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...
read more

The little “king of birds”

The adorable little Cobb’s wren, Troglodytes cobbi, is one of only two birds endemic to the Falkland Islands. On some islands it is highly susceptible to predation by introduced rats, cats and mice. In 2001 it was estimated that only 6,000 pairs remained on 29 islands. It is considered likely that introduced mammalian predators have wiped out entire population on some islands. Rat eradications...
read more

Like a shag on a rock

We’ve all heard the expression “to feel like a shag on a rock”, which means to feel completely isolated or on one’s own. However, for the Rock shag Phalacrocorax magellanicus, also known as the Magellanic cormorant, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Found along the coast of southern South America and the Falkland Islands, the Rock shag usually nests in colonies high on the ledges of steep...
read more

Striated caracara: a bundle of mischief

On the Falkland Islands the Striated caracara, Phalcoboenus australis, is locally known as the Johnny rook and the name could be said to be synonymous with mischief and mayhem. On reaching independence, juvenile caracaras without a territory will often form ‘gangs’ that will sometimes steal what isn’t theirs, chew what they shouldn’t, scare tourists with their boldness and just generally behave...
read more

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...
read more

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...
read more

Eastern yellow robin: A familiar little forest face

Found from Queensland to South Australia, the Eastern yellow robin, Eopsaltria australis, is a common inhabitant of woodlands and forests, particularly near water. It is often seen perching sideways on tree trunks, from where it can spy potential prey and drop quickly to retrieve it. The Eastern yellow robin’s diet includes a range of invertebrates such as wasps, flies, grasshoppers, spiders and...
read more

Clark’s nutcracker & the Whitebark pine: A story of mutualism

The amazing Clark’s nutcracker, Nucifraga columbiana, has so closely evolved with North America’s Whitebark pine, Pinus albicaulis, that it is difficult to say which is the keystone species – the tree or the nutcracker. The Whitebark pine is undoubtedly a keystone species in the western United States and Canada, but the Whitebark forest’s survival is also dependent on the foraging activity of an...
read more

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...
read more

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...
read more

Eastern great egret: A flowing nuptial veil

The Eastern great egret, Ardea modesta, has a wide range across much of Asia and Oceania. In northern Australia breeding pairs can number in the thousands with fewer in the country’s southeast, but rarely found in the arid interior. In the breeding season this already beautiful, elegant egret develops stunning lacy white plumes on the back that extend below the tail. The sight of this graceful...
read more

Barking owl: A scream in the night

The gentle ‘woof woof’ of the Barking owl, Ninox connivens, is one of the beautiful nocturnal sounds of the Australian bush. But less frequently heard is the occasional high-pitched tremulous scream that has earned it the alternative name of ‘screaming woman’. The scream was once thought to belong to the Powerful owl, Ninox strenua, until naturalist, David Fleay heard it from one of his captive...
read more

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...
read more

Golden-headed cisticola: Look at me!

The exquisite little Golden-headed cisticola, Cisticola exilis, can be found in the vicinity of sub-coastal wetlands or irrigated pastures around Australia’s eastern and northern coastlines. In breeding season the male will attempt to attract the attention of a female by flying above the grassland in which it lives, before diving back down to cover. It feeds on grass seeds around wetland areas...
read more

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...
read more

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...
read more

Pied imperial pigeon: A victim of lowland rainforest clearing

The serene Pied imperial pigeon, Ducula bicolour, is a summer breeding migrant to Australia. After wintering in New Guinea this beautiful rainforest bird arrives in coastal northern Australia around August and remains until the following April. In the 1900s the author  and naturalist, E. J. Banfield, described flocks of 60,000 to 100,000 birds from the Family Islands south to Mackay. Sadly, due...
read more

Bush stone-curlew: Immortalised by Henry Lawson

The famous Australian poet, Henry Lawson, recognises the curlew as a fixture of the Australian bush in a number of his works, including The Song and the Sigh, The Old Bark School, Up the Country and Golden Gully, wherein he refers to the dismal curlew scream. The mostly nocturnal Bush stone-curlew, Burhinis grallarius, specialises in hunting small prey including; lizards, frogs, invertebrates,...
read more

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...
read more

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...
read more

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...
read more

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,...
read more

Red-winged blackbird: Flying too close to the sun

In the lyrics of Dr Hook’s song, Red-winged blackbird: The indians say that the blackbird was flying too close to the sun and the bright burning flames changed his wings and his name to remind him of how far he had come. Certainly the red flash on the shoulders of the male is reminiscent of a bright flame.   Usually found in marshes, swamps and wet and dry fields, the Red-winged...
read more

Bald eagle: A conservation success story

One of the conservation movement’s success stories, the Bald eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, was removed from the US Endangered Species list in 2007. Having once dropped to dangerously low population levels due largely to pesticide poisoning, there is now thought to be around 10,000 breeding pairs across North America. Bald eagles reach sexual maturity at around four or five years of age, after...
read more

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,...
read more

Northern masked weaver: A striking little African bird

The stunning Northern masked weaver, Ploceus taeniopterus, belongs to a family comprising over one hundred species throughout Africa. Weavers are named for their often elaborately woven nests that are often built by the male in an effort to attract females. Like most of the weavers, it is gregarious, nesting in colonies of up to one hundred pairs.
read more

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...
read more

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...
read more

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...
read more

Glaucous-winged gull: Long distance forager

The Glaucous-winged gull, Larus glaucescens, is a common coastal resident from the Aleutian Islands, western and southern Alaska and through to northwestern Washington. Over winter it moves further south to the milder climate of southern California. Seen primarily over the open ocean and on rocky and sandy beaches, the Glaucous-winged gull will also happily utilise garbage dumps to source food....
read more

Canada goose: ‘Til death do us part

Widespread across the North American continent, the iconic Canada goose, Branta canadensis, is a familiar sight in a variety of wetland landscapes, including suburban ponds. The Canada goose is chiefly herbivorous feeding on berries, grain, grasses and sedges. It will find a mate in its second year and create a strong pair bond for life, although it may take another mate if the original one...
read more

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...
read more

American three-toed woodpecker: Sharing the brood

Stand still for long enough in a coniferous forest across Alaska or Canada and you might hear the busy pecking of the American three-toed woodpecker, Picoides dorsalis. As the name suggests, the Three-toed woodpecker has three rather than four toes on each foot. During foraging it scales the bark off dead and dying trees looking for bark beetle larvae and other prey. They form monogamous pairs...
read more

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...
read more

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...
read more