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Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Random Memories of Australia - Part 12

     Happiness is a few more birds of Australia!

Australian Darter (Anhinga novaehollandiae)

     Anhingas and darters the world over are exceedingly interesting birds, with a specialized lifestyle that weds them to water in every aspect of their lives.


     Like cormorants, darters are not equipped with waterproof wings, and spend extended periods drying their wings after being submerged.
     Darters settle so low in the water that often only their head and neck is visible, leading to the common practice of referring to them as snake birds.


     Fish are generally stabbed, large prey with both mandibles, and smaller fish with the upper mandible only. Upon surfacing the fish is adroitly tossed into the air and caught head first and swallowed whole.
     Australian Darter is more dimorphic than other anhingids and you may see the wonderful reddish brown patch on the female's neck in the first picture.
     The following image, with an individual perched alongside a Little Pied Cormorant (Microcarbo melanoleucos), shows the difference in size. The two species coexist by preying on fish of different size at varying depths.


     For those readers in North America, Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga), widespread in the wetlands of the southeast, is our local representative of this family.

Lewin's Honeyeater (Meliphaga lewinii)

     This beautiful species takes its name from John William Lewin, an English naturalist who spent the last nineteen years of his life in New South Wales, until his death in 1819.


     As is the case with all honeyeaters it is a charming bird. It is widespread throughout eastern Australia and is quite bold in its habits.


     It has no hesitation in probing cultivated fruits, sweet food in houses, and picnic tables.


      When I return to Australia I will perhaps take a hummingbird or oriole feeder with me. That sugar water should be a real magnet for Lewin's Honeyeater and I will have the pleasure of seeing it up close!

Royal Spoonbill ( Platalea regia)

     I don't know of anyone who does not find spoonbills inherently attractive  due to the very nature of their outrageous, but none the less efficient, bills.


     Royal Spoonbill is widespread over eastern and northern Australia in suitable wetland habitat. It favours shallow waters, inland and coastal marshes, lake shores, mudflats and mangroves.


     Most food is captured by sweeping the bill from side to side and grabbing onto anything the bill comes into contact with. Prey is also visually located, however, and I have seen spoonbills seize quite large fish in the manner of a heron.


          Spoonbills are gregarious birds and seldom is one seen alone.


     The above picture was taken at the Tamar Island Wetlands in Launceston, Tasmania, where this species has become a fairly recent colonist. You can see Chestnut Teal (Anas castanea) in the foreground and a Dusky Moorhen (Gallinula tenebrosa) emerging from the reeds. If that's not a dose of magic, I am not quite sure what is!

Bar-shouldered Dove (Geopelia humeralis)

     Australia is blessed with a stunning assemblage of pigeons and doves, and Plain Janes are not included!
     Bar-shouldered Dove is found throughout eastern Australia and in the north all the way over to Western Australia.


     It was not a bird that we saw often, but we always took the time to enjoy it when we did. I have seen it called Bronze-necked or Copper-necked Dove in older texts, and it seems to me that this is a more descriptive name. 
     As with most species of columbid a flimsy nest of twiglets is constructed, with two eggs incubated by both parents.


     Bar-shouldered Dove is not as gregarious as other Geopelia, usually occurring in pairs or small parties. 

Spotted Dove (Streptopelia chinensis

     Spotted Dove is not native to Australia and its specific name speaks to its Asian origins. 


     
It is a handsome species and has become part of the avifauna of Australia, having been introduced into the country as far back as the 1860s - and it has prospered. 
     On any rational level it would seem counterintuitive to inject a new dove into a country where spectacular pigeons and doves abound, but rationality has never been a component of human decision-making as it applies to introduced species - and to many other things too!


     It is a polytypic species and there are many intergrades between the various subspecies; in fact this is the norm and "pure" subspecies are seldom found.


     It builds a flimsy platform of twigs, as do most doves, but occasionally lays three eggs as opposed to the usual two. I was unable to verify whether the third chick normally survives under such circumstances. Perhaps someone knows?

Australasian Swamphen (Porphyrio melanotus)

     My "Bible" for rails, crakes gallinules and coots is Rails, Barry Taylor (1998), Yale University Press. At the time it was written a good deal of controversy was energizing the taxonomic world regarding what was then known as Purple Swamphen (Prophyrio prophyrio).  Considerable support was emerging for splitting this species into several distinct species, primarily based on mtDNA sequence data. One of the forms high on the list for elevation to full species was melanotus.
     And so, I present to you Australasian Swamphen (Porphyrio melanotus)!


     As you may see, it is equipped with strong legs with long toes well adapted to soft, uneven surfaces.


     It is a large bird (38-50 cm) and we encountered it in the three states we visited. It quickly loses its fear of humans and walked among us without hesitation. When we were seated at a picnic table having lunch it was around our feet. It has a rich and varied vocal repertoire and was not hesitant to announce its presence.


     The bird above seems to be strutting like a North Korean soldier on parade!
     This species is omnivorous, although primarily vegetarian. We did see it snapping up insects, however, and it is known to relish fish and amphibians.


72 comments:

  1. Hari OM
    Another satisfying entry in the series, David. Am grinning from here to there! YAM xx

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  2. Hello Mr David, how are you!
    Spotted Dove is so beautiful
    and the blue bird is very cute.
    Greetings dear teacher, have a nice night
    ┊┊┊┊
    ┊┊┊ ☆
    ┊┊🌙 *
    ┊┊
    ┊ ☆ °
    🌙 *

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  3. Your presentation of even MORE Australian birds is most welcome! What a fantastic diversity to be found there.

    Florida has had a surge in swamp hen expansion in the last few decades, likely due to accidental release in southeast Florida. Most birds appear to be the Gray-headed (Swamphen Porphyrio poliocephalus) and there is speculation of perhaps two additional sub-species.

    David, thank you so much for sharing such precious memories!

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  4. Love seeing cormorants hanging their wings out to dry. What a pretty little bird is that spotted dove! I don't think I've ever seen one.

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  5. Interesting post. The birds there have some dramatic differences.

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  6. Another interesting selection of Australian birds, with just enough information to interest the casual reader. I only visited Australia once and did very little birdwatching as such, though I did do some hiking. But even sitting drinking beer beneath my friends' fig tree I couldn't help but see many unfamiliar birds.

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    1. No doubt they became more unfamiliar in direct proportion to the amount of beer consumed!

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  7. Thank you David. I do hope you can return and see these and other beauties again soon. Not forgetting the sulphur crested vandals.

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    1. I would never forget the Sulphur-created Vandals!

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  8. Les tourterelles sont très jolies, le bleu du dernier oiseau est vraiment magnifique.
    Bonne journée

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  9. Thanks for sharing, David, Australia really has a wonderful variety of beautiful birds. It's interesting to see the similarities and differences to the varieties here in Europe. Have a great day, take care, hugs, Valerie

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  10. I love birds. I can meet many birds thanks to your blog. Thank you.

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  11. Hello David,
    A fantastic interesting post with many breathtaking picture's.
    Keep going posting
    Have a wonderful day
    Marijke

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  12. Juhuuu :-) I was briefly in Australia ... the Royal Spoonbill is great... and I look forward to when the storks come back from Africa - to us in Europe. We then have many here with us, they occupy the nests and scald :-))
    The first migratory birds have already come back. ... the starling (sturnus vulgaris) with his glittering plumage.
    Many greetings to you. Thanks for the beautiful pictures. Viola

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  13. Hello, David
    Seeing all these Australian birds would make me happy too. The Royal Spoonbill is beautiful. The Honeyeater is lovely too. They are all great birds and wonderful photos. Take care, have a great day!

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  14. Gorgeous creatures. Those spoonbills are quite something. I haven’t seen cormorants back here yet. Love that display of drying wings!

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  15. I'm sure you are longing to visit Australia again, David.
    The birds are very pretty. Lovely photos.

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    1. It is hard to contemplate returning to Australia, Marit, when we are back into lockdown here, and can barely move around our own house!

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  16. Beautiful pigeons, even if they are different from those in Europe.

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  17. Buenas tardes estimado amigo David, me encantó este reportaje uno más de los maravillosos con que habitualmente nos sorprendes. La paloma manchada es preciosa, nunca antes la había visto.
    Bellos viajes realizados y buenas aportaciones.
    Recibe un fuerte abrazo estimado profesor, compadre y amigo David de tu siempre alumno Juan.

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  18. I'm moved and touched in the deeep for such a Beauty, thank you for sharing it with us, darling David!
    Wishing you a most wonderful remainder of your week

    Daniela at ~ My little old world ~ (Dany)

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  19. A beautiful series of bird photos, always a pleasure to see.

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  20. If I ever get to Australia I suspect I would want to stay just for the birds.

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  21. I do love reading your memories of Australia and seeing pictures of birds that are different but related to birds that we see here in our area. Like that Australasian Swamphen - so much like our Purple Gallinule.

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  22. Hi David,
    the darter in the first picture sits there so elegant; showing the lovely pattern on his wings. Photo 3 with the two different types sitting next to each other in the same way, is very special too.
    The blue in the last bird is stunning.

    Best regards, Corrie

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  23. I am enjoying this series of Australian birds. Most I do not know at all but at least the cormorants and the spoonbills are familiar. Hope you are both well, Diane

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  24. In my vicinity I encounter only the standard - colors of brown, grey; no blue, red, yellow; standard sizes, and shapes.I'm not complaining. They provide me with entertainment,stir motherly feelings of care and compassion in me.
    The main attraction in your posts- birds of a striking variety of colors, shapes, habits. Very, very interesting!

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  25. Hi David, it's another superb selection of pictures, the Aussie birds are amazingly beautiful. I'm now finishing a trip to the Andean forests, I will soon watch your blog.
    Cheers

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  26. Otros bonitos recuerdos de Australia.... cada vez tengo más ganas de ir. Abrazos David.

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  27. Always fascinating. Knowing the duckbills are gregarious gave me an unexpected satisfaction. Such pretty pigeons. All so interesting. :)

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  28. Spoonbills, sorry--LOL! ;)

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  29. Lovely and interesting birds. Thank you.

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  30. Gorgeous photo of the darter spreading its feathers. I've never seen such a bird. It's fascinating to learn how they fish. So many gorgeous creatures here, David. Each beautifully photographed.

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    1. If ever you find yourself in a swamp or other wetland in the southeast, Jeanie, it should be easy to find an Anhinga. The Florida Everglades has a large population, and if you enter from Homestead the first trail is appropriately called the Anhinga Trail, and you can find one almost immediately.

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  31. David - always a joy to travel with you and learn so much about Australian birds. Good idea to lure the Honeyeater!

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  32. The bird in the first image with open wings look like a bat. I like to watch birds taking their bath and after that drying themselves with open wings.

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  33. wow, these are all good birds. Loved the Anhinga and the Little Pied Cormorant. There was several find cormorants in were we were. And, always love spoonbills.
    I wish I could go back there.

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  34. Lovely photos again, David. I'm very much enjoying your Australian memories.

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  35. Hi David - what a collection from your random memories of Australia - love it ... and to note that you're planning a trip back at some stage - with plans what to do ... the sugar bird feeder with you - it'll be an interesting experiment ... and I guess once up - you'll need to leave it?! Love all the ones you highlight ... the Swamphen is extraordinary: very different with its beak and legs and colour ... gorgeous shots - thank you Miriam. Cheers Hilary

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  36. Beautiful birds from australia David!And are you planning to go there again?A very interesting place!

    I would love to visit the country as well

    Wish you a happy weekend!

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    1. I had hoped to go there last year, and again this year, but COVID put a stop to everything. We'll have to see whether it is possible next year, Anita.

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  37. Another great post of Miriam's great photos and your eloquent teaching David!

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    1. Talk like that will get you anything you want, Carol!

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  38. Hi David, beautiful photos of beautiful Australian birds. They are looking a little different of our birds. Have a nice weekend. Greetings Caroline

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  39. I don't know how you manage to get such awesome upclose photo's without the birds flying off. The first 2 pictures are amazing with the wings spread so wide.
    Sandy's Space

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  40. Hello Both,
    Another super read on your Australian escapades with again super images to match, well done Miriam, if only we had such colorful birds in the UK. Keep them coming.
    Best Wishes,
    John

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  41. Hi friend David,
    what a luxury all these photos of the most beautiful birds in Australia. I see a lot of pictures of beautiful pigeons with beautiful details and colors. Then the pigeons in the Netherlands are boring hahahahahaha ..... Even the cormorants are more beautiful there than here. The spoonbills are a bit the same. Nice to share these photos :-)
    I hope you are still safe too.
    Dear greetings and a hug from me,
    Helma

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  42. Thanks David, for another interesting post. Hopefully, you will one day be able to return to Australia and enjoy even more of their birds :)

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  43. "Happiness is a few more birds of Australia"
    Indeed :)
    Another lovely selection of photographs.

    All the best Jan

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  44. I saw an interesting bird in front of the post office last week. As usual, I didn't manage to photograph him so you could tell me what he was.

    Love,
    Janie

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  45. Hello David,
    You have me wishing I could hop on a plane and visit Australia just to see these birds. The Doves are lovely, they have such beautiful details. I love the Honeyeaters and the pretty Spoonbills. Another great post and beautiful collection of photos. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Take care, have a happy weekend! PS, I appreciate your visit and comments.

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    1. It may be a while before any of us are hopping on a plane again, Eileen.

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  46. Beautiful birds! Nice to see the Australasian Swamphen. We have his distant cousin, the Purple Swamphen.

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  47. The darters really reminds of the cororants, which we see around here. A lovely series of unusual birds!

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  48. I've never heard of the Royal Spoonbill but the Roseate here in Florida is my favorite bird! It's so rare to see it in the wild though. Great photos as always! Happy weekend!

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    1. When I have visited Florida I have had great success locating this species at Ding Darling NWR, as well as at various spots throughout The Everglades.

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  49. What a great collection of Australian birds.
    I get to know from your posts that so many beautiful and various birds live in our world.
    Big surprise.

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  50. Another wonderful selection of Australian birds, with very enjoyable narrative and images, David. Thank you.

    I'm not sure about your idea of taking a hummingbird or oriole feeder with you on your next visit. You may have to stay there for a long while before a Honeyeater discovers what it is for. I suspect, though, that would be no hardship for you!

    The doves are gorgeous, particularly the Spotted Dove. The Australasian Swamphen is a wonderful colour!

    I do so hope that your dream of a return visit comes to fruition. In the meantime, stay safe and well - - - Richard

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  51. Amazing birds David. Nature is so wonderful and beautyful. Thank you for sharing your photos. The Spoonbill and that Darter is so special.
    Regards,
    Roos

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  52. Hola David... Nice pictures of these beautiful and interesting birds...Happy weekend 😊

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  53. Nice assortment of bird photos. Once again, I like seeing how similar bird species look, to others in other parts of the world.

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  54. Fantastic shots and they are all such beauties!

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  55. Always in awe of your beautiful birds. A great series, thanks David!

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  56. It's hard to dislike a spoonbill and enjoyed the photos, David. When I saw the first photos of the Darter I did think of the Cormorant which I have seen many times.

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  57. Hi David
    Your photos are amazing and I enjoyed to read about the birds. Thanks for another interesting post.
    Gitte in Denmark

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  58. I love watching birds, but I'm just getting to know them through posts like this one.

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  59. Another interesting post of beautiful bird species from the Australian continent. Several of them have similarities with birds that we can observe in Europe but maintaining their distinctive character that makes them new species. Greetings David

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  60. Hi David,
    This is becoming an almost never ending story about the wildlife of Australia. No problem, it simply reflects the richness of the wildlife on that continent. Besides that, birders don't get so easily bored by looking at pictures of birds.
    Greetings, kees

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    1. When COVID restrictions impose limits on our movement, it is good to have archival pictures to turn to.

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