Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Birds! Birds!

My friend Peter Shanahan asked to share some of his bird photos with the readers of this blog. All are copyright and Peter should be consulted if they are sought to be used elsewhere.

A few are my own and I thought this the best place to display them. Most are common garden birds in north Queensland. Others can be found in open areas not far from the rainforest.

Peter Shanahan photo
The Bush Thick-knee or Bush Stone-curlew, Burhinus gralliarus, a most beloved bird. These birds can be found almost anywhere except in dense rainforests. They do occupy cleared areas along rainforest margins. They are most active at night and their eerie calls are startling to the uninitiated. They feed on insects and small invertebrates but obviously not on Cane Toads.

They often choose nest sites that are not conducive to the best end result. The often select parking lots, little-used roads and roadside verges to set up housekeeping. the nest is not much more than an gathering of a few twigs and leaves to form a cup. When the eggs hatch, the adults soon discover that they are not in the best place and carry on with the broken wing display and much hissing and and beak snapping. 
 This is not a dead chick but one that is playing "possum". This was photographed on a hot day and it remained in this position for several minutes causing some concern about its vitality. But later it was seen strolling with its parents.
 Double-striped Thick-knees, Burhinus bistriatus, in northern Costa Rica, 1972. The similarity in appearance and behaviur to the Australian species is striking.
 Bar-shouldered Dove. Geopelia humeralis  Photo by P.Shanahan © 2010
A gorgeous bird that is more often heard than seen. It seems to be a permanent resident in the rainforest.
 Emerald Ground Dove. Chalcophaps indica. Photo by P. Shanahan ©
Another beauty. This bird is at home on the ground as well as in the trees where it feeds on fruits. It is easily approached and must be the prey of snakes, goannas and hawks.
 Peaceful Dove  Geopelia placida. Photo by P. Shanahan ©
Most common in more open areas such as parks and large grassed areas. It is common and easily approached.
 Pied Imperial-Pigeon. Ducula bicolor. Photo by P. Shanahan ©
These large pigeons migrate between Australia and New Guinea each year. They are common in  street trees in Cairns and other coastal cities but they do not ascend the mountains to Kuranda.

Wompoo Fruit-Dove. Ptilinopus magnificus. Photo by P. Shanahan. ©
The Wompoo Fruit-dove is a very large bird that feeds on a varietu of tropical fruits and palm nuts. It is rather timid and is very difficult to approach. Peter was lucky to get this shot.
 Black-eared Cat Bird Ailuroedus crassirostris. Photo by P.Shanahan  © 
The common catbird in our area. The calls of this bird, usually at dawn in the morning are not unlike those of a wayward cat. It is a bowerbird but does not build a bower. It is an insect eater and is maligned because of its tendency to raid bird nests.
Tooth-billed Cat-bird Scenopoeetes dentirostris. P.Shanahan  © 
This is a different bird from the one above and is less often seen. It feeds on fruits and leaves of young trees. Males build a display court or stage that is decorated with leaves positioned with the undersides facing up. "Green" is the theme and leaves are replaced as they fade and age. The stage is placed near a tree buttress or root where the male can perch and wait for females. One attracted, the male bird goes through a series of dances that may eventually lead to a mating.
 Crested Lizard Hawk or Pacific Baza Aviceda subcristata Photo by P.Shanahan © 
This is one of the few birds I know that seeks out stick insects (Phasmatodea) as a food source. It also eats frogs and lizards. (It is a bit disconcerting to hear the sorrowful (Buck) cries from the frog victims of the bird as it dismembers them alive. When it spots a prey from the air, the bird has a characteristic diving behaviour that you would think could not work in the forest canopy, but the bird usually emerges with its quarry. 
 Boobook Owl  Ninox boobook Photo by P.Shanahan © 
This is Australia's smallest and most widely distributed owl. It is frequently heard at night in cities and we know of a residence in Canberra where one has returned to the same perhcing place year after year. 
Sooty Owl. Tyto tenebricosa.  Photo by P.Shanahan ©
This is a large, seldom-seen owl that feeds on possums, gliders, bandicoots, and birds to some extent. The call is an ear-piercing shriek.

Immature Ospreys  awaiting return of parents. Pandium haliaetus.  Photo by P.Shanahan. ©
I wouldn't call Ospreys a garden bird but they are found along the Barron River where they successfully nest and fledge young. 
 Black-necked Stork or Jabiru. Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus . Photo by P.Shanahan ©
Surely the Jabiru is not a garden bird but they are seen in open cane fields near Cairns and Mareeba. They are not common but impressive when seen at close range. They feed on a variety of vertebrates and invertebrates. What happens when they encounter a cane toad?
White-faced Heron Ardea novaehollandiae Photo by P.Shanahan ©
The Whiter-faced Heron is a garden bird depending upon the circumstances. If you have a fish pond, then surely you will have a visit, perhaps multiple visits. And the goldfish will disappear and those that escape the heron will probably be enjoyed by the Keel-backed Snake!
Pacific Black Duck. Anas superciliosa. Photo by P.Shanahan © 
The Pacific Black Duck is the Australian equivalent of the Mallard. Steps have been taken to keep Mallards under control in Australia because they have the tendency to interbreed with others in the genus and produce hybrids. Black Ducks are common visitors to park ponds and garden ponds if out in the open and of large size.
 Magpie Goose. Anseranas semipalmata. Photo by P.Shanahan 2010 ©
Flocks of Magpie Geese are being seen now in the open grasslands and lakes around Mareeba. Why is black and white such a common theme amongst Australian birds?
Magpie Geese. Anseranas semipalmata at Freshwater  lake. Photo by P.Shanahan 2010 © 
Radjah Shelduck or Burdekin Duck. Tadorna radjah. Photo by PShanahan  ©
This is a coastal or Mangrove duck. If you are lucky you can see them in the lakes of the Cairns Botanic Gardens adjacent to Greenslopes St. These ducks feed on crustaceans and plant material in their habitat. They nest in tree holes or hollows in branches.
Orange-footed Scrubfowl. Megapodius reinwardt. Photo by P.Shanahan. ©
The mortal foe of every gardener is the Orange-footed Scrubfowl (along with the Brush Turkey). The raking habits of these birds and the persistence they display in getting their way, makes gardening a real challenge in the northern tropics. Placing chicken wire on the ground and covering with leaf litter can discourage their scraping. Scrub fowls are megapodes and build large mounds into which they lay their eggs. Some mounds can be many metres in height and length and are the efforts of birds over several generations.
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. Cacatua galerita.  Photo by P.Shanahan © 
Coming from the southern temperate climes of Canberra, I had no idea that cockatoos would be so common in the rainforest. They are important feeders because the rubble they leave behind is eaten by a variety of other organisms.

Helmeted Friarbird Philemon buceroides. Photo by P.Shanahan ©  
The "bully-boy" of the bird feeder. There is much beak-snapping when these birds show up at the feeder. They are Honeyeaters, albeit very large ones. They eat a lot of insects that they encounter when feeding on flowers. Scarabs seems to be a favourite food. 
Noisy Pitta Pitta versicolor  Photo by P.Shanahan ©
This bird is more often heard than seen. It is a rainforest birds and Peter was lucky to find one in the open when he had his camera available. Pittas feed on worms and insects they find on the rainforest floor in the leaf litter they seem to endlessly search. This species extends north to New Guinea and Indonesia. They use certain rocks as anvils to crack open snails. If lucky, you can find such a favoured rock and the shells of the snails scattered about.
 Spangled Drongo Dicrurus bracteatus. Photo by P.Shanahan Nov 2011  ©
This is a seasonal bird that is often in small flocks. The birds are very vocal and the calls travel for a considerable distance. "Drongo" is an Aussie slang word for an idiot. This refers to the behaviour of the bird which is at best erratic. Drongos feed on insects, small birds and skinks. 
 Mrs Cassowary
Cassowaries are garden birds in our neighbourhood.
Red-browed Finches bathing in rain puddle. Noechmia temporalis. Photo by P.Shanahan © 
What more can I say!


DesertedDreams said...

wonderful photos!

randomtruth said...

What a great cast of characters. Those thick knees are absolutely charming. Any pink galas up there? Or crested pigeons?

Mr. Smiley said...

Thanks DesertDreams.

Hi Randomtruth
No Crested pigeons and the Galahs are more inland where there are wide, open spaces and plenty of seeds!

Mr. Smiley said...

Thanks DesertDreams.

Hi Randomtruth
No Crested pigeons and the Galahs are more inland where there are wide, open spaces and plenty of seeds!

Tony Gladstone said...

I beg to differ with your statement that the word Drongo to describe an idiot, is relative to the erratic nature and behaviour of the bird.

I am afraid that you will need to reconsider your opinion, and correct the text of your post since it is the following which is the truer account - "Just about everyone knows what a "Drongo" means when a fellow human being is addressed as one. It's what you're likely to be called by your Australian mates if you're an idiot, done a stupid act, been a a bit of a dill, a loser even. It comes from constant reference and ridicule of a racehorse that went by the name of "Drongo", which in the 1920s couldn't win one race in 37 attempts!! That animal's only redeeming saving grace was that the losses were in good company on good racetracks."