Emu (Dromaiusnovaehollandiae Casuariidae)

This Photo by Australian Musuem

Emus have been sighted in the Mitta Valley up Callaghan’s creek Road, and on Phillips Condon’s properties on the Mitta North and Bullhead Road.

DESCRIPTION

The Emu is found only in Australia. It lives throughout most of the continent, ranging from coastal regions to high in the Snowy Mountains. Emus were once found in Tasmania, but were exterminated soon after Europeans arrived. Two dwarf species of emus that lived on Kangaroo Island and King Island also became extinct.

The Emu is Australia’s tallest native bird, reaching between 1.6 m and 1.9 m when standing erect, a flightless bird an Emu is one of the world’s largest birds. Adult Emus are covered with shaggy grey-brown feathers except for the neck and head, which are largely naked and bluish-black. The wings are greatly reduced, but the legs are long and powerful. Each foot has three forward-facing toes and no hind toe. Most people see Emus along roadsides, near fences or other barriers, giving the impression of close association. However, Emus are not social, except for young birds, which stay with their father. The Emu (30 – 45 kg) is lighter than its closest living relative, the Southern Cassowary Casuariuscasuarius, but is taller and less heavy set in appearance and much more widely distributed throughout Australia.

A nest of Emu eggs at Boolcoomatta Reserve. Photo Kurt Tschirner.

This Photo from Bush Heritage

PREFERRED HABITAT

The main habitats of the Emu are tall eucalyptus forests and savanna woodland. These birds are rarely found in rainforest or very arid areas.Emus are often sited in the Mitta Valley as we have this type of environment. They’re often seen grazing inopen paddocks next to woodland in order that they can gather their chicks and escape if necessary, into the surrounding forest.

BEHAVIOUR

Emus are not fussed what they eat. They eat a large variety of foods including fruits, seeds, growing shoots of plants, insects, other small animals, and animal droppings. This makes Emus an important distributor of diverse seeds throughout different areas.

BREEDING

Nesting takes place in winter. The male and female remain together for about five months, which includes courtship, nest building and egg-laying. The nest consists of a platform of grass on the ground, about 10 cm thick and 1 m – 2 m in diameter which the males adds to from time to time. The large eggs (130 mm x 90 mm) are laid at intervals of two to four days. These are dark bluish-green when fresh, becoming lighter with exposure to the sun. One of its unusual traits is its domestic life: after the female emu lays her dozen or so green eggs, she leaves the male to incubate them on his own, and after they have hatched, the striped chicks are also looked after by the male, with no contribution from the female. The female dominates the male during pair formation but once incubation begins, the male becomes aggressive to other Emus, including his mate. The female wanders away and leaves the male to perform all the incubation. Sometimes she will find another mate and breed again. The male incubates the eggs without drinking, feeding, defecating or leaving the nest. During this time, eggs often roll out of the nest and are pulled back in by the male. Newly hatched chicks are cream-coloured with dark brown stripes. They leave the nest when they can feed themselves. Young birds stay close together and remain with the male for four months. They finally leave at about six months. During this period, the stripes fade and the downy plumage is replaced by dull brown feathers. Emus are nearly fully grown at one year and may breed at 20 months.

CONSERVATION STATUS

The Emu is found only in Australia. It lives throughout most of the continent, ranging from coastal regions to high in the Snowy Mountains. Emus were once found in Tasmania but were exterminated soon after Europeans arrived. Two dwarf species of emus that lived on Kangaroo Island and King Island also became extinct. The populations of emu although deemed secure don’t seem to be increasing in number, this is probably due to predation of the chicks by wild dogs and foxes. As there is very little written about the emu the present thought is to use GPS trackers to gain more insight into their numbers.

REFERENCES

A presentation by Dr. Julia Ryleland on ‘Emus off the North-East Victoria’

Birdlife Australia Magazine

Field Guide to Australian Birds -Michael Morcombe

White-bellied Sea-Eagle (Haliaeetus Leucogaster 75-90cm)

White-bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) Juvenile in Flight

This Photo by Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The white-bellied Sea-Eagle has been sited in the Mitta Valley in the Dartmouth Dam area. 

DESCRIPTION

Few Australian birds of prey are as spectacular as the White-bellied Sea-Eagle. Although it is similar in shape to the well-known Wedge-tailed Eagle, and almost as large, the sea-eagle is readily distinguished by its contrasting crisp-white and ashy-grey plumage, which adds to its striking appearance as it soars effortlessly on its up tilted broad wings. The large, hooked bill is grey with a darker tip, and the eye is dark brown. The legs and feet are cream-white, with long black talons (claws). It has a wingspan of about 2 meters. Like many raptors the female is slightly larger than the male. The immature birds have brown plumage which is gradually replaced by white by its fourth year.

White-bellied Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster)

This Photo by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service

PREFERRED HABITAT

Despite its name, the sea-eagle is not confined to coastal areas, and the species is regularly recorded at terrestrial wetlands far from the sea, especially along larger inland rivers and at freshwater swamps and lakes. Hence why they have made their homes at Dartmouth. The white-bellied Sea-eagle are normally seen perched high in a tree or soaring over waterways and adjacent land. Birds form permanent pairs that inhabit territories throughout the year. In addition to Australia, the species is found in New Guinea, Indonesia, China, south-east Asia and India.

BEHAVIOUR

The White-bellied Sea-Eagle feeds mainly off aquatic animals, such as fish, turtles and sea snakes, but it takes birds and mammals as well. It is a skilled hunter and will attack prey up to the size of a young swan. Sea-Eagles also feed on carrion (dead prey) such as sheep and fish along the waterline. They harass smaller birds, forcing them to drop any food that they are carrying. Sea-Eagles feed alone, in pairs or in family groups. While hunting over water on sunny days it often flies directly into the sun seemingly to avoid casting shadows over the water and hence alerting potential prey.

White-bellied Sea-Eagles build a large stick nest with good visibility which is used for many seasons in succession. The nest can be in a tree up to 30m above the ground but may also be placed on the ground or on rocks, where there are no suitable trees. At the start of the breeding season, the nest is lined with fresh green leaves and twigs. The pair will spend three to six weeks building and renovating the nest before laying eggs. The clutch is incubated over six weeks The female carries out most of the incubation of the white eggs, but the male performs this duty from time to time. Initially the male brings the food and the female feeds the chicks but both parents feed the chicks as they grow older. The species breeds from six years of age onwards and are thought to live to be around 30 years old. Nestlings have been recorded fledgling when 70 to 80 days old and remaining around the parents for up to 6 months. 

The birds make a loud goose like honking call. It’s a familiar sound particularly during the breeding season when pairs often honk in unison and often carry on for some time when perched.

Unfortunately, the white bellied sea eagle is vulnerable in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania but secure in WA and QLD. Its vulnerability comes from habitat destruction, nest disturbance and environmental pollution.

REFERENCES

Wikipedia

Birdlife Australia website

Field Guide to Australian Birds -Michael Morcombe

Wonga Pigeon Leucosarcia melanoleuca 35-40cm

Wonga pigeon
Wonga pigeon (Leucosarcia melanoleuca)

This Photo by JJ Harrison (https://www.jjharrison.com.au/), CC BY-SA 4.0

The Wonga pigeon has been sited in the Mitta Valley along Lees Lane, Mitta north Road, up Scrubby creek and along Wombat Gully Road. 

DESCRIPTION

The Wonga Pigeon is a large plump, ground-dwelling pigeon with a small head, pale face, short broad wings, and a long tail. When seen from above the plumage of the Wonga pigeon is a drab grey. However, front on the bird appears to be wearing a white scarf wrapped around its neck and when viewed from below, its white underparts are attractively patterned with row upon row of dozens of tiny crescent shaped markings. The eyes are dark red brown with a pink eye ring and the feet and legs are deep pink to red. There is little difference between the male and the female birds.

This Photo by ebird.org

PREFERRED HABITAT

The Wonga pigeon is found from southeast Queensland all the way down to Gippsland in Victoria. They are a ground dwelling pigeon that frequents dense forests and gullies, clearings such as picnic areas, walking tracks, carparks, and roadsides. These gorgeous pigeons are often observed foraging on the ground for seeds, fallen fruits, plant matter and the occasional insects.

BEHAVIOUR

These birds are sedentary in nature in that don’t move far beyond their territory. Wonga pigeons will develop life-long monogamous relationships and will defend their nest sites with a series of threatening displays, including clicking, bowing, and charging towards potential intruders!

Nests are built in large trees, usually high off the ground and are saucer-shaped platforms of twigs and sticks, lined with small twigs, vine tendrils and other soft plant materials. Both sexes incubate and feed the young. They use a special posture when sitting on the nest, keeping their patterned tail raised high and facing observers, whilst peering over their tail to keep an eye on potential threats. Adults feed their young by regurgitation and young birds will remain with the adults for some time after fledging but are fed less and less often.

The pigeon’s call is a long series of notes, quite high and rapid, ‘whoik, whoik’ and this is repeated at a constant pitch becoming quite monotonous. The pigeon is more often heard than seen but it produces explosive wing claps when disturbed and when it takes off.  On landing it may lift its tail showing black flecked undertail -coverts. Its flight is short, straight, and fast.

Unfortunately, the Wonga pigeon is preyed upon by feral cats and foxes. Like many pigeon species during the 1900s they were also hunted for their meat and for sport. Today, they are a protected species and one of least concern. Although not endangered they are not common in our area.

REFERENCES

Field Guide to Australian Birds – Michael Morcombe

Gould League Birds of South-eastern Australia

Birdlife Australia Magazine online

Australia Zoos website

This Photo by Birdlife.org.au

Flame Robin (Petroica Phoenicea)

Male Flame Robin

This Photo by JJ Harrison (https://www.jjharrison.com.au/), CC BY-SA 4.0

The Flame robin has been sighted in the MacDonald’s ‘Witches Garden’ on Watchingora/Callaghan’s creek road, around Tallandoon and up Scrubby Creek near Hodgkin’s property.

DESCRIPTION

The Flame robin is the largest of the red robins. Male Flame robins have a brilliant red-orange breast and throat and a white patch on the forehead above the bill. Its upper parts are iron grey with white bars and its tail is black with white tips. The bill is black, and the legs are dark brown The female coloration is a muted grey-brown with pale buff wing stripe and mostly white outer tail feather. When calling Flame robins emit a cheery, clear, sharp piping trill.

The male Flame robin may be confused with the male Scarlet robin but this species is black above and on the head extending to the throat with a scarlet breast and upper belly.

This Photo by JJ Harrison is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

PREFERRED HABITAT

The Flame robin is found in temperate regions of south-eastern Australia and all over Tasmania. They are winter visitors to the lowlands in south-eastern Australia. In the warmer months they breed in upland forests laying their eggs in finely woven nests decorated with lichen. As Autumn approaches most move to lower elevations where they are often conspicuous in open habitats such as farmland especially pasture and recently ploughed paddocks. They also occur in other grassy areas such as golf courses, ovals, or parkland in built up areas. They usually return to breeding areas in the mountains in August or September.

BREEDING

The Flame robin is a perch and pounce hunter mainly eating insects and often returning to a favourite low perch several times to stand erect and motionless, scanning the leaf litter for more prey. They often forage in scattered flocks in winter but are otherwise seen alone or in pairs.

The Flame robin may lay up to two clutches of 3 or 4 eggs during the breeding season which is between August and January. The eggs lay pale green or blue eggs with spotted marks. The nest is built by the female and is normally placed in a tree or rock face or other similar area up to 20 m above the ground. The female incubates the eggs while the male supplies her with food. Both sexes feed the young chicks. Flame robins are generally monogamous and remain together unless one bird perishes.

CONSERVATION STATUS

The Flame robins have a secure conservation status in Victoria.

REFERENCES

Field Guide to Australian Birds-Michael Morcombe

Birdlife Australia Magazine

Online source. Wikipedia

This Photo by Birdlife.org.au

Eastern Crested Shrike-Tit (Falcunculus frontatus)

Male Falcunculus frontatus eating a caterpilla

This Photo by Wikkimedia Commons

The Eastern crested shrike-tit was sighted by me on a walk around Wonga Wetlands in Albury but has also been seen at the MacDonald ‘Witches Garden’ on the Watchingora /Callighans Creek Road in the Mitta Valley.

DESCRIPTION

The crested eastern shrike-tit is a distinctive medium-small bird with a black and white striped head and neck with an outlandish mohawk hairstyle, black throat and strong beak. It has striking yellow underparts with olive green back and rump. The female bird resembles the male but the throat is green and the crest smaller. They usually eat insects but will sometimes eat fruits and seeds. They’re active noisy birds when searching for insects and stripping bark. They forage in trees, rarely on or near the ground and usually in pairs or family parties. They have a high piping strong call and when flying they have short sharp flights interspersed with glides.

Female

This Photo by JJ Harrison is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

PREFERRED HABITAT

The eastern shrike-tit is as its name suggests is found along the coast of eastern Australia in eucalypt forests, woodlands and occasionally in rainforests. It is also found in parks and gardens and on farms with scattered trees. Despite their conspicuous colors, they’re difficult to spot while feeding on insects in the tree canopy.

The crested shrike-tit are confined to mainland Australia. They are separated into 3 geographically isolated subspecies that all look rather similar.

BREEDING

The Eastern male Shrike-tit selects a nest-site in a high fork of an eucalypt tree away from predators, attracting the female to him with quivering and waving wings. The female builds the deep cone-shaped nest from dry grass and bark strips, covering the outside with spider web, moss and lichen. The male helps collect materials and both sexes incubate the eggs and feed the young. They usually lay 2 to 3 white eggs spotted dark olive and pale grey. Two broods may be raised in a season and the young birds may remain with the parents until the beginning of the next breeding season. Pallid, Brush and Fan-tailed cuckoos sometimes parasitise the nest (lay their eggs in the nest too).

Male

This Photo by JJ Harrison is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

CONSERVATION STATUS

The Eastern crested Shrike-tit have a secure conservation status in Victoria but some bird life monitoring across the Sustainable Farms Project Area suggests their numbers are in decline due to fire and urban expansion

REFERENCES

Birdlife Australia Magazine

Field Guide to Australian Birds Michael Morcombe

This Photo by Julie Burgher is licensed under Creative Commons