Thursday, July 24, 2014

Kookaburra Song

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Australian Magpie

Australian Magpie

Scientific name: Gymnorhina tibicen
Family: Artamidae
Order: Passeriformes


The Australian Magpie is black and white, but the plumage pattern varies across its range. Its nape, upper tail and shoulder are white in males, grey in females. Across most of Australia, the remainder of the body is black. In the south-east, centre, extreme south-west and Tasmania, the back and rump are entirely white. The eye of adult birds is chestnut brown.
Similar species

The Pied Butcherbird, Cracticus nigrogularis, can be distinguished from the Australian Magpie by its black head and bib separated from the black back by a complete white collar, and white underparts. It is also a smaller species. The Australian Magpie is larger and has a heavier bill than the similarly coloured Magpie-lark, Grallina cyanoleuca.
Where does it live?

Australian Magpies are common and conspicuous birds. Groups of up to 24 birds live year round in territories that are actively defended by all group members. The group depends on this territory for its feeding, roosting and nesting requirements.

Australian Magpies are found wherever there is a combination of trees and adjacent open areas, including parks and playing fields. They are absent only from the densest forests and arid deserts.


The Australian Magpie walks along the ground searching for insects and their larvae. Birds will also take handouts from humans and will often venture into open houses to beg for food.

Although the Australian Magpie is generally quite tame, during the breeding season some individuals become aggressive towards any intruders, including humans, which venture too close to their nest sites. The nest is a platform of sticks and twigs (occasionally wire), with a small interior bowl lined with grass and hair. The nest is constructed in the outer branches of a tree, up to 15 m above the ground.
Living with us
Living with humans

Some Australian Magpies can be very aggressive during breeding season and attacks on humans and pets can occur.

Bush Curlew

The Bush Stone-curlew (Burhinus grallarius) is a large, ground-dwelling bird of extraordinary grace and beauty. It is endemic to Australia and nearby islands. It was formerly known as the Bush Thick-knee.

Although the Bush Stone-curlew looks rather like a wader and is related to the oystercatchers, avocets and plovers, it is a dry-land predator: essentially a winged terrestrial carnivore.

Like most stone-curlews, it is mainly nocturnal and specialises in hunting small grassland animals: frogs, spiders, insects, molluscs, crustaceans, snakes, lizards and small mammals are all taken, mostly gleaned or probed from soft soil or rotting wood; also a few seeds or tubers, particularly in drought years. Birds usually forage individually or in pairs over a large home range, particularly on moonlit nights.

During the day, Bush Stone-curlews tend to remain inactive, sheltering amongst tall grass or low shrubs and relying on their cryptic plumage to protect them from their only natural predators: raptors.

When disturbed, they freeze motionless, often in odd-looking postures. For visual predators like raptors (and humans), this works well, but it serves little purpose with introduced feral animals that hunt by scent: notably foxes.

Despite their ungainly appearance and habit of freezing motionless, they are sure-footed, fast and agile on the ground, and although they seldom fly during daylight hours, they are far from clumsy in the air; flight is rapid and direct on long, broad wings.

Bush Stone-curlews remain reasonably common in the north of Australia, but have become rare in the more fertile south, particularly in Victoria where they are endangered.

Laughing Kookaburra

Dacelo novaeguineae 46 cm

· The Laughing Kookaburra is endemic to the forests and woodlands of eastern Australia.

· Because of its loud calls and large size it is one of Australia’s most familiar birds.

· Early in the morning, as the local kookaburra gang rouses us with their own particular salute to the sun, they are telling all other kookaburras within earshot that they have a territory and that they are ready to defend it. (Source: Environmental Protection Agency)

· Differences from Blue-winged Kookaburra include: brownish crown, dark streak through eye and dark eye.

· It is the world’s largest kingfisher.

· The territorial call can be described as raucous ‘laughter’.

· They spend most of the day on high branches or posts overlooking rainforest clearings or disturbed agricultural areas where they swoop on small snakes, lizards or frogs.

· It is seen singly, in pairs or in family parties.

· Young kookaburras continue to live at home for about four years. During this time their parents put them to good use; young laughing kookaburras perform about a third of incubation and brooding duties for the next generation and supply the nestlings with over half of their food.

Tooth Billed Bowerbird

Scenopoeetes dentirostris 26 cm

· The Tooth-billed Bowerbird is one of 12 bird species endemic to the Wet Tropics region.

· The display court is simple, comprising a low perch for singing, above an area cleared of litter and decorated with leaves turned pale surface uppermost.

· Also known as the Stagemaker, the Tooth-billed Bowerbird is endemic and
sedentary (does not travel far). It lives in the Atherton Region of Australia between
600 and 1400m altitude.
· It is unlike other bowerbirds as the male bird does not build a bower, but instead,
he clears a small area of land. This is referred to as his stage or his court.

· It is of medium size (24-27cm), olive-brown in colour, and has a dark bill with
notches in it used to cut off leaves for use in decorating his stage.

· The male uses the same area of rainforest floor for constructing his stage as the
year before. It is constructed at the beginning of the breeding season from
October to January.

· The stage may be as large as a 4 x 2m clearing.

· As decorations, he places fresh leaves with their paler sides turned up (to provide
greater contrast on the floor of leaf litter and debris) on the ground. He manages to
detach these leaves from trees by using a difficult gnawing action through their
stems. Up to 180 small leaves may be collected for a single stage, and the males
compete and copy each other to find the biggest or most valuable leaves for their
own use. Some birds prefer large leaves, and those of the wild ginger plant (up to
50cm long) have been seen used. As leaves dry out, or if they become saturated
from the rain, they will be pushed aside to form a pile to the side of the stage.

· The male also has an extensive variety of calls that can be heard throughout the
rainforest at this time to attract females. He often mimics other bird species or
sounds within the rainforest. If he cannot hear one of his neighbours calling, he
may raid their stage and steal their leaves (as this may be quicker than obtaining
one for themselves).

· His vocalisations, displays, stage and decorations must all impress visiting
females if he is to gain a partner.

· The males form what is known as an exploded lek – this is a place where they can
all hear each other and try to attract females to mate. They may mate with many
females in the same season (from October to March). Females depart to lay their
eggs (usually 1 to 2) and raise the young alone.

· A male may spend 95 percent of the day on average singing from his perch, often
2-3m above his stage.

· In winter, the male is inactive and quiet amongst the canopy, and much harder to
see and hear. With no bright patterns on his plumage, he blends in to the canopy.

· They eat fruit, leaves, stems, buds, insects and their larvae.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Curlew Watch

As far back as 1992 concern was being expressed about the plight of the Bush Curlew (Bush Thick knee) through the pages of the Wildlife Australia Magazine. A Friends group was set up in Victoria with the aim of bringing to public attention the declining numbers of both the Bush Curlew (Burhinus grallarius) and the lesser known Beach Curlew (Esacus neglectus). Both these birds are extremely vulnerable to a variety of impacts because of their particular life style and responses to predators. Both species of the birds live in the Bayside (Redland and Wynnum/Manly) area of southeast Queensland.

The entire world population of Bush curlews (Burhinus grallarius) occurs solely in Australia. Unfortunately there has been a significant reduction in population density in southern parts of Australia. In Victoria it is listed as threatened and in New South Wales as endangered.

Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland Bayside Branch (WPSQBB) is conducting an ongoing survey of Curlew populations.

Because the Bush Curlew and the Beach Curlew are disappearing in many parts of Australia, it is important to collect information in southeast Queensland to establish their status here. Volunteer curlew surveyors are playing a vital role in ensuring this information is collected and collated into a useable form. New volunteer curlew observers are always welcome.

Often these birds are heard rather than seen so records of hearing the birds could be as important as records of sightings. They call at night when they are most active perusing their food or a mate. Their call sounds like a loud, haunting, mournful wail.

Curlews rarely fly spending their time on the ground. Their eggs are laid directly on the ground in the case of the Bush Curlew and on a sandy beach in the case of the Beach Curlew. The Curlew is a large bird standing 55 cm tall, which relies on camouflage for protection, which unfortunately, is now seldom sufficient. Eggs, chicks and adult birds are all vulnerable to

* predation by foxes, dogs and cats
* loss of habitat
* disturbance when nesting
* being run over by motor vehicles
* changed fire regimes
* Pesticides

Studying Curlews

The Queensland Wader Study Group and Redland City Council are studying the curlews on Coohiemudlo and attaching green bands to their legs to identify and monitor individuals. Birds banded on Coochiemudlo have been seen on Macleay Island, on the Mainland at Cleveland and Victoria Point.Another bird banded at Cleveland was found on Macleay Island suggesting that the birds, at least in the South of the bay mix.
As well as banding birds, individual birds caught are weighed and measured to assess their condition and individuals are monitored to record their movements and breeding.
Any observations on either leg flagged birds seen in your local area, or any information on breeding, time of breeding, number of young hatched, number of young reared to fledging, would be very useful to the study. The submission forms on this site allow you to send this information in if you would like to contribute.
If you see a bird with a green leg flag please try to read the two character code on the flag and report it but even just a sighting of the flag provides us with some information.

Curlews - How to Care for Them

Care of bush curlews is still an inexact science. If a stone curlew is in a situation where it can be readily caught for treatment it is in dire need. It must be remembered that as with any wild bird, Curlews can and will try to defend themselves from rescuers.
If a bird is to be taking in for care you must try and reduce stress where ever possible. This is best done by initially placing the bird in a dark quiet corner away form human noises and influences. Keep the bird covered until veterinary attention is given.
Always make sure that you give the vet or the carer the address where the curlew was found so that it can be returned to its home.
Fortunately Bush-stone Curlews are a relatively easy bird to care for. They have a broad diet, which can be easily substituted if required in the captive environment. They feed primarily on insects and the young feed for themselves. If the orphans are only days old it may be necessary to supplement food supply to ensure adequate amounts are obtained. However make sure the chick is an orphan. Many curlew chicks are 'rescued' unnecessarily. The parents will ake them back and in the case of both parents being killed chicks will sometimes be adopted by other breeding curlews.
Artificial feeding can consist of mixture of roo meat mixed with a commercially available dietary supplement particularly calcium and vitamins. Advise on mixture rates and amounts will be available on the product packaging. If there is insufficient nutrients particularly calcium in the diet problems can develop with the bird's legs, feet and beak. They are also susceptible to over dosing with calcium. Stone Curlews can also be feed a variety of invertebrates including meal worms, crickets and other insects. Mice, lizards, frogs and other vertebrate fauna are also readily consumed.
Care must be take to not over feed juvenile birds. Overfeeding can cause them to grow too quickly, which will cause particular problems with the legs. Birds may ask for more food, however it is best to keep to recommended amounts.