Monday, September 28, 2009

Little corellas (Cacatua sanguinea)

I saw a flock of little corellas as I walked past the Cottesloe golf club last Saturday morning. Such lovely birds!






Thursday, September 24, 2009

Birds in my neighborhood

I went cycling around my neighborhood yesterday taking my camera with me and took a few nice shots.

The shot I like very much is that of two galahs (Cacatua roseicapilla) grazing on the ground, surrounded by yellow and white little flowers. Galahs forage on the ground for seeds.



Male and female galahs look very similar. The female has red eyes, while the male has dark brown eyes. Galahs mate for life. A galah will only find a new partner when the other one dies.


I also saw quite a number of red wattlebirds (Anthochaera carnunculata). This bird is common on the UWA campus and also in my neighborhood. It is a honeyeater but it also eats insects.


The bird gets its name from the two fleshy red wattles (two small red flaps of skin) under its ears.

References:
1. Birds in Backyards - Galah
2. Birds in Backyards - Red wattlebird

Monday, September 21, 2009

The nestlings of the Eurasian coot

Amazing! The nestlings of Eurasian coots (Fulica atra) look so different from their parents. The young have orange-red heads!



Don't they just look like they have dipped their heads into watercolors!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Rainbow lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus)

The rainbow lorikeet is an introduced bird species in Perth. These brilliantly-colored birds were released from aviaries at The University of Western Australia in the 60's and have been increasing in number since. Apart from the Perth region, this species doesn't seem to be very common in other parts of Western Australia.

Rainbow lorikeets eat nectar, pollen, fruits, seeds and insects. These are the photos of a pair of rainbow lorikeets who were having lunch when I spotted them.



They seemed to be quite comfortable having a meal hanging upside down!

Reference:
Birds in Backyards - Rainbow lorikeet
Guide to the wildlife of the Perth region (Simon Nevill Publications)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Great crested grebes - Courting dance

Wow! This is definitely the highlight of my walk at Herdsman Lake this morning. I saw a pair of great crested grebes (Podiceps cristatus) in their courting dance! If you still remember my earlier post, these birds just look like two balloons or toys when they are resting and floating passively on the water.

But it's a different story when they are trying to court each other. I was so excited about the sighting that I quickly put these pictures up on the Birds in Backyards forum, which I have become a member of recently. Still very excited and thankful that I was there in the right place at the right time, I thought I might as well reproduce that post here.

Anyway, this is about how it happened:

1. First, these birds came close and kept turning their heads from side to side. Basically I will describe it as "when you look right, I will look left" and vice versa.


2. Suddenly, they just looked like they decided to go the opposite ways! And shortly after they just dived down and disappeared from view.


3. And when I thought the show was over, they surfaced and swam very rapidly towards each other.


4. And the next moment, just when I thought they might run into each other or knock each other unconsicous, they rose from the surface and stood chest to chest for something like 10-15 seconds. It was then that I noticed their beaks were full of grass/weeds.






Looking at the photos, the birds probably have been rotating a bit. I was too stunned to even move, so the photos were taken from the same direction. By the way, after the courting dance, they just returned to their normal way and swam away.

I thought Ok, now they would go and have a little fun. But shortly after, they parted way. What were they thinking!?

Black-winged stilts (Himantopus himantopus)

It would be nice to wake up in the morning and see these pretty birds with long pink legs out of the window.


To feed, these birds wade in shallow water and pick up aquatic insects, etc. for food. They don't swim while feeding.


And if I could add from my own observations at Herdsman Lake, these birds seem to enjoy standing still in the sun. Perhaps they were meditating, standing on one leg!


But they are quite shy and always fly away before I can get close enough for a good shot!

Reference:
Birds in Backyards - Black-winged stilt

Friday, September 18, 2009

Musk duck (Biziura lobata)


A male musk duck at Herdsman Lake.
Musk ducks are only found in Australia!


The male has a large lobe of skin under its bill.
The female has a smaller lobe of skin which is not easily seen from a distance.


The strange-looking fanned tail of the musk duck. In Australia, only musk ducks and blue-billed ducks have such fanned tails (Oxyura asutralis).

Musk ducks are clumsy on land, don't seem to fly much, and prefer to dive when disturbed. They are good divers and find most of their food underwater, mainly animals, including insects, fish and frogs.

The male musk duck fans its spiny-looking tail feathers and inflates the lobe of skin beneath its bill, among other things, during a coutship display. The act apparently will help him win a beauty!

References:
Musk duck (http://bird.net.au/bird/index.php?title=Musk_Duck)
Birds in Backyards - Musk duck

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Yellow-billed spoonbill (Platalea flavipes)

A large, beautiful waterbird that I spotted a few times at Herdsman Lake. It is possible to be within a few meters from it without making it nervous and start walking away.


Doesn't it look like the bird character in Sesame Street? Except for the long spoon-like bill.




The yellow-billed spoonbill feeds by wading slowly in shallow water and sweeping its bill from side to side to catch aquatic insects.

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The bill of the bird has vibration detectors inside the spoon, which helps it detect its prey even in murky water, day or night.

References:
Birds in Backyards - Yellow-billed spoonbill
OzAnimals.com - Yellow-billed spoonbill
Guide to the wildlife of the Perth region (Simon Nevill Publications)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus)

I saw a few pairs of great crested grebes at Herdsman Lake last weekend. They first caught my eye when I saw a pair resting great crested grebes drifting slowly on the water. They just looked like two inflated toy animals that way!



And then when they became alert and extended their long necks - Wow! Such elegant birds!


Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Australian white ibis (Threskiornis molucca)


An Australian white ibis (Threskiornis molucca) that I saw at Herdsman Lake yesterday.



A white ibis is an overall white bird with naked black head and neck. Yes, that means bald and black skin. It has pink stripes on the back of its head and bare red skin under its wings, both of which become more distinctive during the breeding season (September - November).

I might be wrong but the Australian white ibis is not a pest in the city of Perth (yet) - at least not in the ways I read about on other web pages. For example:

1. "Rubbish tips are dotted with ibis using their long, curved bills to rip open plastic bags. They prowl parks in search of unattended picnics. Small children are subjected to their stand-over tactics."
(see White Ibis on A Snail's Eye View)

2. "
...the birds have been known to run up to the little kids and snatch their sandwiches out of their hands. The birds turn over bins and spread rubbish, hang around cafes, and dominate some of the best nesting spots that might have been used by other species."
"... cause a nuisance for captive animals at wildlife parks. At feeding time the ibis run in and grab the food meant for other animals."
(see The Australian White Ibis - conservation takes a twist on Mark David's website)

3. Birds in Backyards call them birds behaving badly. The website says that white ibises can pose a threat to airplanes (e.g. causing damage to engines) and that the birds can produce enough droppings to make a city area unusable or an environment (e.g. in botanical gardens) unsuitable for growth of particular plants. I can only imagine the smell.


"Small children are subjected to their stand-over tactics. " and "...run up to the little kids and snatch their sandwiches out of their hands" - that is shocking!

According to "Guide to the wildlife of the Perth region", increasing numbers of white ibises pose a problem as they are displacing nesting cormorant colonies. So, I guess the Perth region is affected by expanding population of white ibises too. But still the situation seems under control in the Perth CBD.

Thankfully, we still don't have to share the city of Perth with Australian white ibises. Mass migration of white ibises into the Perth city centre is still unheard of. So, the city centre is not the best place to go to see the Australian white ibis : ) Herdsman Lake is a good place to go. I saw a colony, maybe 30 or 40 of them.



Shallow freshwater wetlands - natural habitat of Australian white ibises, where they feed on aquatic invertebrates such as crayfish. They also dig food from the soft soils in their habitats.


They are quite shy and flee when you get closer - an indication that it will still be a long time before they are ready to take over the city of Perth : )

References:
Birds Behaving Badly - Australian White Ibis
Birds in Backyards - Australian White Ibis
Birds being a nuisance
The Australian White Ibis - conservation takes a twist
White Ibis on A Snail's Eye View
Prevention and control of damage by animals in WA - Australian white ibis
Guide to the wildlife of the Perth region (Simon Nevill Publications)