Sunday Inspiration – Whistlers and Avian Friends

Whitehead (Mohoua albicilla) ©WikiC

Whitehead (Mohoua albicilla) ©WikiC

But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. (1 John 2:5 KJV)

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. (1 John 5:3 KJV)

Mohoua is a small genus of three bird species endemic to New Zealand. Their taxonomic placement has presented problems: They have typically been placed in the Pachycephalidae family (whistlers), but in 2013 it was established that they are best placed in their own family, Mohouidae.

All three species display some degree of sexual dimorphism in terms of size, with the males being the larger of the two sexes. Mohoua are gregarious and usually forage in groups . They also forage in mixed species flocks at times, frequently forming the nucleus of such flocks. Social organization and behavior is well documented for all three Mohoua species; cooperative breeding has been observed in all three species and is common in the Whitehead and Yellowhead. The three species of this genus are the sole hosts for the Long-tailed Cuckoo which acts as a brood parasite upon them, pushing their eggs out of the nest and laying a single one of its own in their place so that they take no part in incubation of their eggs or in raising their young.

Varied Sittella (Daphoenositta chrysoptera) Male by Ian

Varied Sittella (Daphoenositta chrysoptera) Male by Ian

The three Sittellas are in the Neosittidae family. are small passerines which resemble nuthatches in appearance.[1] The wings are long and broad, and when spread have clearly fingered tips. The family has a generally weak flight, which may explain their inability to colonize suitable habitat on islands like Tasmania. The legs are short but they have long toes, but in spite of their lifestyle they show little adaptation towards climbing. They have short tails and are between 10–14 cm in length and 8–20 g in weight, with the black sittella tending to be slightly larger and heavier. The bill is dagger shaped in the case of the black sittella and slightly upturned in the varied sittella. The plumage of the black sittella is mostly black with a red face; that of the varied sittella is more complex, with the numerous subspecies having many variations on the theme. The calls of sittellas are generally simple and uncomplicated. The sittellas are social and generally restless birds of scrub, forests and woodlands. In Australia they generally avoid only the dense rainforest, whereas in New Guinea this is the only habitat they inhabit, avoiding only lowland forest.

Wattled Ploughbill (Eulacestoma nigropectus) ©Drawing WikiC

Wattled Ploughbill (Eulacestoma nigropectus) ©Drawing WikiC

The Wattled Ploughbill is a small, approximately 14 cm long, olive-brown songbird with a strong, thick, wedge-shaped black bill, used to plough into dead tree branches, bark and twigs in search for its insects diet. The sexes are different. The male has black underparts, black wings and a large circular pink wattle on the cheek. The female has olive-green plumage and pale olive below. Only the adult male has wattles.

The only member of the monotypic genus Eulacestoma and family Eulacestomidae, the wattled ploughbill is distributed and endemic to central mountain ranges of New Guinea. The diet consists mainly of insects.

Crested Bellbird (Oreoica gutturalis) ©WikiC

Crested Bellbird (Oreoica gutturalis) ©WikiC

Oreoicidae is a newly recognized family of small insectivorous songbirds, formerly placed in the Old World warbler “wastebin” family. It contains 3 species, all in different genera. Rufous-naped Whistler, Crested Pitohui and Crested Bellbird.

Australian Golden Whistler (Pachycephala pectoralis) by Ian

Australian Golden Whistler (Pachycephala pectoralis) by Ian

The Whistler family has 56 species. The family Pachycephalidae, collectively the whistlers, includes the whistlers, shrikethrushes, shriketits, pitohuis and crested bellbird, and is part of the ancient Australo-Papuan radiation of songbirds. Its members range from small to medium in size, and occupy most of Australasia. Australia and New Guinea are the centre of their diversity, and in the case of the whistlers, the South Pacific islands as far as Tonga and Samoa and parts of Asia as far as India. The exact delimitation of boundaries of the family are uncertain.

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For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 KJV)

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:8-10 KJV)

Listen to Dr. Richard Gregory sing as you watch these five beautifully created families of birds:

“The Love of God” ~ Dr. Richard Gregory

Sunday Inspirations

Birds of the World

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Gideon

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – Rufous Whistler

Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris) by Ian

Bird of the Week #493: Rufous Whistler ~ by Ian Montgomery

Here’s another good candidate for bird of the week that has slipped through the cracks. It’s a good candidate because it’s an attractive bird that sounds beautiful as well. Males are grey and black with a rufous belly, white throat and black breast band and look very dapper. The bird in the first two photos belongs to the nominate race rufiventris, widespread through most of mainland Australia but absent from Tasmania. Males of the nominate race have black eyebrows and lores (the area between the eye and the bill), more obvious in the first photo.

Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris) by Ian

Rufous Whistlers are very vocal with a rich vocabulary which includes loud calls with a Whipbird-like finish – probably territorial between males – repeated ‘joey-joey-joey’ song and trills. The ‘joey’ song note, repeated up to 30 times, is sung by both sexes alternating and accompanied by a seesawing dancing motion of the body. This is wonderful to watch, and the male in the second photo is in mid-performance. The trills are apparently only made by the male.

The third photo shows a female with grey back and rufous belly and streaked throat and breast.

Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris) Female by Ian

Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris) Female by Ian

Juveniles are similar to females, but with browner upper-parts, heavier streaks, bills with a pale base, and rufous edges to the flight feathers (as do immatures of other species such as the Golden Whistler), fourth photo.

Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris) Juvenile by Ian

Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris) Juvenile by Ian

Several other races have been described in Northern Australia, and the males of these generally lack the black eyebrow, see the fifth photo. This bird belongs to perhaps the most distinctive race pallida which has a much paler belly, and this race is found in Cape York, e.g. the Mitchell River Catchment, and Northwestern Queensland.

Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris pallida) by Ian

Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris pallida) by Ian

The large heads of the Whistlers gives the genus the unflattering name Pachycephala (‘thick-head’) and the family the name Pachycephalidae – http://www.birdway.com.au/pachycephalidae/index.htm.

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:

He will raise a signal for nations far away, and whistle for them from the ends of the earth; and behold, quickly, speedily they come! (Isaiah 5:26 ESV)

Xeno-canto Rufous Whistlers

What a beautiful sound that Whistler is making. Must be nice to hear them in person. The bird is also an attractive bird. They belong to the Pachycephalidae – Whistlers and Allies Family which has 52 species in it. Predominantly a reddish-brown and grey bird, it makes up for its subdued plumage with its song-making ability. Like many other members of the Pachycephalidae, it has a variety of musical calls.

The family Pachycephalidae, collectively the whistlers, includes the whistlers, shrike-thrushes, shrike-tits, pitohuis and Crested Bellbird, and is part of the ancient Australo-Papuan radiation of songbirds. Its members range from small to medium in size, and occupy most of Australasia.

The whistlers are stout birds with strong bills, and the group was once known as the thickheads due to the large rounded heads of many species. Their plumage is rufous, brown, or grey in the majority of species. Nevertheless a few species, particularly the Golden Whistler and its close relatives, have bright plumage. One of the more unusual traits of this family is found in the feathers of some of the pitohuis, which have toxins. These toxins are probably a deterrent to parasites and may also serve to dissuade predators from taking the birds. (Wikipedia)

See:

Ian’s Pachycephalidae Family

Pachycephalidae – Whistlers and Allies Family – Here

Ian’s Bird of the Week

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Ian’s Bird of the Week – (Norfolk Island) Golden Whistler

Ian’s Bird of the Week – (Norfolk Island) Golden Whistler ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter: 5-4-12

My apologies for a belated bird of the week. When I was in Eungella recently chasing the so-named Honeyeater, I encountered a very obliging male Golden Whistler, below, so I’ve chosen it to introduce this week’s subject.

Australian Golden Whistler (Pachycephala pectoralis) by Ian

It’s one of the most gorgeous of the woodland birds of eastern and southern Australia and one of those unusual birds that, unlike Rainbow Lorikeets for example, both look and sound strikingly beautiful. It featured as bird of the week in January 2005, but I don’t suppose you’ll mind me repeating it and I want to share with you the interestingly different Norfolk Island equivalent.

Australian Golden Whistler (Norfolk Island) (Pachycephala pectoralis xanthoprocta) by Ian

Australian Golden Whistler (Norfolk Island) (Pachycephala pectoralis xanthoprocta) by Ian

The bird in the second photo, one of a pair we encountered, is, or could be, an adult male Norfolk Island Golden Whistler. I say ‘could be’ because there, the adult males do not develop the striking yellow and black plumage of the mainland races and remain ‘hen-plumaged’, to quote Schodde and Mason. This was recognised early on in the settlement of the island and it was original described as a separate species, the Norfolk Island Thickhead (Pachycephala means ‘thick-head’) P. xanthoprocta, where xanthoprocta refers to the yellow vent. Here is a painting of a pair by John Gould.

Australian Golden Whistler (Norfolk Island) (Pachycephala pectoralis xanthoprocta) by Ian Drawing

Australian Golden Whistler (Norfolk Island) (Pachycephala pectoralis xanthoprocta) by Ian Drawing

He has labelled the bird in the foreground as a male, and the one in the background as a female. There are subtle differences in plumage, with the female being more lemon-yellow underneath and the male being more buffish yellow and. having darker dark lores. I haven’t been able to find whether these differences are consistent, but it seemed to me that the bird in photo above (141464) looks more like the Gouldian male than its partner below (141440).

 Australian Golden Whistler (Norfolk Island) (Pachycephala pectoralis xanthoprocta) by Ian

Australian Golden Whistler (Norfolk Island) (Pachycephala pectoralis xanthoprocta) by Ian

Mainland juvenile Golden Whistlers have rusty margins on the wing feathers and this is the case with the Norfolk Island birds, as shown in the next photo taken on a different occasion when we were hanging around waiting for the Norfolk Island Parakeets to show up.

Australian Golden Whistler (Norfolk Island) (Pachycephala pectoralis xanthoprocta) Juv by Ian

Australian Golden Whistler (Norfolk Island) (Pachycephala pectoralis xanthoprocta) Juv by Ian

To this day, the taxonomic status of the Golden Whistler ‘complex’ remains unresolved. There are different races on the mainland and in neighbouring locations such as New Guinea, New Britain and Fiji. The mangrove-inhabiting Golden Whistler of northern and western Australia has been elevated to specific status but the others have remained in the too-hard basket and are still lumped together as a single species. It seems to me unusual for avian taxonomists to be stumped by a problem like this, but maybe they’ve met their match.

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:

Very interesting and a beautiful bird. I couldn’t resist finding out what this “whistler” sounds like. It is very pretty sounding. Take a listen.

Sound of Golden Whistler

In that day the LORD will whistle for the fly that is at the end of the streams of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria. (Isaiah 7:18 ESV)

The Whistlers are found in the Pachycephalidae – Whistlers and Allies. There are 58 members of the family. This Australian Golden Whistler (Pachycephala pectoralis xanthoprocta) is one of those subspecies; there are at least 7 subspecies. The “Norfolks” are found on the Norfolk Island, as Ian mentioned.

The Norfolk Golden Whistler (P. p. xanthoprocta) declined for many years due to habitat loss and fragmentation and possible due to introduced predators such as the Black Rat. Most of the population is now restricted to the Norfolk Island National Park. This has resulted in it being listed as vulnerable by the Australian Government.

Links:

Check out Ian’s other Whistlers

Australian Golden Whistler – Wikipedia

Pachycephalidae – Whistlers and Allies

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