All posts filed under: Australian Birds

Galah Tendon Locking Mechanism Kalbarri Western Australia

Galah – Defying Gravity

“Every bird that flies has the thread of the infinite in its claws” – Victor Hugo, Les Misérables This galah I met on the banks of the Murchison River near Kalbarri seems to defy gravity. But it doesn’t. As any other creature or object it would fall to the earth – even while being a bird – without the ingenuous anatomy of its feet. As in most birds they’re gifted with the so-called tendon locking mechanism or TLM – a mechanism in which the toes automatically grasp a branch in pincer-like fashion when bending its knees and heel articulations, allowing it to stay up in a tree without wasting too much energy and ‘play the Galah’.

Carnaby's Black Cockatoo Calypthorhynchus latirostris Yanchep National Park Western Australia

Rain Birds – Carnaby’s Cockatoo

The short-billed black or Carnaby’s cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus latirostris) is one of Western Australia’s most fascinating birds. In summertime they reside in coastal areas while feeding on the seeds of Banksia, Hakea, and eucalypts – and with ample water and roosting sites Yanchep National Park is a favourite hangout and excellent place to spot them. Last Sunday we weren’t short of luck with flocks of up to a hundred individuals socialising in the tall Tuart trees. Here we witnessed a noisy spectacle of feeding, crooning and preening – the meticulous grooming ritual in which pairs strengthen their bond. Preening is the earliest sign of the approaching breeding season when the female will lead her partner back to the place where she was born, deep in the arid inland of WA’s Wheatbelt region. The arrival of the first storms and winter rains will be the starting sign of this journey, and the early settlers therefore called them ‘rain birds’, referring to the change of weather and seasons when the cockatoos flew over. However, the future of the Carnaby’s cockatoo …

Australian Pelican – Jurruna

With so much fish around it doesn’t come as a surprise Australian Pelicans reside in Monkey Mia. Although some individuals are kept at bay with handouts during the dolphin interactions, most pelicans can be seen hunting throughout the rest of the day. They fly out to wherever food can be found, but mostly stay close to the shore to herd fish into shallow water – the same strategy as used by dolphins. Pelicans therefore like to shadow them and try to swim between the dolphins and the shore to capitalise on the dolphins efforts. Obviously not only dolphins are smart!

Emu foot Dromaius novaehollandiae Monkey Mia Shark Bay Western Australia

Yalibirri – Walking with Dinosaurs

When camping at Monkey Mia it is hard to miss the Emus wandering around the grounds looking for anything edible – or seemingly edible. Regarded by many as a nuisance, for nature lovers as us they offer the perfect opportunity to study them a bit better. What strikes me most about these big birds is their peculiar body structure that is considered by paleontologists as similar to theropods – giant three-toed dinosaurs that roamed the earth in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Their feet are very similar to dinosaur feet, and while looking at them walking it’s impossible not to think of their ancestors with toes curling back first and  spreading out again just before planting their foot –  no wonder Hollywood used emus when creating Tyrannosaurus Rex for Jurassic Park!

Emu Dromaius novaehollandiae Gloucester National Park Pemberton Western Australia

Emu – Giant of the Southern Forests

Since I was a young boy I have always been fascinated by the big flightless birds that roam the grass- and woodlands of our planet. I guess their long neck, inquisitive look and striding gait are just a few of the hallmarks that make those animals so completely different and unique. But as these birds only inhabit the continents of the Southern Hemisphere I had to wait a long time to see them in the wild – you might therefore understand my excitement when I spotted my first Ostrich on the plains near Satara in South Africa’s Kruger Park almost 20 years ago. The fascination for big birds never left, so when we heard a family of eight Emus (daddy with his offspring) regularly visited the dam of our friends vineyard in Pemberton, we were getting ourselves ready for some serious bird watching. The beautiful backdrop of this place – a vineyard surrounded by tall golden grass and towering Karri trees smack-bang in the middle of Gloucester National Park – would allow us to take …

Splendid Fairy Wren Perth Hills Korung National Park

Splendid Fairy-wren

As in John Paul Young’s classic song, the bright cobalt blue of this male Splendid Fairy-wren (Malurus spendens) indicates that ‘love is in every sight and sound’ at this stage of summer. Many birds are in full breeding plumage now, but none of them is so striking as the one that has been voted Australia’s Favourite Bird in Birdlife Australia. The males have their groove on and are frantically drawing the attention of the dull-brown coloured females, and although pairs bond for life and are seemingly monogamous their sexual appetite is in overdrive – those birds don’t shy back from adventures with multiple partners while they sometimes even raise the young from those affairs. Soap opera in the wild!

Whistling Kite Haliastur sphenurus Lesmurdie National Park Mundy Perth Hills

Whistling Kite

Summer has really started with temperatures soaring to a record high of 44.4°C a few days ago. The bad news about those extreme conditions is that bush fires are an almost common feature this time of the year – and we already had some eerily close. Apart from their beneficial effect on the germination of native plants, uncontrolled fires can be devastating for men, property and wildlife. While taking some pictures of blooming Christmas Trees a few weeks ago I noticed a raptor cruising the high skies while using the early afternoon thermal currents. Excited as a young kid I started to look for its perch, and to my big surprise I managed to locate the nest about 300 metres from where I first noticed the bird! According to the distinctive high-pitched call there was no doubt I had found the hide-out of a family of Whistling Kites (Haliastur sphenurus), a medium-sized raptor found throughout Australia and New Guinea. Mum and dad perched on the high branches of a tall Marri tree, but my discovery held …

Forest Red Tailed Cockatoo Karra Perth Hills Korung National Park

Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoo

The call of the Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii naso) is a sound you simply can’t miss. The discordant ‘ka-rark’ resembling screech is so high-pitched you normally hear this bird before you even see it – no wonder the Forest Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo is aptly called Karrak in Nyungar language. But in case you would’t recognise its call, this Cockatoo is easily identified by its spectacular red and orange tail feathers – a feature that makes them one of the most beautiful Australian birds in my humble opinion. Endemic to the forests of south-western Australia, the Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (FRTBC) is one of the five subspecies of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos present in Australia. It has a distinctive larger and wider beak than birds from the other subspecies – perfect for cracking its favourite Marri (Corymbia calophylla) and Jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) nuts. Marri and Jarrah trees dominate its habitat, not only providing food but also hollows in which the birds can nest. But as these hollows are becoming increasingly scarce by deforestation and competition from …

Australian pelicans Murchison River Kalbarri NP

Pelicans of the Murchison

The Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus) is a mighty animal. Amongst the heaviest flying birds in the world – a full-grown male can weigh more than 10 kg – Australian Pelicans are native to Australia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and East Timor. Although evolved from seabirds, Pelicans mostly reside on rivers, coastal inlets and lakes of the interior. In fact, massive colonies of up to 100,000 birds are known to congregate occasionally on arid inland lakes such as Lake Eyre South and Lake Goolangirie after heavy rains and floods, only to disperse again over the vast continent in search of new food sources. How Pelicans exactly find their way between the coast and the interior is an unsolved mystery, however, in order to travel these long distances birds this big need to feed on a substantial amount of fish. Equipped with a long bill and a stretchy pouch that can hold up to 10 litres of water, Pelicans can therefore be seen fishing almost continuously. Although most individuals are perfectly able to catch their own …

Pinnacles Desert Nambung National Park Western Australia

Werinitj Devil Place – Pinnacles Desert

The Pinnacles Desert is situated in Nambung National Park, 250 kilometres north of Perth. This surreal landscape consists of numerous limestone pillars that rise out of the yellow sanded Quindalup dunes. The pillars have been formed by the leaching of calcium carbonate, dissolved from sea shell fossils by winter rains. As the calcium accumulated over thousands of years it formed a hard limestone rock. Westerly winds eroded the remaining surface of loose quartz sands, gradually exposing a forest of tree-like limestone statues. The discovery of Aboriginal artefacts suggests that the Pinnacles Desert was exposed around 6,000 years ago but has been covered by shifting sand again to remain hidden until only a few hundred years ago. Although there is no evidence of any recent human occupation there are several dreamtime stories surrounding the Pinnacles. The Yuet people call the pinnacles Werinitj Devil Place, a haunted place where young men were told not to go. The ones that disobeyed the elders vanished into the dunes with the pinnacles resembling their grasping fingertips, a handy lookout and …

Galah Eolophus roseicapilla Cockatoo

Galah – Djakal ngakal

The Pink and Grey Galah is a cockatoo feeding on native seeds and nuts in the bush. However, with the clearing of the Weathbelt during European settlement Galahs have been provided with ample grain and water which has resulted in a thriving population around the Perth metropolitan area. Mostly living in pairs or small flocks they never fail to impress with their striking appearance and noisy behaviour.

Laughing Kookaburra Western Australia

Kookaburra – laughing your head off

One of the most distinctive sounds in the Australian bush comes from a bird that has become a real national emblem. Laughing Kookaburras (Dacelo novaeguinae) are social animals that mark their territory by laughing out loud around dusk and dawn in particular. The chuckling and laughter between whole families of these giant kingfishers is a spectacle that keeps me entertained over and over. Luckily some individuals have chosen a branch of a nearby Marri tree as their favourite lookout. You’d like to laugh your head off with them? Just click on the links below! http://soundbible.com/grab.php?id=1786&type=mp3  

Ringneck Parrot 28 Lesmurdie Falls National Park Mundy Perth Hills Western Australia

Twenty eight Parrot – Welcome to the tree hut

Hurray! After a few months of hard work we have finally settled in. Our new house is adjacent to Lesmurdie Falls National Park, completely surrounded by tall Marri (Corymbia calophylla) and Jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) trees. As the deck in front of the house is equally high as the canopy we have baptised this wonderful place ‘The Tree Hut’. The surrounding forrest is home to native wildlife including flocks of noisy tail waggling Twenty-eights, a subspecies of the Australian Ringneck (Bernardius zonarius semitorquatis), clearly recognised by its red frontal band and its distinctive ‘Twenty-eight’ call. The Nyungar called this bird Darlmoorluk and regarded it as a guardian or protector of their camps, keeping evil spirits at bay. So hopefully our home is blessed with having those happy birds around, providing us with a place from which we can live our dreams.