“As spring advances they separate into pairs, the male undergoing a total transformation, not only in the colour, but also in the texture of its plumage; indeed, a more astonishing change can scarcely be imagined, its plain and unassuming garb being thrown off for a few months and another assumed, which for resplendent beauty is hardly surpassed by any of the feathered race” – John Gould, Birds of Australia On a rather cold and cloudy day in the Perth Hills this Splendid Fairy Wren (Malurus splendens) showed the inevitability of seasons with the most beautiful breeding costumes of any Australian bird I know. Although featured on iAMsafari before, it’s one of those happy highlights no one can ever get enough of.
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!
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 …
Unlike the South African bushveld the landscape in Australia grows more colourful in wintertime. After the first heavy rains of Makuru (the cold and wet season of the Nyungar calendar) many trees have started flowering, bringing a kind of new life to the otherwise dry bush. On one of our walks near Victoria Dam we stumbled upon this beautiful Silver Princess or Gungurru (Eucalyptus caesia), a rare Mallee of the Eucalyptus genus endemic to the central Wheatbelt region of Western Australia. It is named after the grey-white powder covering branches, leaves and flower buds. While most of its fruits where still closed this tree had just started to show some magnificent red flowers, inaugurating the first colours of winter.