Something I particularly enjoy in Australia is all the birds – especially the native birds. A large percentage of Australia’s native flora and fauna are found only in Australia – and this includes the birdlife! About half the birds in Australia are found nowhere else on Earth.
Living in Sydney I have really noticed the presence, and variety, of birds – such a contrast to the few birds I would see in Beijing. I’ve been amazed by how many birds there are to see and hear here all the time. Not long after I arrived a friend in China commented on the bird calls she could hear through our skype call. Earlier today I found myself distracted from my studies as currawongs and other birds called to one another outside.
I want to show you the variety and colour of birds I see frequently, but I am no wildlife photographer. Instead I have compiled some photos from websites where you can learn more about Australian birds – just click the photos to go to the website they come from.
I regularly see rainbow lorikeets, currawongs, kookaburras, magpies, sulphur-crested cockatoos, plovers, ibis, ravens, galahs, moorhens, seagulls, crested pigeons – plus introduced pigeons, sparrows and myna birds. Include visits to my grandparents/parents and the list of birds I see regularly grows to include willie wagtails, peewees, pardalotes, fairy wrens, ducks, egrets, wattle birds, honeyeaters, robins, black cockatoos, blackbirds, black swans, king parrots and crimson rosellas.
I have lots of bird stories from my time here so far. When I first moved here I was amazed to see groups of rainbow lorikeets every time I went for a walk; they were often in palm trees nibbling at the fruit. Once at the park I saw two or three juvenile magpies on the ground playing with a kookaburra; they seemed to be investigating this other bird and chattering to each other about it. Eventually the kookaburra got tired of waddling away and flew off instead. At my grandparents’ there are always lots of birds fluttering around – splashing in the birdbaths, investigating the garden; once I saw a king parrot in their neighbours’ olive tree, its plumage particularly bright against the grey-green of the olive trees’ leaves. At my parents’ there are wattlebirds in the big banksia trees outside my bedroom all the time, with crimson rosellas and king parrots almost as frequent.
Over the holidays I went to lead at a youth camp held in the bush outside Wollongong – and there were lots of birds there, too! Of particular interest were the lyrebirds. I think I might have seen a lyrebird in a nature reserve in Canberra when I was young, but I don’t recall having really seen lyrebirds in the wild before. I saw several lyrebirds while at the camp which was thrilling! Lyrebirds are fascinating creatures. The name comes from the shape of the males’ beautiful tail feathers – looking a little like an old fashioned lyre. As a child I thought they were “liarbirds” – because they are most well known for their mimicry, copying the calls of other birds. They have great vocal flexibility, mimicking different bird calls and even some non-natural sounds (although this is more by birds raised in captivity). In winter the males put on a show of their beautiful tail feathers as well their wide inventory of sounds in order to impress the more practically plumed females; I saw both males and females while at camp. I also heard a LOT of shrike-thrush and kookaburra calls, and while I did see a couple of kookaburras they are both popular lyrebird performance pieces. Both those calls can be heard around 1:35-1:50 of this video of a lyrebird in a sanctuary – quickly followed by a mimicked car alarm. This video captures a lyrebird in the wild performing both song and dance.
And then there’s flying foxes (fruit bats) – not birds but still airborne. I find them majestic and interesting creatures and enjoy watching their silhouetted forms swooping above me in the Sydney dusk. My grandparents are less enthusiastic about flying foxes since a huge colony of them took up residence in their country town’s park, taking over and make the space just about useless to the town. In general, though, I think they’re lovely. I may have to tell you stories about them another time….