Ian’s Bird of the Week – Azure Kingfisher

Azure Kingfisher (Ceyx azurea) by Ian

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Azure Kingfisher ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 2/2/2016

Although the second boat trip at Daintree didn’t produce any more Black Bitterns, it did produce a few gems including this Azure Kingfisher. This has featured as bird of the week before, but that was almost exactly nine years ago so I imagine you’ll forgive another one. They’re small (17-19cm/6.5-7.5in) usually quite shy and often hard to spot perched in dense riverine forest but these ones on the Daintree seem to be used to boats full of birders. Anyone this one let us get very close. Incidentally, I meant to provide a link to Ian Worcester’s website last week but forgot, so here it is: Daintree River Wild Watch.

The one in the first photo is an adult, probably a male from the bright colours. The second photo is on another one on the Daintree from an earlier visit. This one is a juvenile, I think, with scalloping on the crown and blacker wings. Azure Kingfisher normally perch on a branch over water and dive for their prey, returning to the same perch to administer the coup de grace. They feed mainly on small fish, but also on crustaceans and other invertebrates and occur on both fresh and tidal rivers.

Azure Kingfisher (Ceyx azurea) by Ian

Azure Kingfisher occur in New Guinea and northern and eastern Australia and in Tasmania. Three Australian races are recognised. The bluer nominate race occurs in eastern Australia, while the smaller, more violet northern race ruficollaris, third photo, occurs from NW Western Australia eastwards as far as Cooktown in Far North Queensland. The northern race has more blue extending much farther down the flanks than in the nominate race. Cooktown is only about 100km north of the Daintree as the Kingfisher flies, so the birds here are probably intermediate between these two races.

Azure Kingfisher (Ceyx azurea) by Ian

I’ve included the bird of the week from February 2007 for comparison, fourth photo. this was in the Sydney area and belongs to the nominate race. The third race diemensensis occurs only in western Tasmania and is classified as endangered by the Tasmanian Government. It is larger, has a smaller bill and a dark crown.

Azure Kingfisher (Ceyx azurea) by Ian

Work progress on the website. I’ve finished updating nearly all the galleries of the Australasian non-passerines (58 families) with only the members of the Cuckoo family to do. Then I’ll start on the Australasian Passerines (46 families).

On Saturday 13 February I’m giving at talk at the BirdLife Townsville AGM (see Activities for details and location) on the birds of New Caledonia. I’m calling it “New Caledonian birds: from strangely familiar to very strange” with reference to the Australasian origin of most of the species. If you’re in the Townsville district, it would be great to see you there. 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/


Lee’s Addition:

Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created. (Psalms 148:5 KJV)

What a cute little bird! Love those kingfishers anyway, but this one seems special. It is in the river kingfisher part of the family.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s Birdway – Kingfishers

Alcedinidae – Kingfishers Family

Good News

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Silvereye

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Silvereye ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 9/18/15

Two weeks ago we had the obscure Small Lifou White-eye as bird of the week. This week we have what is probably its best known relative – at least in Australasia – the Silvereye. I mentioned that the members of the White-eye family are expert colonisers of small islands in the Indian and western Pacific Oceans. The Silvereye is no exception and provides a particularly interesting case-study in bio-geography that is unusual in that some of its range expansion is both historically recent and well documented.

Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis) by Ian

I’ll return to that later after looking at its range and variation in Australia. Here it occurs in coastal and sub-coastal regions from the tip of Cape York clockwise around Australia to Shark Bay in Western Australia, including Tasmania. Between Shark Bay and western Cape York it is replaced by the Australian Yellow White-eye. Currently, about nine races are recognised. The nominate race, lateralis, is Tasmanian and visually the most distinctive having cinnamon-coloured flanks, which is presumably what John Latham was referring to when he described the species in 1801 only 13 years after European settlement.

Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis) by Ian

There are five mainland races ranging northeastern Queensland to Western Australia. The differences between these are subtle and the race grade into one another. Townsville, second photo, is in the zone of intergradation between the Cape York race (vegetus) and the eastern Australian one (cornwalli). Note the lack of the cinnamon flanks and the clear demarcation between the yellowish-green head and the grey back and compare that with the Western Australian race ,third photo, which has a green back and to which its sub-specific name chloronotus refers. (I’m using the words race and subspecies interchangeably here).

Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis) by Ian

There are three island races in addition to the Tasmanian one and they occur on King Island in Bass Strait; the islands of the Barrier Reef notably Heron Island; and on Lord Howe Island. The Lord Howe one, aptly name robusta, is larger and stronger than the nominate race and survived the introduction of mice and rats. That’s an interesting little story in its own right as it became very rare, was thought to have become extinct like other Lord Howe Island species and the nominate race was deliberately introduced to replace it. To everyone’s surprise the indigenous race survived, adapted to the presence of the rodents, recovered and the introduction of the nominate race was unsuccessful.

Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis) by Ian

If you go farther afield to Norfolk Island expecting to find a distinctive looking local Silvereye, you’d be in for a surprise, fourth photo, as the locals, complete with cinnamon flanks, are indistinguishable from the nominate race, which it in fact is. If you went to New Zealand, the same thing would happen and you would find the nominate race on both main islands, Stewart Island, Chatham Island and the sub-Antarctic islands such as Snares, the Aucklands and Chatham. What happens if you head north and end up in New Caledonia? On the main island, you’d find this race, fifth photo, called griseonota, meaning, of course, ‘grey-backed’. Apart from the black smudge on the face, it looks to me very like the Cape York race.

Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis) by Ian

So what, you may ask, is happening? The proliferation of race suggests a sedentary species with little genetic mixing between neighbouring populations but this is contradicted by the widespread range of the Tasmanian race which suggests genetic flow between Tasmanian, Norfolk Island and New Zealand. In fact both are true to some extent, and this is where history comes to the rescue. Here is a map that I’ve drawn up showing the different races of the Silvereye using the basic range map from Handbook of Birds of the World (HBW) as a template. The different colours represent races. The red one is the nominate race; the other Australian races are shown in varying shades of blue and green and black; the New Caledonian races (three) in grey, the Vanuatu races (three) in purple and the Fiji race in indigo.

Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis) by Ian Map

The Tasmanian race isn’t completely sedentary. At least part of the population, probably mainly young birds, disperse in autumn and move Victoria and New South Wales for the winter. The Victorian ornithologist Alfred North noticed the change in plumage and ascribed it to winter and summer plumages. It was only later that it was realised that the change in appearance didn’t coincide with moulting in the mainland birds and the truth emerged. Incidentally, Latham’s original specimen came from ‘Port Jackson’ (Sydney) and must have been a Tasmanian bird.

As any blue-water sailor will tell you, the weather in Bass Strait between Tasmania and Victoria is notorious and a pleasant sail, or flight, in calm conditions can suddenly become a nightmare when a low pressure system and its associated cold front can arrive from the southwest. Powerful weather systems move continuously in an easterly direction between Tasmania and New Zealand. Have a look at the current four-day weather chart: http://www.bom.gov.au/australia/charts/4day_col.shtml. Another clue comes from the Maori name for the Silvereye: ‘tauhou’ meaning ‘stranger’. Silvereyes were rare vagrants to New Zealand until 1856 when large numbers appeared in the Welllington district, became established and spread to other parts of New Zealand. Similarly, Silvereyes first appeared in Norfolk Island in 1904 and it as assumed that these came from New Zealand rather than Tasmania. Silvereyes have benefitted from European settlement in Australia and it may be that is also a factor in their recent colonisation of New Zealand and Norfolk Island.

I wonder how the Silvereyes got to New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji? These all look more like the Cape York race than the nominate one. Tropical cyclones in the Coral Sea are famously erratic and often head from Queensland to New Caledonia, so it looks as if the weather could play the main role here.

I’m going to stop here. I was going to talk about names and languages as well, but you can work that out for yourselves. We’ve already had cloronotus and griseonota for Australian races. Combine that with the French for Silvereye ‘Lunette a dos gris’ and the New Caledonian endemic Green-backed White-eye: ‘Lunette a dos vert’. Globally, there are almost 100 species of White-eye, not to mention races, and they nearly all look much the same, so pity any unfortunate taxonomists trying to be original.

And here’s a paper that I found interesting: http://aviculturalsocietynsw.org/_PDFs/Silvereye.pdf. You can check out photos of various White-eyes here: http://www.birdway.com.au/zosteropidae/index.htm.

Greetings

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

And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. (Genesis 1:22-23 ESV)

Lee’s Addition:

Well, Ian really got informative on these Silvereyes. Very interesting, at least to me. When the Lord commanded the birds to cover the earth and reproduce, these little avian wonders with beautiful silver eye rings seem to have obeyed.

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Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s Zosteropidae Family

Wordless Hummers

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The World’s Ugliest Animal – Creation Moment

Blobfish ©Simon Elgood

Blobfish ©Simon Elgood

Now here is an interesting and “ugly” fish. This was shared by Creation Moments.

For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:11 KJV)

Published on Apr 22, 2015

http://www.CreationMoments.com

When this fish is taken out of the water, its face almost looks like a very sad person. In 2013 it was voted the “World’s Ugliest Animal”. What is this creature that was adopted as the mascot of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society? It’s the appropriately named blobfish.
Photos of the ugly blobfish have been making the rounds on the Internet. And yet, even the blobfish has beauty when you consider that it was designed to function perfectly in its environment.

Blobfish inhabit the deep waters off the coasts of Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. If you wanted to see one in its natural habitat, you would have to dive to a depth of between 2,000 and 3,900 feet where the pressure is several dozen times higher than at sea level. The pressure is no problem for the blobfish, though. Its jelly-like body is slightly less dense than water, allowing it to float effortlessly just above the sea floor.
Blobfish don’t have much muscle for swimming, but they don’t need it. They simply swallow edible matter that floats into their mouth. Sadly, they are an endangered species because of fishing trawlers dragging their nets on the seafloor.

Yes, the blobfish is far from attractive. But it serves as a reminder that sinful human beings are unattractive in the sight of God. And yet, while we were still sinners, God sent His Son to die for us and to exchange His righteousness for our sins, making us acceptable in God’s sight. What a Savior!
Prayer:

Father, thank You for sending Your Holy Spirit to reveal the ugliness brought about by sin. Thank You also for sending Your Son to remove my sin and make me righteous in Your sight. Amen.

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Plus

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Strong-billed Honeyeater

Bird of the Week – Strong-billed Honeyeater ~ Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 3-27-13

Still on the subject of Tasmanian endemics, Tasmania has 4 honeyeater that aren’t found on the mainland. We had the Yellow Wattlebird several weeks ago; the other three comprise the Yellow-throated Honeyeater and two of the seven members of the genus Melithreptus : the Black-headed Honeyeater and this week’s choice the Strong-billed Honeyeater.

Strong-billed Honeyeater (Melithreptus validirostris) by Ian 1

Strong-billed Honeyeater (Melithreptus validirostris) by Ian 1

Melithreptus means ‘honey-fed’ and is like Meliphaga a synonym for ‘Honeyeater’ (the Honeyeater family is Meliphagidae) and most members of the Melithreptus genus feed on nectar to varying degrees. The Strong-billed is different, however, and feeds mainly on insects and other invertebrates. It uses its sturdy bill and relatively strong neck and shoulders to strip bark from tree trunks and branches and to probe coarse bark in search of prey. The bird in the first photo is in a very typical pose. Note the strong feet and long claws adapted for clinging to vertical trunks. Interestingly, there are no treecreepers in Tasmania, and the Strong-billed Honeyeater would appear to have adapted to fill the resulting void. With a length of 15-17 cm/6-6.7 in it is the largest member of the genus.

Strong-billed Honeyeater (Melithreptus validirostris) by Ian 2

Strong-billed Honeyeater (Melithreptus validirostris) by Ian 2

All the Melithreptus species except the Black-headed have the distinctive white stripe across the back of the head. They all have decorative eye-crescents above the eye and its colour is a field mark for distinguishing the different species, and can be whitish, blue, yellowish or red. You can see that it is whitish in these Strong-billed though it can also be pale blue.

Strong-billed Honeyeater (Melithreptus validirostris) by Ian 3

Strong-billed Honeyeater (Melithreptus validirostris) by Ian 3

Tomorrow, I’m off to Southwestern Queensland in search of dry-country birds. So I hope to be able to bring you some interesting examples of these in the coming weeks.

Best wishes
Ian

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

And He said to me, Son of man, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. (Ezekiel 3:3 AMP)

I like the clean lines on that Honeyeater. Simple, but very becoming. Thanks, Ian, for introducing us to another Tazmanian bird. Not sure whats out in the Southwestern Queensland, but I am sure in the weeks to come, we will find out. Humm! Wonder what he will find?

As Ian said, the Strong-billed Honeyeater is part of the Meliphagidae – Honeyeaters Family. Check out his Meliphagidae Family. He has lots of photos of them.

See his other newsletters about the Honeyeaters:

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Tasmanian Thornbill

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Tasmanian Thornbill ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter ~ 3/13/13

Are you good at those spot the differences games where you need to find usually ten subtle differences between two drawings? If so, this bird of the week, another in the series of Tasmanian endemics the Tasmanian Thornbill, is for you. The first two photos are of a Tasmanian Thornbill, the third is of its closest relative the Brown Thornbill, which also occurs in Tasmania.

Tasmanian Thornbill (Acanthiza ewingii) by Ian 1

Tasmanian Thornbill (Acanthiza ewingii) by Ian

The differences are as follows. The Tasmanian Thornbill:

  • has tan rather than brownish-buff forehead
  • has shorter bill
  • has darker grey breast
  • has mottled rather than streaked breast
  • has buffish rather than whitish edges to flight feathers
  • has white rather than buff flanks
  • has longer tail
  • harsher calls and more disjointed song (otherwise very similar)
  • prefers denser, wetter habitats (we’re getting desperate here)
Tasmanian Thornbill (Acanthiza ewingii) by Ian 2

Tasmanian Thornbill (Acanthiza ewingii) by Ian

The reward? Another tick on your Australian list.

Brown Thornbill (Acanthiza pusilla) by Ian 3

Brown Thornbill (Acanthiza pusilla) by Ian

Best wishes
Ian

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

There are thorns and snares on the path of the crooked; the one who guards himself stays far from them. Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:5-6 HCSB)

Oh, now Ian is going to make us “work”! But that is how we learn to ID these birds and the others. Sometimes there is such a subtle difference in some of them. May we never get to the place where we don’t want to be challenged.

Here are the Calls of the Tasmanian and Brown Thornbills

Here are the Songs of the Tasmanian and Brown Thornbills

Thornbills are in the Acanthizidae family. Ian has quite a collection of them on his Thornbills & Allies page. This family, Acanthizidae – Australasian Warblers, has 65 species in it. The Acanthizidae, also known as the Australasian warblers, are a family of passerine birds which include gerygones, thornbills, and scrubwrens. The Acanthizidae consists of small to medium passerine birds, with a total length varying between 3.1 and 7.5 in (8 and 19 centimetres). They have short rounded wings, slender bills, long legs, and a short tail. Most species have olive, grey, or brown plumage, although some have patches of a brighter yellow. The smallest species of acanthizid, and indeed the smallest Australian passerine, is the Weebill, the largest is the Pilotbird.

Links:

Ian’s Birdway

xeno-canto Tasmanian Thornbill

xeno-canto Brown Thornbill

Other Ian’s Bird of the Week

Ian’s Bird of the Week – Green Rosella

Green Rosella (Platycercus caledonicus) by Ian 1

Green Rosella (Platycercus caledonicus) by Ian 1

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

Newsletter ~ 2/26/13

The two recent Tasmanian birds of the week seem to have been popular so here is another one, the Green Rosella. I spent an enjoyable week in a rented campervan in Tasmanian in December 2011 on the way back from the Sub-antarctic trip chasing Tasmanian specialties. After that trip, the Tasmanian species got somewhat eclipsed by the penguins, albatrosses and other seabirds as choices for bird of the week, so I’m making amends now.

Green Rosella (Platycercus caledonicus) by Ian 2

Green Rosella (Platycercus caledonicus) by Ian 2

At up to 37cm/14.6in in length, it’s the largest of the Rosellas, being marginally larger on average than its close relative the Crimson Rosella which it replaces in Tasmania and some islands in Bass Strait. Males are generally larger than females and there are subtle between the sexes with males having relatively larger upper mandibles and broader heads (first photo) and females having more orange on the cheeks (second photo) though most of the field guides don’t distinguish between the sexes.

Green Rosella (Platycercus caledonicus) by Ian 3

Green Rosella (Platycercus caledonicus) by Ian 3

Juveniles, third photo, are more distinctive with duller more olive plumage and, in flight, pale wing stripes. This bird was in the company of the adult in the second photo, and the one in the first photo was in the same area, so I assumed that they comprised a family.

Green Rosellas are quite common throughout Tasmania, showing a preference for highland forest, though these ones were near the coast on the Tinderbox Peninsula south of Hobart, a good place to search for all the Tasmanian endemics.

"Yellow" Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans flaveolus) by Ian  4

“Yellow” Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans flaveolus) by Ian 4

The specific name caledonicus was used by the German naturalist Johann Gmelin in 1788, who mistakenly believed that the type specimen had been collected in New Caledonia. Confusion is the name of the game in Rosella terminology, and species boundaries have changed over the years. The Crimson Rosella has two races which differ greatly in plumage and both the ‘Yellow Rosella’ of Southwest NSW and the ‘Adelaide Rosella’ of South Australia have been regarded as separate species in the past. The Yellow Rosella (fourth photo) looks quite like the Green Rosella – and not at all like a Crimson Rosella – but the Green, given its geographical isolation, has been given the benefit of the doubt and retained as a separate species. This is just as well, politically anyway, as it’s the avian symbol of Tasmania and deserves a certain status.

Best wishes
Ian

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

I will teach you regarding the hand and handiwork of God; that which is with the Almighty … (Job 27:11a AMP)

The Green Rosella is sometimes referred to as the Tasmanian Rosella, probably as Ian mentioned because it is the Avian Symbol of Tasmanian. The Green and “Yellow” Crimson Rosella are part of the Psittacidae – Parrots Family. What gorgeous birds belong to this family and they show the Handiwork of the Lord at some of it’s finest.

Their diet is composed of seeds, fruit, berries and flowers, as well as insects and insect larvae. The Green Rosella is predominantly herbivorous, consuming seeds, berries, nuts and fruit, as well as flowers, but may also eat insect larvae and insects such as psyllids. They have also partaken of the berries of the common hawthorn, as well as Coprosma and Cyathodes, and even leaf buds of the Common Osier. The seeds of the Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata) are also eaten.

The breeding season is October to January, with one brood. The nesting site is usually a hollow over 1 m (3 ft) deep in a tree trunk anywhere up to 30 m (100 ft) above the ground. A clutch of four or five white and slightly shiny eggs, measuring 30 x 24 mm, is laid. The nestlings leave the nest around five weeks after hatching and remain with their parents for another month.

See also:

(Wikipedia with editing)

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