On our second trip to Australia a very different set of birds awaited us. The Queensland “Wet Tropics” has 12 endemic bird species found nowhere else in the world and we managed to see all of them. Photographing them all proved a more difficult prospect so instead, here are the 12 most photogenic species of the Australian leg of our trip instead.
Crested Pigeon – found all over Australia but with a top punk hairdo, this lovely pigeon makes the Trafalgar Square variety look a bit sad.
Wompoo Fruit Dove – green upper parts, yellow underwings and a lovely purple breast yet somehow easy to overlook as they feed quietly on fruits in the treetops. Amazing!
Australian Bustard – up to 1.2m tall and with a maximum wingspan of 2.3m this is Australia’s largest flying land bird. Despite thess vital statistics, the bird only weighs 3-12kg.
Blue-winged Kookaburra – this large member of the kingfisher family is remarkable for both the amazing colour of its wings, its slightly scary stare and its maniacal barking call. Aborigines called it the laughing jackass for good reason.
Bush Stone-Curlew – mainly nocturnal, this ground bird spends most of the day standing motionless, using its excellent camouflage to protect it from predators. It hunts at night especially moonlit nights and lets out a blood-curdling scream which forced us to wear earplugs most nights. If you do want to get up at 5am then this does act as an effective alarm clock.
Peregrine Falcon – not endemic to Australia, I was really hoping this was an Australian Hobby when we spotted it at the roadside but it’s slightly bigger with a little bigger “balaclava” and much bigger talons. It is still an impressive specimen though and the fastest animal in the world. Guess what its top speed is and I’ll tell you at the end.
Scarlet Myzolmela – a member of the honeyeater family that love to eat nectar with their long curved bills. This is the smallest of the honeyeater family and blends in very well with its favourite bushes – it’s about twice the size of most hummingbirds and does sometimes hover in front of flowers when feeding.
Because of its long, thin neck the Australian Darter is sometimes known as the snake-bird. A fish eater, it often fans its wings like a cormorant to dry them after feeding because unlike ducks, their feathers are not waterproof.
Rainbow Lorikeet – easy to see and easy to see where they get their name from. Very common, very noisy and very striking.
Little Bronze Cuckoo – found across South East Asia as well as Eastern Australia, this is the world’s smallest cuckoo. It still lays its eggs in other birds’ nests though!
Golden-headed Cisticola – a species of warbler found from India to Australia, it usually inhabits rank vegetation and wetlands. It is known as the master tailor of birds using spiders’ threads to stitch together its nest.
Australian Figbird – commonly seen chasing around in the treetops. It was unusual to see the male with female below in a seemingly relaxed pose for a change. They love figs!
Answer – the Peregrine Falcon can reach speeds of up to 200mph when diving for prey. How close were you?