Saturday, March 19, 2016

Lorikeets, Australia

Threading a trail through the treetops, savoring blossom after blossom, a Rainbow Lorikeet weaves a pattern as varied as its own.

Lories and lorikeets share the common classification of parrots and there are more than 350 parrots species. Multi-colored in different sizes and shapes, these social and gregarious birds never fail to gain your attention.

Moving among the trees in noisy and sometimes annoying groups, they feed on blossoms, berries and soft fruits. They can be quite disruptive to your backyard activities when two dozen or more medium sized squawking birds land overhead. Australians typically don't feed backyard birds, as Americans do, for this very reason.

Despite their numbers and noisy nature they can be quite difficult to spot high in Australia's eucalyptus trees.

Their feather-light acrobatics are a constant quest for yet another pollen laden blossom.

Heads up, heads down or sideways, lorikeets hang from the thinnest of branches to reach their prize.

Lorikeets have a brush-like end to their tongue to mop up pollen.

Lorikeets mate for life which is easily more than twenty years. Looking alike, you are never quite sure which bird is which.

As the heat of the day surrounds them, they tend to rest in cool shady spots, affording you a chance to see lorikeets in a quiet, relaxed mode.

The long-evolved lorikeet diet is one of fresh, but low-nutritional blossoms. This is one reason you should NOT provide food for lorikeets.

Crowding at unsanitary feeders can easily transmit diseases between birds, something far less likely in a natural setting.

Multi-colored and highly entertaining, the lorikeet family is large and lovely with shades of a rainbow in every bird.

(Click any picture to enlarge.)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

White-faced Heron, Australia

Bad feather day?  Not really.
She's just rearranging her look.

The Yarra River provided a good fishing spot for this White-faced Heron as it flowed through Warrandyte, Australia.

White-faced Herons are well known in Australia. Similar to the Great Blue Heron of North America, the White-faced Heron is only slightly smaller.

Fishing is an important source of nutrition for the White-faced Heron.  And she's good at it, too, even in the brown silty waters of the Yarra River.  Balanced on a slender log, she waits patiently for tiny fish to swim within range.  She takes her best shot.

It's not a great catch, but she caught several of these tiny fish and stayed on the submerged branch in hopes of finding more.

A White-faced Heron must look good while fishing, so a good shake and it's time to fish again.



Saturday, March 12, 2016

Galah, Australia

In Australia it's not unusual to have a Galah march across your lawn on any given day...maybe two or three. Or maybe a whole flock. Therein lies a problem. To some Australians, especially farmers, there are just too many Galahs (pronounced: ga-LAH) It's a manmade problem.

These chubby members of the cockatoo family are living well in a rich land. As Australia was colonized, land was cleared, crops were planted and the table was set for this gala event...many more Galahs.

A few Galah in the treetops is not the's hundreds of Galahs.

The Galahs made the most of newly cleared farm lands by expanding in great numbers. Farmers in some areas considered the Galah an agricultural pest.

The ubiquitous windmills and stock watering tanks scattered across the arid Australian outback allowed the Galah to widely expand its range.

Few people saw the crop-loss problem coming, as is often the case, but now solutions are being considered.

At about fourteen inches in length and only 0.66 pounds, the Galah is a lot of fluff.

They can expect to live forty years in the wild, eighty years in captivity on a good diet.

Common in the pet trade, they can be taught to talk a small number of words.

A raised crest on top of its head expresses degrees of emotion and excitement.

The Galahs' story is a success story, only too much so, the story of unintended consequences.

Reshaping the environment calls for thoughtful, enlightened considerations, which were unforeseen in this case.

The Galahs' story provides a roadmap for future actions.


Credit: Wikipedia

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Australian Magpie, Australia

The Australian Magpie is an inquisitive bird...anxious to investigate everything.

So common to Australia are these everyday black-and-white birds, you may need to be a visitor to appreciate them...they're everywhere.

The locals disregard them routinely, but pedestrians and bike riders heed them.

During the nesting season, Aug.-Oct., magpies vigorously defend a territory, so be warned.

Magpies may attack you!

As a bike rider, being struck from the rear by this crow-sized bird could be quite startling. It could cause a bike rider to crash. Some cyclists have taken to wearing helmets with harmless plastic spikes to ward off attacking magpies.

(helmut spike photo, link below)

The Australian Magpie is a ground foraging bird. Scratching and probing the ground for food fills many, many magpie hours.

Invertebrates, small mammals, grains and nuts compose his diet.

Juveniles spend a large part of their day begging the adults for food. The female does all the feeding of the nestlings, while the male feeds her. The fledglings beg for food for the first six months until they are routinely ignored.

To enjoy the Australian Magpie you need to step back and see him with new eyes. Not with ho-hum, not with fear, but with the sense of humor he projects.

He is a strange, but enjoyable bird!

Therein lies the visitor's appreciation of the Australian Magpie.


Credits: Wikipedia
Helmut link:

Friday, March 4, 2016

Sulfur-crested Cockatoo, Australia

Many of the birds of Australasia are unique to the area and found nowhere else. The Sulfur-crested Cockatoo is one of those birds.

The big, creamy white bird is well known from forests to front yards here in Australia. Highly visible in their own right, they intentionally make their presence known. 

They have a loud, squawking voice and they’re not shy about announcing their arrival. Flying overhead they take-on a ghostly eeriness.

A large bird with a sizable beak, they cause considerable damage around the house to deck railings and wooden furniture. Consequently, they are not routinely welcome at backyard feeders. According to our Australian friends, Ken and Deidre Heppell, at whose home we are staying, they are pests.

Whether it’s a matter of too large, too loud or too destructive, Australians grudgingly accept the Sulfur-crested Cockatoo’s visits, but are far from loving them.

While acknowledging the locals' assessment of the Sulfur-crested Cockatoos, the fact remains they are beautiful birds by all other measurements.

A fine sulfur-colored comb raised or lowered by degrees of excitement sets off a regal white-robed bird. 

(Sexes look alike)

Not everything is beautiful in the cockatoo’s world though.  A virus afflicts a small percentage of the birds. This cockatoo is likely to have contracted that virus, resulting in a loss of feathers with physical deformities to follow.

His outcome is not promising.

For the remainder of the flock, an occasional preening keeps up their appearances.

Preening endears oneself to a mate. Cooperative grooming strengthens the social contract between birds as well as removing freeloaders. 

Sulfur-crested Cockatoos mate for life and may live for 20-40 years in the wild…100 years in captivity.

It’s late summer down under and shade from the hot Australian sun is welcome.
An afternoon nap is in order for this early rising bird.

I may never convince my Australian friends, Ken and Dee, what enjoyment comes to mind at the sight of this delightful, comical bird, but that’s okay.

As native Australians they have lived with the Sulfur-crested Cockatoo all their lives.

I have just met them.


Credits: Wikipedia, Psittacine beak and feather disease