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Australian wildlife 0068
Image by Michael Dawes
Common name: Eclectus parrot
Scientific name: Eclectus roratus macgillivrayi (Gk. eklektikos = select, pick out, L. rorare = bedewed, macgillivrayi = after the ornithologist who discovered the species in Queensland)
Animal group: Parrots
Conservation status: This species is listed as vulnerable in Queensland (Nature Conservation Act 1992).
Body length: (beak to tail) Males: 420–480mm; Females: 400–450mm
Wing span: Males: 900mm; Females: 890mm
Eclectus roratus macgillivrayi is the largest of twelve subspecies of eclectus parrot. Plumage between the sexes is markedly different, even in juveniles. Males are predominantly emerald green, with scarlet red on the sides of the abdomen extending across the underwing, and dusky feathers on the remainder of the underwing. The upper wing is emerald green with blue outer feathers. The tail is emerald green on the upper side, fading to light blue with a white tip, and on the underside the tail is grey-black with a yellow tip. The lower beak is black, and the upper beak is orange fading to yellow at the tip. The eye is orange-red in colour with a grey eye-ring. Females have a scarlet-red head and neck, with a darker red tail and back. The upper side of the wings are dark red on the inside half and blue on the outer half. Under the wing is dusky with a vivid purple-blue band that continues under the body and around the back of the neck. A purple-blue ring surrounds the yellow eye, and the upper and lower beak is black. Both sexes have a short, square tail.
Habitat and distribution: Eclectus roratus macgillivrayi is endemic to Queensland (only lives in Queensland) and is the only subspecies on mainland Australia, with one other subspecies, E. r. polychloros, found in the Torres Strait islands. All other subspecies are located in Indonesia, New Guinea, and several Pacific islands. The eclectus parrot is found in one region in Queensland, the Iron and McIlwraith ranges of eastern Cape York Peninsula. They mainly inhabit the interior and edges of lowland rainforest; however they can also be found in the higher rainforest regions.
David Fleay Wildlife Park on the Gold Coast has eclectus parrots on display.
Diet: The diet consists of fruit, nuts, seeds, flowers and nectar, obtained from the tree canopy.
Reproduction: The eclectus parrot’s breeding season is from July to February. They can have more than one brood, particularly when there is a loss of eggs or nestlings. Nests are in wood chip-lined hollows of emergent trees in the rainforest. Females will mate with several males, and have a clutch of two eggs. The female does all of the incubating while one or more males feed her and the nestlings. Several fully-grown offspring from earlier breeding seasons are also believed to help care for the nestlings. This co-operative breeding behaviour is extremely unusual for parrot species.
Behaviour: Eclectus parrots usually perch and feed high in the canopy. During the day, they can be seen singly and in pairs or small groups, but will often congregate in large numbers (up to 80) at a fruiting tree or when roosting in the evenings. The loud screeching call of the eclectus parrot makes them conspicuous in the rainforest (this can also be a deterrent for keeping them in captivity).
Threatening processes: The lowland rainforest in eastern Cape York Peninsula is more like the lowland rainforest in Papua New Guinea than other rainforest in Australia. The uniqueness and limited area of this habitat type mean that ongoing habitat degradation is a serious threat to the eclectus parrot.
The parrot’s bright colours and conspicuous nature have made it a target for illegal trapping and nest-robbing.
Actions: The Action plan for Australian birds 2000 has identified the need for further research into the eclectus parrot to fully understand its breeding requirements and behavioural ecology of the species. This information would be necessary to successfully reintroduce captive-bred birds into the wild if active management is required. Regular surveys are important to ensure early detection of any decline in numbers.
Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher Trochocercus cyanomelas Bloukuifvlieëvanger
Image by Paul Barnard Fotografie
IDENTIFICATION: ca 15 cm, 10 g. Sexes differ in plumage coloration. (T. c. cyanomelas) Ad male: Forehead, crown, pointed crest and lores glossy blue-black. Mantle to rump, incl scapulars, dark mouse grey to blue-grey; upper tail coverts darker slate grey. Tail brownish black, outer webs of rectrices edged grey. Tail graduated, central rectrices longest. Upper wing coverts brown, lesser coverts edged grey. Primaries dark brown; secondaries brownish black, outer webs with narrow greyish edges. Tertials white, forming wing bar. Axillaries white, underwing coverts dark grey, undersides of flight feathers dark brown. Chin to upper breast glossy blue-black. Lower breast and flanks white, with dark sooty-grey mottling; belly and undertail coverts buffy white, undertail with white feather shafts. Bill black, or bluish slate grey with black tip; gape yellow. Eyes brown. Legs and feet slate grey to black. Ad female: As male, but crest shorter and head less glossy. Lores whitish, ear coverts grey; sides of neck and upper breast dull black, with greenish gloss, mottled white. Bill grey-blue. Legs and feet blue-grey to slate. Imm: As female, but duller, with upper parts washed olive-brown. Crest shorter and greyer. Greater upper wing coverts narrowly tipped rufous. Juv: As imm, but more grey-brown. Crest greyish, very short. Upper wing coverts tipped rufous, flight feathers browner19. Confusing species: White-tailed Crested Flycatcher has white (not grey) edges to rectrices, and lacks white wing bar.
VOICE: Song a melodious kew-ew-ew-ew-ew, or unmusical tsip tsip tsip tsip tser tsirsip, or loud ringing tsee-yoyoyoyoyoyo, interspersed with or preceded by harsh zweet notes9,16. Foraging birds give diversity of calls, incl tztitit-tswee, repeated 3-4 x; also tsayng – sat, say, say, say, sayng, and tsaying – tsaying – tsaying – sitit, and a ‘sucking’ sound16. Alarm call a harsh zweet-zwa, or zweet-zweet-zwa, or zwit, or sweetsoo – sweetsoo, sometimes incl thin twittering titititititi9,16.
DISTRIBUTION: From s Somalia south and west to Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and n Mozambique, and south to S Africa. In s Africa, in lowlands of e Zimbabwe and c Mozambique; also extreme s Mozambique, ne S Africa, Swaziland and KwaZulu-Natal, south-west to about Betty’s Bay, W Cape6,11,12. Vagrant recorded in riparian thicket at Victoria Falls, nw Zimbabwe8.
POPULATION & DEMOGRAPHY: Locally common. In s Mozambique, est > 1 000 birds12. Oldest ringed bird at least 5.5 yr14.
MOVEMENTS & MIGRATIONS: Mostly resident and sedentary. Some small-scale altitudinal movements down escarpment in Limpopo Province and Mpumalanga18; increased reporting rates during winter at lower altitudes in KwaZulu-Natal and E Cape also suggest altitudinal migration11.
HABITAT: Undergrowth and lower canopy of Afromontane and evergreen lowland forest, sand forest and riverine forest11; also forest patches in valley bushveld15. In winter-rainfall region, in damp, wooded mountain gorges, often where epiphytic creepers abundant7,11.
GENERAL HABITS: Usually singly or in pairs. Restless and shy; most easily located by call9.
FORAGING & FOOD: Joins mixed-species foraging flocks19. While foraging, pirouettes with fanned tail and drooped wings, swinging body from side to side. Takes prey in short looping flights; hover-hawks to glean prey from leaves and twigs, and gleans prey from bark9,16,19. Diet little known; eats small invertebrates9.
BREEDING: Monogamous, solitary nester19. Territorial19. Male advertises territory with song; responds to rival male with contact and excitement calls, raises and spreads crest, fans tail and droops wings19. Nest: A neat, thick-walled cup, built of bark fibres, fine grass, moss and lichens, bound together with spider web17. Outside diam (no n) 57-65 mm, height 50-90 mm; cup diam 45 mm, depth 25-28 mm17. Placed in leafy fork of tree or bush, av 1-2 m17, rarely to 8 m above ground19. Laying dates: Zimbabwe Oct-Jan (9 of 11 records Nov-Dec)8; KwaZulu-Natal Oct-Dec5; E Cape Sept-Dec11; W Cape Oct-Jan19. Eggs: 2-3, usually 2 (2.2, n = 13)10,13. Oval. White, cream, pinkish or pale blue, blotched and spotted with red-brown, greenish brown and purplish grey, often in ring around obtuse end17,19. Size (n = 8) 15.8-17.9 x 12.2-13.0 mm (16.8 x 12.7 mm)9,10,13. Incubation: By both sexes in shifts of ca 45 min1. Development & care of young: Fed by both ads17. Nest aggressively defended by male11. Breeding success: No data.
Fraser Island 0595
Image by Michael Dawes
Scientific name: Haliaeetus leucogaster
What does it look like?
The White-bellied Sea-Eagle has white on the head, rump and underparts and dark grey on the back and wings. In flight the black flight feathers on the wings are easily seen when the bird is viewed from below. 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). The sexes are similar. As in other raptors (birds of prey), Males (2.5 kg – 3.7 kg) are slightly smaller than females (2.8 kg – 4.2 kg).The wingspan is about 1.8 m – 2 m. Young Sea-Eagles are brown as juveniles than slowly become to resemble adults in a patchwork manner, acquiring the complete adult plumage by their fourth year.
The White-bellied Sea-Eagle is the second largest raptor (bird of prey) found in Australia. The largest is the Wedge-tailed Eagle, Aquila audax, which stands up to 1 m tall. The Wedge-tailed Eagle is mostly brown, with a wedge-shaped tail. Young Sea-Eagles may be confused with the Wedge-tailed Eagle, but differ in having a paler head and tail and more steeply upswept wings when soaring.
Where does it live?
White-bellied Sea-Eagles are a common sight in coastal and near coastal areas of Australia. In addition to Australia, the species is found in New Guinea, Indonesia, China, south-east Asia and India
White-bellied Sea-Eagles 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.
What does it do?
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 swan. Sea-Eagles also feed on carrion (dead prey) such as sheep and fish along the waterline. They harass s
Image by Gerwin Filius
The Turquoise-browed Motmot is a colourful, medium-sized bird of the motmot family. It inhabits Central America from south-east Mexico, to Costa Rica, where it is common and not considered threatened. It lives in fairly open habitats such as forest edge, gallery forest and scrubland. It is more conspicuous than other motmots, often perching in the open on wires and fences. From these perches it scans for prey, such as insects and small reptiles. White eggs (3-6) are laid in a long tunnel nest in an earth bank or sometimes in a quarry or fresh-water well.
The bird is approximately 34 cm long and weighs about 65 grams. It has a mostly green body with a rufous back and belly. There is a bright blue stripe above the eye and a blue-bordered black patch on the throat. The flight feathers and upperside of the tail are blue. The tips of the tail feathers are shaped like rackets and the bare feather shafts are longer than in other motmots. Although it is often said that motmots pluck the barbs off their tail to create the racketed shape, this is not true; the barbs are weakly attached and fall off due to abrasion with substrates and with routine preening.
Unlike most bird species, where only males express elaborate traits, the Turquoise-browed Motmot expresses the extraordinary racketed tail in both sexes. Research indicates that the tail has evolved to function differently for the sexes. Males apparently use their tail as a sexual signal, as males with longer tails have greater pairing success and reproductive success. In addition to this function, the tail is used by both sexes in a wag-display, whereby the tail is moved back-and-forth in a pendulous fashion. The wag-display is performed in a context unrelated to mating: both sexes perform the wag-display in the presence of a predator, and the display is thought to confer naturally selected benefits by communicating to the predator that it has been seen and that pursuit will not result in capture.
The Turquoise-browed Motmot is a well-known bird in its range and has been chosen as the national bird of both El Salvador and Nicaragua. It has acquired a number of local names including guardabarranco ("ravine-guard") in Nicaragua, torogoz in El Salvador (based on its call) and pájaro reloj ("clock bird") in the Yucatán, based on its habit of wagging its tail like a pendulum. In Costa Rica it is known as Momoto Cejiceleste.