’s Babbler, and the Chestnut-crowned Babbler. (Photos are from Ian at Birdway)

*Information from Ian’s Bird of the Week newsletter, Wikipedia and other internet sources.

Check out the Bird of the Week – Introduction

See:
Ian’s Bird of the Week for more of these articles.
Ian’s Birdway Website


Ian’s Bird of the Week – Introduction

Red-capped Robin

Red-capped Robin by Birdway

Ian Montgomery of Birdway’s Birds of the World Website, who has been one of the photographers used throughout this blog, has given me permission for a new series of articles. Ian lives in Australia and is a fantastic photographer. On his website he “invites you to enjoy the beauty and fascination of wild birds with his photos of more than 1,200 species from Australia and around the World.” As of a few days ago, the “site contains more than 4,600 photos of 1,218 bird species in the wild; 581 of these are on the main Australian list of Christidis & Boles, 2008.” There is much to discover on the Birdway Website.

Every week Birdway sends out a newsletter with a Bird of the Week. The newsletters have interesting information about the bird being featured and several photos of that bird. With his permission, the Bird of the Week will be featured here, with some additions of my own at the bottom. We trust you will enjoy learning about and seeing some birds that many of us here in America do not have the privilege to see.

But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. (Job 12:7 NASB)

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo by Ian

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo by Ian

That is one of my favorite “bird verses.” I enjoy learning about the wonderful birds and critters that have been created. When I see their beauty and behavior, and their bad sides also, there are lessons to learn. Let’s see what we can learn through observing the different “Birds of the Week.”

I can’t say that I will only do one a week, because he has been producing the newsletter for some time. I will have a hard time picking from the past ones. I just may have to double-up.

Please visit his website – Birdway’s Birds of the World
Also, to sign up for his newsletter – CLICK HERE

Thanks you, Ian, for this privilege.

See the first Bird of the Week – White-browed Babbler