Ian’s Bird of the Week – Green Catbird

 Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) by Ian 1

Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) by Ian 1

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Green Catbird ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 12/18/12

My trip to Sydney produced another bird on my wanted list that I had taken only poor photos of before, the Green Catbird. It’s not rare or, given its calls, hard to find in its favourite habitat of temperate and sub-tropical rainforest, but most birds apart from things like Brush-Turkeys are hard to photograph in rainforest. It’s call is not as one might expect a gentle miaowing but more like a cat being given an injection at the vets or those rude sounds make with balloons and as such, is one of the delights of east coast rainforest.

Australian Catbirds, unrelated to American Catbirds, are members of the Bowerbird family. Unlike their flamboyant cousins, they form pair-bonds and the males help in domestic chores like nest-building. So, eschewing wild mating behaviour, they don’t build wonderful bowers or collect flashy toys. Everything has its price, one supposes, but the call is some compensation. At 24-32cm/10-13in in length, they’re comparable in size to Satin Bowerbirds and, if silent in foliage, can be confused with female or immature members of that species.

Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) by Ian 2

Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) by Ian 2

The generic name Ailuroedus comes from the Greek ailouros for cat and odos for a singer, which is stretching the definition of singer slightly, but maybe singing embraces yodelling. The range of the Green Catbird extends from the south coast of New South Wales (Narooma) to near Gladstone on the central coast of Queensland. In tropical Queensland it is replaced by the very similar-looking and similar-sounding Spotted Catbird which featured as Bird of the Week in 2006 (below).

Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) by Ian 3

Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) by Ian 3

The ‘Spotted’ presumably refers to the stronger markings on the breast as the Green Catbird has more obvious white spots on the back (second photo) but the main difference is the darker markings on the face of the Spotted Catbird. As their ranges don’t overlap, distinguishing between them isn’t an issue. The Spotted Catbird extends from Paluma Range National Park, near Bluewater where I live to Cooktown and there is a separate population, recognised as a different race with darker face markings, on Cape York (e.g. Iron Range). In the past, both Green and Spotted were treated as a single species and some of the splitters would like to make the Cape York race a full species, another tick I suppose. There are other races of the Spotted in New Guinea and another species, the White-eared Catbird, A. buccoides.

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
Check the latest website updates:
http://www.birdway.com.au/#updates


Lee’s Addition:

The Green Catbird is part of the Ptilonorhynchidae – Bowerbirds Family which has three Catbirds, the White-eared Catbird (Ailuroedus buccoides), Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris) and the Spotted Catbird (Ailuroedus melanotis). Ian has the family as Australian Catbirds & Bowerbirds.

Dan and I were able to see a White-eared Catbird (Ailuroedus buccoides) this year at the Zoo Miami. Most of the time when I think of a Grey Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), it is ours  which is in a completely different family. (Mimidae – Mockingbirds, Thrashers) The Black Catbird (Melanoptila glabrirostris) is also part of that family. The 6th Catbird, Abyssinian Catbird (Parophasma galinieri) is in yet another family (Sylviidae – Sylviid Babblers).

See more of Ian’s Bird of the Week adventures.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Powerful Owl

Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) by Ian 1

Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) by Ian 1

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

Newsletter – 12/9/2012

My apologies again for a tardy bird of the week, so here is something special. Well, special for me, anyway, as it has been a serious bogey bird for me. All addicted birders and bird photographers have their bogeys, in the sense of ‘an evil or mischievous spirit, a cause of annoyance or harassment’ usually a species that is invisible to the victim or hides whenever the victim is around.

Powerful Owls first cast an evil spell on me on 11 February 1999 when one in Pennant Hills Park made my film camera malfunction so that the entire film was hopelessly underexposed – you can see the wicked gleam in its eye below. As soon as I picked up the film from the chemist the following day, I went back to Pennant Hills Park but the owl was no longer there or no longer visible.

Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) by Ian 2

Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) by Ian 2

Shortly after that I moved from Sydney and switched to digital photography (nowadays we take instant photographic feedback for granted). Since then, whenever I’ve visited Sydney I’ve looked for Powerful Owls in all their usual haunts – Pennant Hills Park, Mitchell Park, Beecroft, Warriewood, Royal Botanic Gardens, Royal National Park, etc. – without success.

Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) by Ian 3

Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) by Ian 3

Last Tuesday I gave a talk on parrots to Birding NSW in Sydney and inquired about POs. Yes, one had been seen in its favourite tree, the White Fig, near the entrance to Government House the previous Saturday. I went there on Wednesday and searched the tree for at least 20 minutes but the owl remained invisible until I decided to leave. Delighted with its success, it let its guard down, the spell weakened and I got the briefest visual sensation, like a shimmering mirage, of a barred tail. Powerful Owls are big 60-65cm/24-26in in length, it was then quite visible from the ground and not very high up, so a spell is the only explanation.

Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) by Ian 4

Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) by Ian 4

The next day, I went birding with Madeleine Murray and we abandoned plans to look for the owl (they’re quite visible to her) and went instead to Port Hacking, south of Sydney, where, lo and behold, we found another one, or to be more accurate Mad found it after I’d walked straight past it as the spell hadn’t entirely dissipated – it normally does so quite quickly after it has been broken once.

Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) by Ian 5

Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) by Ian 5

The Powerful Owl is the largest of the Hawk Owls (genus Ninox) and exceeded in size only by the world’s largest owls such as the Grey Grey and the larger Eagle Owls. It is found in eastern and southeastern Australia usually within 200km of the coast from central Queensland to eastern South Australia. It has large territories ranging in size from 3-15 square kilometres so it is nowhere common and is listed as Vulnerable. However, it seems to be quite tolerant of selective logging and can survive in patchy forests. It feeds mainly on arboreal mammals such as possums, but will also take flying foxes (fruit bats) and roosting birds.

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
Check the latest website updates:
http://www.birdway.com.au/#updates
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Lee’s Addition:

Glad you sent us a Bird of the Week, Ian. I was starting to worry about you, that maybe you were sick or something. The wait was worth it because this is a beautiful Owl. I am glad you are no longer under this bird’s “evil spell on” you.

The Powerful Owl is part of the Strigidae – Owl Family. To see more photos of them, check out Ian’s photos and our Family page here:

Typical or Hawk Owls – Ian’s Birdway

Strigidae – Owl Family

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