Australian Shelduck -Tadorna tadornoids Anatid

Australian Shelduck
Australian Shelduck

This Photo by Discoverducks.org.au

There have been several sightings of these birds in the northeast. I was with some other U3A  birdos a week ago when we saw two pairs at the sandy creek reserve. Leonie Smith -Jackson also saw a pair of them at Marks Smiths property along Yabba Road a couple of weeks ago.

DESCRIPTION

The Australian Shelducks are usually unmistakeable, with their upright stance and dark head contrasting with the white neck ring. It’s a large rusty brown and black duck with extensive white in wings, with a small head and bill more the size of a goose than a duck. The females have a distinct white ring around the eye and base of its bill, while the male has an all-black head and neck slightly tinged green. This species is also known as the chestnut breasted Shelduck, Mountain Duck and Sheldrake. The shelduck is an extremely wary bird.

STATUS AND DISTRIBUTION

The Australian shelduck mainly breeds in southern Australia and Tasmania but some records show it has flown farther north as far as the Kimberley in Western Australia. After breeding some migrate long distances to large wetlands such as Lake George in the Australian Capital Territory and the Coorong in South Australia to moult flight and tail feathers. They are protected under the national parks and wildlife act. The total population is unknown, but scientist believe there are at least 10,000 mature individuals.

PREFERRED HABITAT

The Australian Shelduck’s primary habitat is lakes in open country.  It also likes freshwater swamps, farm dams and enjoys gathering on large, deep wetlands. They will also venture into habitats with salt water, the Australian Shelduck prefers to be always within easy reach of fresh water where it finds its preferred food source.

The duck likes to graze on green grass, insects and seeds on land or near shallow water. They will occasionally feed on algae and molluscs. The nest of the shelduck is usually in a large tree hollow, well lined with down. They have also been known to breed in rabbit burrows and in large hollows on cliff faces or similar locations.

LIFE HISTORY

Breeding season is between July and December. Only the female incubates the eggs while the male defends the broad territory. It lays eight to fifteen eggs, and these are incubated between thirty and thirty-three days. This group is monogamous, and some birds are known to create permanent pairs bonds. Within days of hatching the young are led to their nursery water by both parents or other adults. This could be 2 or 3 km away. These young are with several young from other parents and are under the care of one or more adults. The nursery group varies in size (20-40 individuals) and age range. Scientists believe the nursery supervisors are failed breeders or non-breeders. 

Australian Shelduck – Male

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

CALL / FLIGHT

They communicate with honks, grunts, or whistles. A loud honking deeper and more grunted sound from the male and a higher more resonant sound from the female ‘ong ank,ong,ank’ Australian Shelduck flocks fly in long lines or in ‘V’ formations. Shelducks are not diving birds, but they are able to dive if necessary, such as if they are wounded or frightened.

The Diamond Firetail -Stagonopleura guttata

Diamond Firetail (Stagonopleura guttata)

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

A group of Mitta Valley Land Carers had the pleasure of seeing the Diamond Firetail on a bird walk on Greg Hayes property at Talgarno recently. The walk was lead by David Watson from Charles Sturt University and was organised by Wise Creel Talgarno Landcare Group.

DESCRIPTION

Diamond Firetails are part of the finch family. Their bright scarlet tail feathers and white diamond shaped spotty sides make them very distinctive and easy to recognise. In a rare departure from most female birds, female firetails are not the usual dull brown – they have the same colouring as the males. These small birds measure about 12-13cm in length. Seeds and fruits are on the menu for Firetails- ripe or partially unripe. They also have the occasional meal of insects and insect larvae. Firetails feed on the ground and will hop around rather than fly in search of food.

STATUS AND DISTRIBUTION

The conservation status of the Diamond Firetail differs from state to state as their preferred habitat is under threat in some and to a lesser threat in others. They tend to stay in the same place and do not migrate although when they do travel, it is in flocks. Populations have been shrinking for decades as native predators like the Pied Currawong are increasing in numbers, and their habitat is cleared for agriculture and urban development. However, the scientific world list its existence as vulnerable.

PREFERRED HABITAT

They live in open grassy woodland, heath, and farmland across south-eastern Australia, and they make a bottle shaped nest amongst prickly shrubs and bushes to protect their eggs and chicks from predators. The nest is built from grass and stems and lined with feathers and soft grass. Firetails will sometimes build a nest at the bottom of a bird of prey like a falcon or eagle to provide its new family with a round-the-clock-bodyguard. They are mostly seen in pairs or groups of 4 or 5, feeding together. Although Diamonds Firetails prefer open habitat, they have been seen in urban areas.

LIFE HISTORY

Firetails mate for life. The male Firetail doesn’t sing- he makes a low-pitched buzzing especially during the courtship ritual. He catches the attention of the female by bobbing up and down with dried grass in his beak until she notices him then opens his mouth as if he is a chick begging for food. They breed from 9 months old, and the timing depends on the temperature – they won’t breed if it is very hot or very cold. The nest is built from grass and stems and lined with feathers and soft grass. The female lays 4 to 6 eggs which hatch 2 weeks later. 

CALL / FLIGHT

The usual contact call is a rather plaintive, drawn out, whistled ‘tioo-whieer’ and slightly higher for the female. The bird’s flight is low with only slight undulations

Submitted by Marie Condon

New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae)

New Holland Honeyeater
New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae)

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND

These medium small birds (170-180mm) get around singly, in small groups or larger loose colonies and are readily adaptable to gardens. The bird is very active and rarely sits still long enough to give and extended view. It likes chasing other honeyeaters and aggressively competes for nectar and insects often taking these in flight. It particularly likes feeding on grevilleas.

DESCRIPTION

The New Holland honeyeater is mostly black and white, with a large yellow wing patch and yellow sides on the tail. It has a small white ear patch, a thin white whisker at the base of the bill and a white staring eye.

STATUS AND DISTRIBUTION

These birds are widely distributed throughout southeast Australia.              

PREFERRED HABITAT

It resides in woodlands and forests with undergrowth.

LIFE HISTORY

These birds make untidy, woven cup-shaped nests of twigs, grass, bark, leaves and spiderwebs. The nest is large for a bird of its size and it is usually only 2m or less above the ground The incubation of eggs is about 2 weeks and two more weeks after that the young leave the nest.

CALL

Gives abrupt metallic ‘chwik’ and long whistled ‘tseee’ in flight.

Makes harsh chattering alarm calls