An inbuilt surrender flag

The Dusky moorhen, Gallinula tenebrosa, is one of the more common water birds seen around suburban lakes and wetlands across much of Australia. It is usually quite wary and if disturbed is quick to retreat either by swimming or running, both of which it does extremely well.   During breeding a pair will establish and defend its own territory. Rival males will assess each other’s strength by...
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The Last Lap

While today there is a greater appreciation for the beautiful Swamp wallaby, Wallabia bicolor, this was not always the case. An August 1933 edition of the Muswellbrook Chronicle casually prompted readers to heed ‘the last lap’ – a reminder that the open season for kangaroos, wallaroos, scrub and swamp wallabies would terminate on the 31st of that month.   Despite many years of open hunting...
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Litoria fallax: Vying for top frog

It may look like there are plenty of tall stems to go around in a large pond but apparently not. When male Eastern sedge frogs, Litoria fallax, have their sights set on attracting a female only the highest position in the pond will do.   Males will sometimes spend considerable time wrestling and throwing each other off the top spot, only to climb back up and start all over again.  ...
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Jamella australiae: Big drama on a tiny scale

All through the natural world life and death dramas are happening, even in the world of the very tiny. On pandanus palms along Australia’s east coast a life and death struggle is played out every day between the Pandanus leafhopper, Jamella australiae, and a tiny predatory wasp, Aphanomerus pusillus. The adult female leafhopper, pictured above, creates an egg raft on the surface of the pandanus...
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Common brush tail possum: A difficult past

A 1904 edition of Australia’s Town and Country Journal described in excruciating detail the “favourite evening pastime” of shooting possums out of trees “merely for the sport”. Thankfully that pastime is now illegal and the Common brushtail possum, Trichosurus vulpecula, is now one of the best known and most frequently encountered marsupials in Australia. It is well adapted to urban living and...
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Eastern blue-tongued lizard: Everyone loves mangoes!

A common resident of many suburban gardens in southeast Queensland the Eastern blue-tongued lizard, Tiliqua scincoides, will often forage on an open compost heap. While it feeds naturally on a variety of insects, molluscs, plants and native fruits, it will also happily eat other fruits such as mangoes, grapes and bananas.   Blue-tongued lizards will happily live in suburbia if they can find...
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Australian brush turkey: Common but special

Sometimes we can become so familiar with local wildlife that we can be blind to anything special about it. No better example of this exists than the Australian brush turkey, Alectura lathami, in some areas of its range. The brush turkey is common in many areas of south east Queensland and is even regarded by some keen gardeners as a pest. It does, however, have an extraordinary lifecycle that...
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Giant water spider: expert fish catcher

The Giant water spider, Megadolomedes australianus, can each an impressive size of 180mm, equal to the span of a large human hand. Megadolomedes is a nocturnal hunter in ponds or the calmer edges of creeks and rivers. It is frequently seen as pictured here with two front legs either resting on the water surface for just below the surface. It has been theorised that Megadolomedes might choose...
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Pied butcherbird: A beautiful noise

One of Australia’s finest songsters, the Pied butcherbird, Cracticus nigrogularis, is widespread across Australia. Its fierce aggression towards intruders can seem at odds with its melodious song.   Pied butcherbirds build a cup shaped nest of sticks and lined with fine roots and grasses. Although sticks generally provide the foundation that gives the nest its robust structure, Pied...
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Eastern long-necked turtle: A bit of a stinker

The Eastern long-necked turtle, Chelodina longicollis, is found throughout south eastern Australia in a variety of freshwater habitats. It is also known as the Eastern snake-necked turtle, so named for its very long neck that swings sideways to tuck under the side of its carapace rather than pulling it in backwards.   It is an opportunistic carnivore with a diet including frogs, tadpoles,...
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Rainbow lorikeet: A lovable larrikin

If there is such a thing as a larrikin of the bird world then it surely has to be the lovable, boisterous Rainbow lorikeet Trichoglossus haematodus. These gregarious colourful little parrots are a common sight in backyards, parks and gardens in coastal Queensland. As they flock into flowering trees to feed on the flowers’ nectar it is impossible to miss them as they screech at each other and...
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Rainbow bee-eater: A victim of the Cane toad

The Rainbow bee-eater, Merops ornatus, can eat several hundred bees in a single day. It is widespread across most of mainland Australia, but is also found in New Guinea and the Solomon and Sunda Islands. The Rainbow bee-eater is immune to the stings of bees, wasps and hornets, which make up around 80% of its diet. Although it generally does not need free water to survive, it will often frequent...
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Australian king parrot: A jewel in the making

The male Australian king parrot, Alisterus scapularis, does not attain its magnificent red plumage until it is around two and a half year old. Endemic to eastern Australia, it can be found in heavily vegetated coastal and mountainous areas during its breeding season from August to January. After breeding, pairs will often move to lowland areas, including urban parks and gardens where they feed...
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Eastern phoebe: The harbinger of spring!

The appealing little Eastern phoebe, Sayornis phoebe, is one of North America’s tyrant flycatchers. When feeding, the Eastern phoebe frequently darts from its perch to catch insects and often returns to exactly the same spot. The distinctive ‘fee-bee’ call is one of the sounds of nature heralding the coming of spring in North America. After wintering in the southern United States it is usually...
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Steller’s jay: A thousand different voices

Well, OK, maybe not a thousand voices but the stunning Steller’s jay, Cyanocitta stelleri, of western North America is an excellent mimic. The Steller’s jay can imitate a wide variety of birds and even mammals such as cats, dogs and squirrels. As an omnivorous forager the Steller’s jay will occasionally eat eggs, nestlings and small mammals as well as a variety of berries, nuts and seeds. Both...
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Eastern water dragon: Making its own ‘tomb’

Australia’s Eastern water dragon, Itellagama lesueurii lesueurii inhabits coastal water courses from the NSW south coast to Cooktown in northern Queensland. In cooler areas of its range it will become inactive in the colder winter months by sealing itself in to a burrow or scrape between rocks. There it will slow its metabolism down until the warmth of spring in September. A male dragon will...
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White-faced heron: Pastures of the blue crane

The beautiful White-faced heron, Egretta novaehollandiae, is a familiar resident in all but the driest parts of Australia. This small heron is locally nomadic and generally forages alone for small aquatic prey. It is usually seen in the vicinity of shallow lakes and wetlands but can also be found in a wide range of other habitats, including beaches. Made famous in the popular Australian...
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Eastern koel: Bringing in the summer storms

As a member of the cuckoo family, the Eastern koel, Eudynamys orientalis, is a brood parasite. It arrives in northern and eastern Australia in spring to breed in the tropical and sub-tropical summer. It is commonly referred to as the storm bird because its call is heard in the same season that the tempestuous summer storms occur in Australia’s north.   In south east Queensland common...
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Noisy miner: Very noisy miners!

The Noisy miner, Manorina melanocephala, can be found along Australia’s east coast from north Queensland around to South Australia and Tasmania.   Common suburban garden birds in south east Queensland, they are well known for ganging up and noisily mobbing an unsuspecting domestic pet or native animal that wanders into their territory. Noisy miners also have a very boisterous social display...
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Fiery skimmer dragonfly: A flash of fire

The bright red abdomen of the male Fiery skimmer dragonfly, Orthetrum villosovittatum, is a familiar sight around streams and ponds in south east Queensland.   The male will find a spot it likes, usually overlooking a good breeding site, then vigorously defend its territory. Having driven off any potential competition the successful male will stay in its chosen territory to wait for a...
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Tawny frogmouth: The silent sentinal

A master of camouflage, the Tawny frogmouth, Podargus strigoides, will sit motionless in a tree during the day where it will be almost indistinguishable from the bark and branches. It is one of Australia’s most well known nocturnal birds and its distinctive ‘oo oo’ call is a familiar sound of the night in many areas. At night they feed on a range of nocturnal prey, including insects, snails,...
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Blue Riverdamsel: A slender blue sprite

The Blue Riverdamsel, Pseudagrion microcephalum, also known as the Blue Sprite Damselfly, is common in south east Queensland. Growing up to 38mm in length the striking blue male can be seen hovering over still or running water. After mating the female will cut an opening in a plant just below the surface of the water, in which she will deposit her eggs. The aquatic nymphs of both the damselflies...
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Australian white ibis: More than a ‘dump bird’

The beautiful Australian white ibis, Threskiornis molucca, is found in abundance in much of eastern Australia, where it has adapted well to urban environments. It has adapted so well, in fact, that it has earned itself the nickname of “dump bird” due to its habit of foraging around rubbish tips. In its natural habitat, it uses its long, graceful bill to probe underwater for water insects,...
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Mule deer: 310 degree vision

The gentle but wary gaze of the Mule deer, Odocoileus hemionus, can be seen across much of Canada and the western half of the United States. Also known as the Black-tailed deer it probably received its most often used common name from its ability to move its large ears independently of each other, which is a trait it shares with mules. The location of its eyes on the side of its head give the...
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Varied thrush: An ethereal song in the forest

Found on the shady floors of dense deciduous or coniferous forests in western North America, the Varied thrush, Ixoreus naevius, feeds on earthworms and insects in summer and primarily seeds and berries in winter. The series of high mournful whistles of the Varied thrush is quite unlike anything produced by any other passerine. In the Pacific Northwest during winter they can be found in densely...
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Northwestern crow: Whelks and optimal foraging

The Northwestern crow, Corvus caurinus, inhabits tidal marshes, shorelines and coastal forest edges from southern Alaska to Puget Sound in Washington. As a coastal dweller, its diet consists primarily of shellfish, aquatic invertebrates, fish and occasionally seabird eggs or chicks if the opportunity arises. Like most other corvids it will also eat carrion and garbage from human dumps. In tidal...
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American robin: ‘Welcome, welcome, little stranger’

Welcome, welcome, little stranger. Fear no harm, and fear no danger; We are glad to see you here, For you sing “Sweet Spring is near”   Louisa May Alcott   Featuring strongly in American literature the much loved American robin, Turdus migratorius, is a member of the thrush family. Its song is a collection of rich sounds ranging from cheerful caroling notes to high-pitched alarm...
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Elk, Cervus elaphus canadensis

The primarily nocturnal Elk, Cervus elapses canadensis, is also particularly active at dusk and dawn. Despite its large size an Elk can move through a forest almost silently. The size of an elk herd can reach as high as 200 individuals but in forests herds tend to be much smaller. Herds are primarily made up of cows and calves with bull elk maintaining separate herds away from the main herd....
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Black-billed magpie: Following the bison herds

A familiar resident of Alaska and western Canada, the beautiful Black-billed magpie, Pica hudsonia, is a member of the crow family. Its striking black and white plumage, long tail and colourful iridescence on its wings and tail make this bird easy to spot. The Black-billed magpie raises a large brood, laying between six and nine eggs. It usually nests individually but can sometimes be found in a...
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Common ringtail possum: Recycling faecal pellets

The Common ringtail possum, Pseudocheirus peregrinus, is one of the most frequently seen marsupials on Australia’s east coast. It is well adapted to the urban landscape and will happily utilise suitable trees for food and shelter. It feeds on the leaves and flowers of a variety of native and introduced species. It what could be seen as the ultimate in recycling, the Ringtail possum...
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Flying-foxes – a precarious existence

When you listen to the clamour and chatter of a flying-fox roost or watch the seemingly endless evening fly-out from a large flying-fox colony, it is hard to imagine that we could ever be at risk of losing them. Most people are surprised to learn just how precarious their existence can be. Habitat loss has had a huge impact on  flying-foxes. In 1928 when Frances Ratcliffe undertook his famous...
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Southern boobook: Punching above its weight

The beautiful Southern boobook, Ninox novaeselandiae, is also affectionately known as the Mopoke. Its ‘boobook’ or ‘mopoke’ call is one of the distinctive sounds of the Australian night. The boobook favours small mouse-sized vertebrates if they are available but they will also take small birds, amphibians and invertebrates. They have even been observed taking prey around 30% heavier than their...
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Flying-foxes: Australia’s forest angels

Most people living on Australia’s east coast are likely to be familiar with the night time sound of flying-foxes squabbling as they feed on native and introduced trees in the urban landscape. What many may not know is that flying-foxes have a lead role in shaping and maintaining the biological and genetic diversity of Australia’s unique forests. When a flying-fox feeds on flower nectar, it’s not...
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Pacific black duck: Not this little black duck

Despite the name, the Pacific black duck, Anas superciliosa, is mostly brown with buff-edged feathers and a bright metallic green patch on the wings. When food and water are plentiful, the pair will initiate an engaging ritualised display of dipping, bowing and flapping. After mating, the male plays a minimal role in raising young. When conditions are good they may raise two broods of up to...
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