Azure Kingfisher (Alcedo azurea)

Azure kingfisher
Azure Kingfisher

This photo by JJ Harrison (Wikipedia)

This beautiful Azure kingfisher has been conspicuous in and around Wodonga this year. I have personally noticed it on the billabong near La Maison’s killing and swallowing its prey and on the manmade Lagoon in Les Stone Park diving from a low branch and of course at Wonga wetlands. I’ve also seen it flying along the Mitta River down Lees Lane. These shy, yet glamorous, birds can be found around our rivers, coasts and forests, and indicate a healthy ecosystem.


The Azure Kingfisher is a small kingfisher with a long slender black bill and a short tail. The head, neck, upper parts and breast sides are deep azure blue with a violet (purplish) sheen. The neck has a distinctive orange stripe on each side and there is a small orange spot before each eye. The throat is pale orange white, grading to orange-reddish on belly and undertail. The flanks and sides of the breast are washed purple to violet. The legs and feet are red. The sexes are similar. Young birds have a darker cap and are generally duller.

The Azure Kingfisher nests in a burrow dug out of a river bank.

Photo from The Australian Museum


The Azure Kingfisher is never far from water, preferring freshwater rivers and creeks as well as billabongs, lakes, swamps and dams, usually in shady overhanging vegetation. It’s sometimes seen in parks on rivers, as well as duck or goldfish ponds in urban areas. They are found all along the eastern seaboard right down to Tasmania and are quite common and sedentary where the habitat remains suitable.


The Azure Kingfisher plunges from overhanging perches into water to catch prey. Prey items include: fish, crustaceans, aquatic insects and other invertebrates, and, sometimes, frogs. They will often bash their prey against the perch before swallowing it head first. They also watch Platypuses foraging underwater and catch any food items that are disturbed. Azure kingfishers patrol up and down waterways and rivers moving from perch to perch and flying very fast, and only a few meters off the water, typically making a loud high pitched “seeeeeeeep” call but otherwise are a very quiet bird.


Azure Kingfishers form monogamous pairs that defend a breeding territory. Both parents incubate and feed the chicks. The nest is at the end of a burrow dug out of soil in a riverbank. The tunnel slopes upwards to the nesting chamber and can be 80 cm – 130 cm long. Flooding can destroy low-lying burrows.

  • Breeding season: September to January (in the south)
  • Clutch size: 4 to 7, usually 5
  • Incubation: 21 days
  • Time in nest: 28 days


Least concern as although numbers are declining their distribution is becoming larger. Stock trampling vegetation around waterholes affects the Azure Kingfisher. Human activities that cause artificial flooding of waterways can drown nests. Water that is turbid (not clear) and the introduction of European Carp (which competes for food resources) can also adversely affect local populations.



Australian Museum

National Geographic

Field Guide to Australian Birds -Michael Morcombe

Murray Darling Healthy Rivers Project – Frog Habitat & Wetlands Event at Fernvale

Frogs and wetlands presentation crowd indoors

On Sunday 23rd April 2023, Mitta Valley Landcare (MVL) together with the Fernvale Recreation Reserve & Soldiers Memorial Committee hosted a free community event at Fernvale Hall. The Frog Habitat & Wetlands event was very popular, with over 50 local landholders and community members coming to hear Dr. Anna Turner, PhD Research Associate Charles Sturt University. Anna presented the recent 2022 Mitta Valley frog survey results as well as previous study years that have been specifically looking for the declining Sothern Bell Frog.

Southern Bell frogs (Litoria raniformis) were once very common across south-eastern Australia. Their decline is mostly due to habitat loss from intensive farming, barriers to water movement, predation from invasive pest (foxes), and fungi disease. The Southern Bell frog is listed as endangered in NSW (Threatened species conservation Act 1995) and threatened in Victoria (Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988). The last (3) years of surveying did not detect any evidence of the Southern Bell Frog. If you believe you may have heard this now rare amphibian, you are encouraged to record their call via the FrogID app for a virtual identification by frog call experts from the Australian Museum. The FrogID app is a citizen science project that enables registered users with a smartphone to submit audio recording of frogs. Alternatively, Anna is very open to engaging with anyone who needs help identifying any frogs you may find, she can be contacted on 0499 266 290 or via email

Frogs and wetlands walk with Alex Knight.

Following on from Anna’s presentation, Dr. Alexandra Knight, Lecturer in Environmental Management Charles Sturt University, lead a wetland walk on the Mitta River flats below the hall where Libbe Paton has established a small wetland restoration area, and was very fortunate to record a Bibron’s Toadlet (Pseudophryne bibronii) earlier in April. Anna and Alex’s knowledge was well received throughout the day with many questions on frog species and how to create wetlands on farm.

MVL would like to thank their members and the Fernvale Hall Committee for catering the event, and to Ben Teek and Simon Feillafe for cooking the spit roast lunch of venison and Banimboola Beef. A special thank you to Paula Sheenan of Holbrook Landcare who keep all kids busy, and to local stall holders Mitta Brewery, Mitta Hub shop, Harker’s Creek Hazelnuts, and Hillview Garlic & Produce, who added an Eat Local Sunday vibe to the day.

author: Robyn Scales

Grey Fantail (Rhipidura Albiscapa)

Grey Fantail

Grey fantails are found all over the Mitta Valley. I recently observed one whilst sitting with Margie and Shane Tobin of Mitta North Road in their back yard, it was flitting from bush to bush looking for insects and fanning its gorgeous fantail.


The Grey Fantail is a small insectivorous bird most easily recognised by its constantly fanned tail and agile aerial twists and turns. Both sexes are similar in appearance: grey above, with white eyebrow, throat and tail edges. This species is quite inquisitive and will closely approach an observer. It grows to16 cm (6.3 in) in length, of which half is the tail, which, as the name implies, is often displayed fanned out. 

Grey Fantail
Grey Fantail

This Photo by Duncan McCaskill


The Grey fantail is found in most treed habitats. This species is easily seen while walking in eucalypt forest, rainforest, mangroves, heath, and wooded habitat. It occasionally visits densely-planted urban gardens, particularly during the winter migration.


The grey fantail feeds on flying insects, which it catches by chasing them from the edge of foliage at all levels in the canopy. During waking hours, they are almost never still. They flit from perch to perch, sometimes on the ground but mostly on the twigs of a tree or any other convenient object, looking out for flying insects. They catch flying insects using intricate acrobatic chases. The birds are not shy, and will often flit within a few metres of people, especially in forested areas and suburban gardens. In doing so, it can catch any small flying insects that may have been disturbed by human activities such as walking or digging. The bird’s call is an almost metallic cheek, either as a single sound or (more often) repeated as a chattering. The grey fantail appears to undergo a partial northern migration during winter.


The Grey Fantail builds its nest in a thin tree-fork, usually between 2 and 5 metres from the ground. It is made of fine grass bound together with large amounts of spider web. The bottom of the nest is drawn out into a long stem, resembling that of a wine-glass. Both parents share nest-building, incubation of the eggs and feeding of the young when they hatch.

Juvenile Grey Fantail


Most bird species typically build one nest, whereas grey fantails commonly build more than one nest before egg-laying. It is thought that these nests could act a decoy to confuse predators. The abandoned nests are incompletely built, probably in response to the attention of predators such as pied currawongs who destroy nests whilst looking for eggs. The grey fantail is territorial and is a seasonal breeder. They raise several broods per season, usually of three or four cream eggs, spotted grey and brown. The incubation period is around two weeks, with incubation and feeding duties shared by both parents. Despite most grey fantails forming season-long monogamous pairs, a small number of male birds seeking extra-pair copulation have been recorded.

Source: BIBY TV


The Grey Fantail conservation status is secure throughout Australia except in Northern Territory where it is critically endangered.



Birdlife Australia Magazine

Field Guide to Australian Birds -Michael Morcombe

Doing It with Dung Project Report December 2022

Dung beetle and its larvae

Bubus Bubalus

It has certainly been a challenging, confusing and somewhat disappointing year for our breeding program. Those who received bubalus in August 2021 have not reported any hatchings at all. In light of this, I recently wrote to Greg Dalton, the breeder and supplier of our beetles, to ask whether we should continue placing a fresh dung pat in to see if any beetles emerge.

He suggests we still put 1 kg of fresh dung fortnightly until the end December. Make sure dung has been stored 3 days before putting it out as at this time of year the small summer beetles will very quickly find their way to fresh dung pats and these will hopefully have drowned after 3 days. Better still collect fresh dung early before the sun is up and the beetles are awake.

Grass is growing like crazy and we still need to keep this down in the tents so we can observe any beetle activity.

Those who received bubalus this spring are reporting that they are still consuming dung and most people are on to the second lap of their tents. Last year we found dead beetles in the tent towards the end of December and that dung burial ceased in early January. But who would know this year? It would be good if you could please take note and record when this happens. Beetles will then have laid their eggs which hopefully will hatch early next spring. Thank you to all who have been part of this breeding program. Hopefully you are willing to hang in there for another year in the hope that the delayed hatching of bubalus may result in a bumper year next spring. If you do not want to continue and have tents you would like to return please let me know and we can arrange to pick these up.

Onthophagus Vacca (image by: Mid Lachlan Landcare)

Onthophagus Vacca

Those who received vacca in January 2022 have had very mixed hatchings this spring.However my vacca started hatching yesterday on the 12th December. This hatching is part of the vacca lifecycle and these F1 beetles are the result of the breeding process. These newly hatched beetles will only feed, not breed, and then remain in the ground until re-emerging next spring so feed them up well.Luckily I had just cut the grass and put fresh dung in the tent but was not expecting any action for a couple of weeks as last year they did not hatch till early January.

Greg Dalton from Creation Care has made the following suggestions regarding newly hatched beetles.

  1. Catch,count and transfer to another tent (more work but better data)
  2. Feed in the same tent and wait till spring 2023 to release. (Less work and less information
    but still gets the Beatles through till spring 2023.)