Australian Outback – Western NSW (Birds – Part I)

Emu warding off intruders

Emu warding off intruders

The bird world of semi- arid Australia is not without giants either. At over 2 meters tall Emus sometimes remind me of pre-historic creatures, especially when only their long necks and small heads tower over surrounding vegetation. Apart from their ungainly appearance emus are known for their unusual parenting system. The female’s only job is to lay the eggs, after which she departs for the greener pastures, leaving the male to look after the brood. And the males take their job very seriously. The most undesired creature to meet on foot in the bush is a male Emu with his brood of young stripy chicks. The birds get very aggressive and the sight of 2 meters of fury running at full speed and armed with a hard beak and strong over-sized claws  quickly discourage walking excursions in the country side.

Emu having a drink

Emu having a drink

Not all birds of the outback are that vicious off course. Australia has been called the land of parrots and there are plenty of them in the western NSW. There are the elegant Pink cockatoos aka Major Mitchell parrots, Little corellas, Galahs, brightly colored Mallee ringnecks, Mulga parrots, Blue Bonnets, Red-rumped grass parrots, and the rare Scarlet-chested parrots.

Pink cockatoo

Pink cockatoo

Budgie

Budgie

Red-rumped grass parrot

Red-rumped grass parrot

Mallee ringneck

Mallee ringneck

Scarlet chested parrot

Scarlet chested parrot

Birds of prey are one of my favorite bird families. Australia’s second- largest eagle – the Wedge-tailed eagle is reasonably common in the region. The best chance to view them is usually at a fresh kill when several birds can be seen perched on a tree waiting for their turn at the carcass, once the bigger stronger individuals finished feeding. Unfortunately, a large proportion of the kills available to the birds is the road kill and the birds themselves occasionally get run-over while feeding on the road.

Brown falcon

Brown falcon

Black kite

Black kite

Brown goshawk

Brown goshawk

Nankeen kestrel

Nankeen kestrel

Collared sparrowhawk

Collared sparrowhawk

Raven

Raven

Black kites are a common site even in towns, while Black-shouldered kites are most abundant in the open fields. Another two common rapto0rs are Brown falcon and Nankeen Kestrel. The Brown Goshawk and the Collared Sparrow Hawk are very similar in appearance and both can be found in wooded areas.

Boobook

Boobook

Boobook chicks

Boobook chicks

The night shift is represented by Barn Owls and Boobooks as well as Tawny frogmouths, Spotted nightjars and Australian owlet nightjars. The latter have such unusual faces that they look more like mammals than birds.

Spotted nightjar

Spotted nightjar

Owlet nightjar

Owlet nightjar

Tawny frogmouth

Tawny frogmouth

One of the more threatened and therefore rare birds in western NSW is the Malleefowl. In appearance they look to me like glorified chickens, but these birds display some very interesting nesting behavior.  As with Emu, the female’s sole role in the process is laying the eggs. But instead of following the conventional trend of sitting on the nest to incubate the eggs, the male of this species construct great mounds out of leaf litter, twigs and other various organic matter. All around the mound you can see the trails where the birds dragged twigs and clumps of leaves and grass to their mound.  The process starts with male digging a large hole in the ground. Then he proceeds to fill it with all sorts of organic matter that will gradually decompose and generate heat that will be used to incubate the eggs. When the male is satisfied with the temperature inside the mound, that by now has reached over half a meter above ground in height, he excavates egg chambers where the female deposits her eggs. After that the male keeps maintaining the mound, regularly adding more organic matter to intensify decomposition or scraping some off to cool off the eggs on particularly hot days.

Mallee fowl mound

Malleefowl mound

Little button quail

Little button quail

 

 

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