Friday, April 3, 2015

Pacific Black Duck

The Pacific black duck (Anas superciliosa), featured today is  predominantly brown duck- the only black feathers it has are a thin stripe near its eyes. In New Zealand, they are called the grey ducks, again they hardly have any grey colour on them; who says taxonomists are predictable ? The bird is found throughout most of Australia, and the Pacific. Recreational hunting (Isn't this word Oxymoron?) of this duck is permitted in some Australian states. We had a lovely time with the sociable duck though.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Wandering whistling duck

It was raining very heavily and going by their demeanor these Wandering Whistling ducks (Dendrocygna arcuata ) did not like the rain a bit.  They spent most of their time (we were there for a whole day) on a tree top rather than on water.
The are called whistling duck because  of the loud whistling calls and the whistling noise their wings make during flight. Wandering because, they keep migrating from permanent wetlands along the coast to ephemeral ones that are formed inland during wet weather.
These birds feed on aquatic vegetation, seeds, the bulbs of plants and other herbage, insects and small aquatic animals. Pairs mostly bond for life. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Australasian darter

Many birds that I spotted in Australia were very similar to the ones I see in India. Such similarity I noticed in this Australasian Darter (Anhinga novaehollandiae ). Also called the snake bird, because of its long neck- this bird is a wonderful swimmer, as it is a fisherbird. Unusually for a waterbird, the darter has very little oil to make its feather waterproof. Hence after a session of diving and fishing the bird has to dry itself with its wings open. The lack of oil actually aids the bird, in diving deep and competing with other water birds which have a much shallower dive. The bird is found throughout Australia's wetlands. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Magpie Goose

Most birds that we watch are generally quite active, hardly resting at a particular place for a long time. The Magpie Goose (Anseranas semipalmata ) though were an exception to the rule. Probably the most sedentary birds that we have seen. Found throughout the northern and easters Australian coast, these birds have an cry that sounds like a loud honk.
Although the bird has seen a decline in population over a period of time- hunting of the bird is permitted so as to maintain a viable population and also not to have an excess pest like population.
The red background that you see in some of the photographs is because of a water fern or plant called Azolla. This plant which can rapidly spread, in the presence of phosphorous is red in the presence of sun and green in shade. The entire water body was covered with Azolla giving it a lovely red carpet appearance.
Diverting a bit from natural history- a little Trivial pursuit. According to some dictionaries the plural of Goose is not geese as we would naturally assume. Geese is used only if there are 1,2,3,4,6, or 8 geese, if there are 5,7,9 or higher then its "gooses" .
If that was not enough a flock of geese when not flying is called a 'Gaggle'- when in flight they become a 'Skein'. The word 'Gaggle' originated  in the late 15c from 'gagyll', with reference to both geese and women.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Pink Eared Duck

For the next few days I will posting a few water birds. Probably a good way to start the series is by the most cutest of the lot- The Pink eared duck (Malacorhynchus membranaceus ). A pretty looking duck with a spatula like beak. It is called the pink eared duck, because it has a small pink spot near it's eye (though the female does not have the spot) . The duck is also called a zebra duck, because of its patterns. Its unusual bill is highly specialised and is fringed with fine grooves, which  filter out the microscopic plants and animals which make up the bulk of its diet. The water enters through the tip of the bill and after getting filtered is expelled along the sides.
I spotted this solitary duck at the Hunter wetland area.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

Australia has five species of black Cockatoo's and these black Cockatoo's are endemic to Australia and found nowhere else in the world. I was so delighted to spot one of these blacks, that despite it not being a good image, I anyway decided to post it on the blog.
The bird is the Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus funereus ) once called by John Gould as the Funeral Cockatoo. Four of these five black Cockatoo's are listed as threatened. The population of Yellow-tailed too is declining and may be a matter of time before it joins the other four. Loss of habitat and illegal pet trade are the primary reasons for their decline.
Now for some interesting- Although Cockatoo's are related to the parrots, they are never found in green or blue colour, like the parrots. Colours in birds are produced not just by pigments, but by microscopically structured surface on the feathers. When light reflects of these surface from various layers, it causes interference. The greens and the blues are caused by something called constructive interference and the structure responsible for it is called the Dyck texture. Cockatoo's lack this structure in their feathers hence the lack of greens and blues in them.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Superb Fairy Wren

Both the images are of a male Superb Fairy wren (Malurus cyaneus), a gleaming, velvety blue and black bird. The male is so colourful that it is hard to miss it- so hard to miss, that I missed out on photographing the female ! Other than the colourful plumage this wren leads a colourful life too. The birds are monogamous and pair for life, but they are also sexually promiscuous, which means that each partner will mate with other individuals and they will raise the chicks together born out of such mating. So infidelity is quite the norm, despite the monogamy.
As a part of their courtship display the male plucks and offers yellow petals to the female. This restless insectivorous bird, also has an interesting way to identify parasitic cuckoo in their nest (see previous post). It uses a unique song as a password, which only the superb wrens chicks respond to. A very interesting bird indeed. The bird is found only in Eastern Australia and Tasmania.