Ian’s Bird of the Week – Pale-headed Rosella

Pale-headed Rosella (Platycercus adscitus) by Ian

Pale-headed Rosella (Platycercus adscitus) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Pale-headed Rosella ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 8/24/14

The bird of the week is the Pale-headed Rosella, which I’ll get to in a second, but this is a Special Edition as Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland is at last being published. That is to say, it has been published on Google Play but not yet on the Apple iBook store. That will take a little longer as there are bureaucratic obstacles to be over come. These involve registering Birdway Pty Ltd with the US Inland Revenue and then Apple confirming the registration with the IRS. The first part was easy but the second seems harder as it takes a while for the registration to soak through and finally emerge in the IRS online databases. Anyway, I’ll let you know, loudly, when that happens. In the meantime, you can find it on Google at https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=CblRBAAAQBAJ.

Where To Find Birds in Northern Queensland by Ian

Where To Find Birds in Northern Queensland

End of commercial!

The Pale-headed Rosella, is the widespread and familiar Rosella of Queensland, though it range does extend as far as northern New South Wales. There, and in southeastern Queensland, its range overlaps with the closely related Eastern Rosella and they sometimes interbreed.

The ones in the first two photos were taken outside my house. The first bird is feeding on the seeds of weeds, plenty of those here, and the second is feeding on the fruit of wild passionfruit, another weed, also called stinking passionfruit (Passiflora foetida) as the foliage emits a strong odour when crushed. They’re lovely birds, rather unobtrusive though their soft twittering calls reveal their presence, and I’ll always get pleasure from seeing them. They’re usually in pairs of family parties. The plumage is variable: the bird in the first photo has a much intense blue breast than the second one, but the field guides are tight-lipped about whether the plumage of the sexes differs.

Pale-headed Rosella (Platycercus adscitus) by Ian

Pale-headed Rosella (Platycercus adscitus) by Ian

They’re more forthcoming about the plumage of juveniles, as these often show traces of red or darker feathers on the head, like the one coming down for a drink in the third photo.

Pale-headed Rosella (Platycercus adscitus) by Ian

Pale-headed Rosella (Platycercus adscitus) by Ian

There are two races of the Pale-headed Rosella, a northern paler one on Cape York and south to about Cairns, and a southern darker one south of Townsville with a 300km/200mile band of intergrading between Cairns and Townsville. Originally these were described as two different species, the northern one being the Blue-cheeked Rosella, Platycercus adscitus, the southern one the Pale-headed Rosella, P. palliceps. When they were lumped together, the earlier name adscitus took priority, so the northern race is the nominate one and the southern darker one is race palliceps – unfortunately, given that it is the more intensely coloured. Adscitus means ‘approved’ or ‘accepted’, though exactly what was approved or accepted, I don’t know.

Pale-headed Rosella (Platycercus adscitus) by Ian

Pale-headed Rosella (Platycercus adscitus) by Ian

The Townsville birds in the first three photos belong to palliceps. The two, photographed together at Lake Eacham southwest of Cairns, are much closer the nominate race. The yellow is much paler overall, particularly on the back and the upper breast is mainly pale yellow, rather than blue, but there is a blue patch on the lower cheek. The bird in the fifth photo has clear traces of red on the forehead and is a juvenile; the one in the fourth photo has pinkish traces and may be a young bird too.

Pale-headed Rosella (Platycercus adscitus) by Ian

Pale-headed Rosella (Platycercus adscitus) by Ian

The taxonomy of Rosellas in general has been controversial and is still unsettled. Some authorities maintain that the Pale-headed, the Eastern Rosella and the Northern Rosella all belong to a single species even though they look quite different. Whatever, they’re lovely birds, and the good news is that the Pale-headed Rosella has benefitted from European settlement and the clearing of dense forests – they prefer more open areas.

Links:
Pale-headed Rosella 
Eastern Rosella 
Northern Rosella 

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:

Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book! (Job 19:23 KJV)

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: (2 Timothy 4:7 KJV)

Glad they finally have their book published. I know that Ian has been working on this for some time. It is always a great feeling when a project is completed.

Also, the Pale-headed Rosella is a beautiful bird. Another great creation from their Creator. I especially like that first photo.

Rosellas are members of the Psittacidae – Parrots Family. You can see Ian’s photos of this family by clicking here.

See:

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Australian King Parrot

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Australian King Parrot ~ Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 7-31-14

Mea culpa again for the long delay since the last bird of the week. The good news is that, apart from dotting a few i’s, my current obsession Where to Find Birds in Northern Queensland is finished, so with luck you may get more frequent BotWs in the future. Here is an attractive and surprising omission from the BotW series, the Australian King Parrot. It’s one of the most spectacular Australian parrots and deserves the ‘King’ moniker. The French call it la Perruche royale.

King Parrot by Ian

King Parrot by Ian

 

It’s quite common along the eastern seaboard of Australia, with a preference for fairly dense coastal and highland forests including rainforest. That can make it hard to see but it’s quite vocal and the whistling call of the males is a very characteristic sound of eastern forest. It responds readily to being fed and can get quite tame. The one in the first photo was taken at O’Reilly’s in Lamington National Park, where the birds will perch on arms and shoulders and pose happily for photos. The males are distinguished from the females by the brilliant scarlet of the breast extending onto the head and having a conspicuou peppermint green blaze on the wings.

 

Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) Male by Ian

Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) Male by Ian

The females are gorgeous too with scarlet lower breast and belly, green heads and pinkish necks. The one in the second photo was busy exploring hollows in trees, but it was hard to imagine that she was contemplating nesting in May. Both sexes have blue backs, third photo, but this is usually hidden by the folded wings. The wing blaze may be missing or inconspicuous in females.

 

Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) Female WikiC

Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) Female WikiC

It’s usually just called the King Parrot in Australia and I used to wonder vaguely about the ‘Australian’ qualification. The reason for it is that is a Papuan one in New Guinea and a Moluccan one in western New Guinea and the islands of eastern Indonesia. Both these are rather similar to the Australian one, but smaller and differ mainly in the colour or lack of the blaze on the wings, and the amount of blue in the plumage.

Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) Male Closeup by Ian

Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) Male Closeup by Ian

 

There are two races of the Australian species. The larger nominate race occurs along most of the east coast, while the smaller race minor (obviously) occurs in northeastern Queensland. The literature doesn’t say much about minor except that it’s smaller, and there’s disagreement in the field guides about how far south it occurs: choose between Cardwell, Townsville and Mackay. I suspect Townsville is correct as there a big gap between the Paluma Range population and the Eungella/Clark Range one near Mackay. Anyway, the male in photo 4 and the female in photo 5 were photographed on the Atherton Tableland and are certainly minor.

Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) by Ian

Australian King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis) by Ian

It seemed to me from the photos that I took there that the northern males had brighter and more extensive blue hind collars and the females had brighter wing-blazes than southern birds. My sample size was small, but it might be an interesting project to check out whether these differences are consistent and to establish the exact geographical ranges of the subspecies. In northeastern Queensland it is mainly a highland species, with some movement to the lowlands in winter and I have seen them very occasionally near where I live.

Links:
Australian King-Parrot (I should have put hyphens in the photo captions)
Red-winged Parrot

Anyway, back to dotting i’s. The next stage in the book is to check out publishing via Apple iBooks, Google Play, etc. That’s something I know nothing about, so it will be interesting to find out how it’s done.

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:

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17 KJV)

What beautifully created Parrots! They are just fantastic. Also, I was beginning to worry about Ian. It has been over a month since his last newsletter, Plum-headed Finches.

These parrots are members of the Psittacidae – Parrots Family. There are approximately 365 members, depending on whose list. The greatest diversity of parrots is in South America and Australasia.

Checkout all of Ian’s Parrot photos (around 50 species)

King Parrot at Wikipedia

Psittacidae – Parrots Family

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Hall’s Babbler

Hall's Babbler (Pomatostomus halli) by IanHere is another of the Bowra specialties, Hall’s Babbler, which has a restricted range in dry scrubland in western Queensland north to about Winton and northwestern New South Wales south to about Brewarrina.

If you think it looks just like a White-browed Babbler, you won’t be surprised to hear that it was overlooked as a separate species until 1963 and was first described in 1964. It was named after Harold Hall who funded five controversial bird collecting Australian expeditions in the 1960s and the species was detected, and presumably ‘collected’, on the first of these. It’s larger than the White-browed, 23-25cm/9-10 in length versus 18-22cm/7-9in, is darker overall, has a shorter white bib abruptly shading into the dark belly and a much wider eyebrow. DNA studies suggest that it’s actually more closely related to the Grey-crowned Babbler. It’s voice is described pithily by Pizzey and Knight as ‘squeaky chatterings … lacks “yahoo” of Grey-crowned and madder staccato outbursts of White-browed’. Babblers are clearly birds of great character.

Hall's Babbler (Pomatostomus halli) by Ian

It’s quite common at Bowra in suitable habitat, mainly mulga scrub, and on this occasion we found a party of about 20. Like all Australasian babblers, they’re very social and move erratically through the scrub bouncing along the ground and up into bushes like tennis balls. They’re delightful to watch, and infuriating to photograph as the tangled, twiggy mulga plays havoc with automatic focus – no time for manual – and they keep ducking out of sight. You can be lucky and get ones, like the bird in the second photo, that hesitate briefly, between bounces, in the open to look for food. There had been some good rain a couple of months before our visit, and the birds had been breeding – the one in the third photo with the yellow gape is a juvenile.

Hall's Babbler (Pomatostomus halli) by Ian

Bowra is unusual in that it’s in a relatively small area where the ranges of all four Australian babblers overlap. The other restricted range species, the Chestnut-crowned is at the northern end of its range and also fairly easy to find, while the widespread more northern species, the Grey-crowned, meets the mainly southern White-browed.

I’ve had several emails recently from prominent birders commenting on the excellence of the digital version of Pizzey and Knight. Things they like particularly are the combination of both illustrations and photos (including over 1200 of mine), the great library of bird calls by Fred Van Gessel, portability (phone, tablet and PC), comprehensiveness – all of the more than 900 species recorded in Australia and its territories and ease of generating bird lists by location. The good news is that the price has been reduced to $49.95 and it comes in iPhone/iPad, Android and Windows versions. Go here http://www.gibbonmm.com.au for more information, product tours and links to the appropriate stores, and here http://www.birdway.com.au/meropidae/rainbowbeeeater/source/rainbow_bee_eater_15231.htm to see the photo of the Rainbow Bee-eater below.

Hall's Babbler (Pomatostomus halli) by Ian

My apologies for the delay since the last bird of the week. I’m having a major drive to finish Where to Find Birds in Northeastern Queensland and other things are getting pushed temporarily into the background.

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:

But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. (2 Timothy 2:16 NKJV)

Here is what a Hall’s Babbler sounds like:

Thanks again Ian for sharing another interesting bird from your part of the world.

Our Hall’s Babbler is a member of the Pomatostomidae – Australasian Babblers Family. There are only five species in the family.

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Hall’s Babbler – Wikipedia

Ian’s Bird of the Week

Pomatostomidae – Australasian Babblers Family

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Bower’s Shrike-thrush

Bower's Shrikethrush (Colluricincla boweri) by Ian 1

Bower’s Shrikethrush (Colluricincla boweri) by Ian

Bird of the Week – Bower’s Shrike-thrush ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 12-09-13

We spent several days last week camping on the Atherton Tableland at Malanda Falls Caravan Park. It’s a great caravan park incidentally as it borders on rainforest and is within walking distance of both Malanda Falls and the Conservation Park across the road. My aim was to photograph locations for the book Where to Find Birds in NE Queensland but I was of course on the lookout for any obliging birds, in particular the wet tropic endemic Bower’s Shrike-thrush and the local race of the Yellow-throated Scrubwren, both of which I’d found uncooperative in the past.

One of the spots I visited was Mobo Creek Crater about 10km along the Danbulla Forest Drive from the Gillies Highway end. I hadn’t been there before and found it a delightful spot as the path twice crosses the creek near the crater. I spent some time photographing the local resident, rather dark race of the Grey Fantail (we get the southern race here as a visitor in winter). While, I was doing so, a Bower’s Shrike-thrush came to the creek for a swim. The first photo shows her checking out a small pool from a rock in the creek.

Bower's Shrikethrush (Colluricincla boweri) by Ian 2

Bower’s Shrikethrush (Colluricincla boweri) by Ian

She then jumped into the creek and had a good swim, before jumping back out on the original rock, photos 2 and 3.

Bower's Shrikethrush (Colluricincla boweri) by Ian 3

Bower’s Shrikethrush (Colluricincla boweri) by Ian

Then a good shake, fourth photo, and a rather bedraggled but satisfied-looking bird returned to the rainforest. You can tell it’s a female from the grey bill with a pinkish tinge and the buff eye-ring, lores and eyebrow. Males have black bills and grey eye-ring, lores and eyebrow.

Bower's Shrikethrush (Colluricincla boweri) by Ian 4

Bower’s Shrikethrush (Colluricincla boweri) by Ian

Bower’s Shrike-thrush is one of the 12 species endemic to the Wet Tropics of northeastern Queensland. It is found in highland rainforest above 400m from just south of Cooktown to just north of Townsville and is reasonably common within this relatively restricted range.

Shrike-thrushes get their name from their slightly hooked shrike-like bills and their thrush-like appearance and melodious songs. Bower’s Shrike-thrush has a distinctive whistling song that sounds to me like ‘we you you cha cha cha’ and we heard them at a number of sites during our stay. They are related to Whistlers and are sometimes placed in the same family, Pachycephalidae – ‘thick-heads’ as you may remember from the Rufous Whistler bird of the week last month – or placed in their own family the Colluricinclidae.

Yellow-throated Scrubwren (Sericornis citreogularis) by Ian

Yellow-throated Scrubwren (Sericornis citreogularis) by Ian

Here, incidentally, is a male of the local race of the Yellow-throated Scrubwren that I wanted also for the book. A pair of them emerged into the car park at Millaa Millaa Falls after the last tourist buses had departed.

Best wishes
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:

For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land–a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; (Deuteronomy 8:7 NIV)

He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head. (Psalms 110:7 KJV)

Thanks again, Ian. We don’t get to see birds taking a bath that frequently. At least, not in a stream. Dippers do that, but take a dive also.

Here is the sound of the Shrike-thrush from xeno-canto. It really is neat.

As Ian mentioned in his newsletter, the Shrikethrush belong to the Pachycephalidae – Whistlers and Allies Family (IOC), which is where we have it here, or the Colluricinclidae Family. which is where Ian has it listed. He also uses Shrike-thrush, whereas the IOC uses Shrikethrush.

See:

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – American (and Pacific) Golden Plover

American Golden Plover (Pluvialis dominica) by Ian 1

American Golden Plover (Pluvialis dominica) by Ian 1

Ian’s Bird of the Week – American (and Pacific) Golden Plover ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 11/29/13

Before we get onto Golden Plovers, here is some good news. The Pizzey and Knight Birds of Australia Digital Edition has now been published. The Windows PC version is available from www.gibbonmm.com.au and the iPad, iPhone and iPad version is available from the iTunes store. You can check it out here: www.gibbonmm.com.au/tour/PKBA_iOS.aspx and here: https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/pizzey-knight-birds-australia/id714625973?mt=8. The Android version has not yet been published but is due before Christmas.

It has been a long time coming, but a quick look at the reviews will show why. It’s very much more than just a field guide, though even the Field Guide/Bird Guide modules set new standards with very thorough descriptions, both illustrations and photos (including many of mine) of more than 900 bird species, sounds of more than 700 species, maps showing subspecies and seasonal variation and breeding and modules for Similar Birds, Identification, My Location, My Lists and Birding Sites. Check it out for yourself!

I’ve just been down to Bowen and Ayr checking out locations and taking photos for the digital version of Jo Wieneke’s Where to Find Birds in North-east Queensland, and have visited beaches and mudflats I had waders on the brain when I was considering the choice of this week’s bird. So when I noticed in my iPad version of Pizzey and Knight, that the 2009 record of an American Golden Plover at Boat Harbour NSW – second photo – had been accepted by the BirdLife Australia Rarities Committee (Pizzey and Knight is very thorough!) I thought Aha, let’s do a comparison of Pacific and American Golden Plovers.

American Golden Plover (Pluvialis dominica) by Ian 1

American Golden Plover (Pluvialis dominica) by Ian 1

Waders in non-breeding plumage are often rather drab and very confusing for identification but some of them are sartorially quite splendid when breeding. To see Northern Hemisphere waders in breeding plumage, Australian birders need to be either lucky just before the birds leave Australia in March or follow them to their breeding grounds. I first photographed the American Golden Plovers beside an icy lake in Barrow on the northern tip of Alaska in June 2008, first photo. Gorgeous birds they are with striking black and white and gold spangled upper parts and black bellies and faces with a broad white band along the sides of the neck and upper breast.

In March the following year, I was in Sydney and visited my accountant in Sutherland at a time when there was an unconfirmed report of a non-breeding American Golden Plover at nearby Boat Harbour on the Kurnell Peninsula near Botany Bay. This bird was in a flock of about 30 Pacific Golden Plovers, the species that is the common one in Australia in the southern summer/northern winter. Non-breeding Golden Plovers are notoriously difficult to separate from one another and at that stage 5 out of 7 reports of American Golden Plovers submitted to the Rarities Committee had been rejected. Having both species together made it much easier, as one bird stood as clearly different from the others, with much greyer plumage and white rather than buff facial markings (comparing photos 2 and 4).

American Golden Plover (Pluvialis dominica) by Ian 2

American Golden Plover (Pluvialis dominica) by Ian 2

Plumage is variable, of course, and not enough for definite identification in this case. The situation was complicated by the Pacific Golden Plovers beginning to change into breeding plumage. The bird in the third photo, for example, is in nearly complete breeding plumage, though the black plumage still has grey patches. In this plumage, the most obvious field mark is the white band along the neck and breast. In the Pacific, it is narrower and much more extensive than the band in the American one and extends down the side of the lower breast to the undertail coverts.

Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva) by Ian 3

Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva) by Ian 3

There are differences in size too, the American being larger, heavier-billed and relatively shorter-legged but these are variable too and only reliable if you have birds in the hand and a statistically large sample. So, at the end of the day, the committee wanted to know about relative lengths of tails, primary and tertiary wing feathers of resting birds. These can be judged from photos as well as in the hand and the submitters of the rarity report included one of my photos. The wing tips of Pacific Golden Plovers do not extend much beyond the tail, but the wing tips of American ones extend about 50mm beyond it.

Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva) by Ian 4

Pacific Golden Plover (Pluvialis fulva) by Ian 4

So, those are the lengths you need to go both literally and figuratively sometimes to identify rare birds! The Pacific Golden Plover nests mainly in northern Russia but its breeding range does extend to western Alaska and overlaps with that of the American Golden Plover, so there is no doubt that they are separate biological species. If all this seems a bit arcane, don’t worry: just enjoy the photos. Golden Plovers of any hue are lovely birds and I always enjoy seeing them.

Best wishes
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:

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. (Proverbs 25:11 KJV)

Thanks, Ian, for more lessons on how to identify birds, especially these two plovers. I have had the privilege of seeing the American Golden Plover, but not the Pacific one. It does look like specks of gold on their wings. The only bird mentioned with golden feathers in the Bible is the dove.

Though you lie down among the sheepfolds, You will be like the wings of a dove covered with silver, And her feathers with yellow gold.” (Psalms 68:13 NKJV)

Ian didn’t mention their songs, but here are the two from xeno-canto. Both by Andrew Spencer.

American Golden Plover – song

Pacific Golden Plover – call and song

There are actually three Golden Plovers:

See:

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Swamp Harrier

Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Swamp Harrier by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 9-2-13

Recently I was having trouble finding a reasonable photo of a Swamp Harrier for Where to Find Birds in Northeastern Queensland, when I remembered an encounter that I had with this one on a beach on Bruny Island in Southeastern Tasmania in late 2011. At the time, I was on the return leg of the trip to the Sub-Antarctic Islands via New Zealand and the Harrier photos got neglected in the excitement of posting penguin, petrel, prion and parakeet photos (not to mention albatrosses but they spoil the alliteration).

The encounter was the enactment of a minor natural tragedy that was sad to observe, and that may be a subconscious reason for the neglect. I’d actually photographed the bird first photo two minutes earlier struggling to fly into the teeth of a southerly gale and carrying an item of prey, that I couldn’t identify. The Harrier dropped it, back off to leeward and made another unsuccessful attempt to fly up-wind by flying low over the sea on the other side of me.

Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans) by Ian

This attempt failed too, and the bird came back for another try flying more or less overhead. At that point, it was attacked by a very distraught-looking Pied Oystercatcher looking for all the world as if it was on a retaliatory bombing raid. The Oystercatcher made a couple of passes at the Harrier, which eventually gave up the struggle and flew inland across the prevailing wind. I could only assume that the item of prey was the Oystercatcher’s chick and the field guide confirmed that these look like plover chicks, camouflaged speckled brown with white bellies. Predation is a natural part of life, but it was sad that the chick died for no purpose.

Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans) by Ian

I’ve found Harriers difficult to photograph as they’re shy and normally keep their distance in flight. They are also terrestrial in their lifestyle, inhabiting tree-less plains and wetlands, hunting close to the ground and nesting and perching on the ground, usually invisible or nearly so in grass or reeds. They hunt by flying low over the land or water – quartering – and dropping suddenly to seize surprised prey (sorry, I’ve done it again) such as birds, small mammals and frogs in their long-legged talons. When quartering, they alternate between flapping their wings and gliding with the wings held in a characteristic V, like the bird in the fourth photo in an otherwise tranquil pastoral scene in New Zealand.

Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans) by Ian

Adult Swamp Harriers are brownish and streaked, with white rumps. Older males have greyish wings and grey tails, unmarked except for a sub-terminal band. Females are more rufous and have barred tails and both the Bruny Island and New Zealand birds are, I think, males. Juvenile Swamp Harriers look quite different and are rufous brown overall with pale rufous rather than white rumps, like the one in the fifth photo.

Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans) by Ian

In Australia, Swamp Harriers nest mainly in the south, including Tasmania and migrate north in winter – in North Queensland, we see them only in the winter months. In New Zealand they make local movements across Cook Strait and they turn up on various islands including Lord Howe and Norfolk. Raptors are poorly represented in New Zealand and the Swamp Harrier is the large bird of the prey, being the only breeding member of the Accipiter family (hawks, eagles, etc.), with the rarer New Zealand Falcon being the only breeding falcon. Swamp Harriers also breed in Melanesia and Polynesia as far east as Tonga. It has close relatives in Eurasia comprising the Eastern, Western, African and Madagascar Marsh Harriers.

Best wishes
Ian

**************************************************
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Bird Photos http://www.birdway.com.au/
Recorder Society http://www.nqrs.org.au


Lee’s Addition:

And when the birds of prey swooped down upon the carcasses, Abram drove them away. (Genesis 15:11 AMP)

In this case, the Oystercatcher “drove them away.” You have to admit, that Oystercatcher looks right angry.

The Swamp Harrier is a member of the Accipitridae – Kites, Hawks & Eagles Family. There are 256 species, of which, 17 are Harriers or Harrier-hawks.

Ian already gave quite a bit of information about this beautiful bird. The diet of the Swamp Harrier is mainly ground birds and waterbirds, rabbits and other small mammals, reptiles, frogs and fish. During the Winter months harriers feed to a large extent on carrion, including roadkill.

This species nests on the ground, often in swamps, on a mound in reeds or other dense vegetation. The clutch size may range from 2 to 7, but is usually 3 or 4. The incubation period is about 33 days, with chicks fledging about 45 days after hatching. (Wikipedia)

See also:

Swamp Harrier – Wingspan

Swamp Harrier – Wikipedia

Ian’s Accipitridae Family Photos

Accipitridae – Kites, Hawks & Eagles Family

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Spotted Harrier

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (Acanthagenys rufogularis) by Ian

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (Acanthagenys rufogularis) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater ~ Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 8/20/13

I’m currently preparing photos for a digital version of the book Where to Find Birds in North-East Queensland by Jo Wieneke (http://www.nqbirds.com). I’m finding that many of these have not yet featured as bird of the week, so here’s one that I came across a photo this morning that appealed to me, one of an unusual-looking honeyeater, the Spiny-cheeked, taken not long after sunrise at Gluepot, the BirdLife Australia mallee reserve in South Australia. At the time, I was spending some time each morning at a hide overlooking a drinking trough waiting for Scarlet-chested Parrots http://www.birdway.com.au/psittacidae/scarlet_chested_parrot/index.htm.

The Spiny-cheeked is a bird of dry country, so the easiest way to photograph it is as watering places, and the second photo was taken in Central Queensland south of Torrens Creek near a dam, this time close to sunset. It is a widespread and common in the more arid parts of mainland Australia except tropical Australia north of about 19ºS and Tasmania. It also occurs in scrubby coastal areas, such as southern Victoria. Like many dry-country birds it is nomadic and appears only rarely in Northeastern Queensland, though I did see one in the garden in the first house I lived in Townsville in 2002.

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (Acanthagenys rufogularis) by Ian

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (Acanthagenys rufogularis) by Ian

With a length of 23-26cm/9-10in, it’s quite large by honeyeater standards and the bare pink area on the face gives it some similarity to the Wattlebirds, also honeyeaters. Although it is the only member of the genus Acanthagenys, DNA studies have shown that it is related to both the Wattlebirds (Acanthocaera) and the Regent Honeyeater, another one with bare red skin, in this case around the eye. The Spiny-cheeked is quite vocal with a creaky, piping, rather Wattlebird-like song, often the first sign of its presence.

Feedback on the change in font was rather muted, with one in favour of the new one, one against it and one not liking the underlining of the scientific name. I can agree with all points of view and am undecided, though I’m using the new font for photos in the digital version of Jo Wieneke’s book. I’ve rather got used to it, though I’ve started putting the scientific name in grey to make the underlining less obvious as I’m constrained both by the convention of using either italics or underlining for scientific name and the lack of an italic option in an already italic-looking font. My thanks to those who took the trouble to respond.

Jo’s book has been out of print for a little while now, so the digital version is to fill the gap left by its disappearance from book shops. I’ll let you know when it is available: the aim is to publish it for Apple iBooks, Google PlayBooks and Amazon Kindle.

Best wishes
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:

My son, eat honey because it is good, And the honeycomb which is sweet to your taste; (Pro 24:13 NKJV)

This Honeyeater belong to the Meliphagidae – Honeyeaters Family, which has 184 species. Check out Ian’s photos of this Family.

In addition to what Ian mentioned about the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Wikipedia had this to say:

The honeyeater is mainly frugivorous, but will also eat nectar, blossoms, insects, reptiles, and young birds. Its habitat includes deserts, coastal scrubland, and dry woodlands. It is also found in mangroves and orchards. Its range includes most of Australia except for Tasmania, tropical Northern areas, the Southeastern coast.

The Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater is a grey-brown bird with a burnt orange throat and chest. It has grey wings edged with white, and a long tail with white tips. It has a pink, black-tipped bill.

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Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (Acanthagenys rufogularis) ©WikiC

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (Acanthagenys rufogularis) ©WikiC

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Here is the song of a Spiny-cheeked from xeno-canto.

See:

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Tooth-billed Bowerbird

Tooth-billed Bowerbird (Scenopoeetes dentirostris) by Ian

Tooth-billed Bowerbird (Scenopoeetes dentirostris) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Tooth-billed Bowerbird ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter 8-20-10

I’m squeezing this bird of the week in between the Birds Australia Congress and Campout, which finished this morning, and my departure for California tomorrow. The Congress and Campout was a great success and ran like clockwork thanks to the preparation, dedication and hard work of our secretary and committee. I had a request from a participant to make the Golden Bowerbird – one of the highlights of the Campout – this week’s bird but this species starred in this role earlier this year. So, instead I’ve chosen the Tooth-billed Bowerbird and included a photo of the Golden Bowerbird, both being endemics of the Queensland wet tropics and inhabiting highland rainforest.

Tooth-billed Bowerbird (Scenopoeetes dentirostris) by Ian

Tooth-billed Bowerbird (Scenopoeetes dentirostris) by Ian

It’s not spectacular in appearance like the Golden Bowerbird, but it’s an interesting bird nevertheless. It doesn’t build a bower; instead it has a display platform consisting of an oval cleared space on the ground around a small tree trunk with a suitable branch used as a perch for singing above the platform. It decorates the platform with large, fresh leaves that the bird collects by using its serrated bill to chew through the leaf stem. The second photo shows a bird in full song and you can see the serrations on the bill, from which it gets the name. Like other bowerbirds, it is an accomplished songster and very good a mimicry. It is also fussy. Most bowerbirds are extraordinarily fussy in their choice of objects and colours to decorate the bowers. Tooth-billed Bowerbirds only use leaves, but the leaves are carefully chosen for appearance and laid upside down, with the paler surface uppermost. Apparently, if you turn them up the other way, the bird will put them back the correct way.

Golden Bowerbird (Prionodura newtoniana) by Ian

Golden Bowerbird (Prionodura newtoniana) by Ian

They usually start attending their display areas in September, so we were a bit early and I don’t think anyone actually saw one, though there were reports of hearing them. There was, however, some early activity and a couple of birds had several leaves in place. At the peak of the season, there may be up to 30 or so leaves, and these are replaced regularly with fresh ones. The Golden Bowerbirds had made an early start to and were decorating their bowers with pieces of lichen. The bird in the third photo, taken last Tuesday, has just added a piece to the bigger pile on the left and he is standing on the display perch between the two piles of twigs – ‘maypoles’ – that make up the typical bower of this species. The display perch is very important as it is where all the real action takes place, and you can see that this one is well worn.

You can expect an American as the next Bird of the Week. I’ve gone right off flying in recent years, so I’m getting the train to Brisbane for my flight to San Francisco. Unfortunately, there isn’t a convenient alternative to flying if you wish to cross the Pacific.

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:

The Bowerbirds are in the Ptilonorhynchidae – Bowerbirds Family. The family has 17 Bowerbirds and 3 Catbirds in it and they are part of the Passeriformes Order (Songbirds).

Previous articles on Bowerbirds:

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Spotted Bowerbird and the Golden Bowerbird

a j mithra’s – Golden Bowerbird


Family#126 – Ptilonorhynchidae
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