Tag Archives: bird

Grey Goshawk

Grey Goshawks are a frequent visitor to the area, up until now I’ve not been able to identify or get a good photo of one. Last week I heard the sound of a screeching flock of cockatoos off in the distance, as they got closer the sound got louder. They were swooping and swerving making a huge racket, in front of them was a hawk! It looked like they were chasing it away! A few days later I spotted it sitting in a tree out the back and managed to get these photos.

Very lucky to spot this guy out the back. I don’t know if it’s male or female, the information I found suggests they looks the same although the female is much larger than the male
This Grey Goshawk was spotted out the back, it was looking around for something and didn’t stay still for long
After flying off in pursuit of something I though that was the last I would see of it, but I spotted it again through a gap in the trees in the distance

Grey Goshawks are a medium size bird of prey, local ones have a grey back and upper wings, with a white belly. They have large yellow talons and a yellow, black tipped hooked beak. They prey on mammals like rabbits, possums and bats, also reptiles and insects. Their most common prey is other birds, no wonder the cockies were chasing it away.

References and further reading

The Black Cockies are back

They’re back, and they still have an appetite for destruction! Every year about this time the black cockies visit for a day or two, tear up the Banksia trees in our yard then leave.

Black Cockie tearing up a Banksia
Black Cockie tearing up a Banksia

Sulphur Crested Cockies are here in abundance year round, Black Cockies only visit for a few days per year, sometimes I miss them altogether. Yellow tailed black cockatoos are larger than their sulphur crested cousins, they have a louder and more piercing shriek too. A few days before I saw the black cockies this year I heard a chilling shriek in the valley after dark, for a moment I thought it sounded like a person in distress, but I figured it was more animal like. After I saw the Cockies I now think that’s what it was.

Black Cockie in the Banksia tree
Black Cockie in the Banksia tree

This year the black cockies visited on July 23rd, a few weeks earlier than previous years.

Fan-tailed cuckoo

Cacomantis flabelliformis

After the big storms a few weeks ago we had another wet weekend. It didn’t stop us from getting outside though, the two boys agreed to brave the leeches for a walk down to the river to see the flood damage and see what birds we could spot.

The creeks were running high but still crossable, it was clear from the debris and flow patterns how high the water had been.

Bird wise it was pretty quiet, but near the river just past Murrumba waterfall a Fan-tailed cuckoo flew overhead from one tree to another. Yet again I couldn’t identify it until I got back and studied the photo, hopefully I’ll get it next time.

Fan-tailed cuckoo’s are a common bird found all down the east coast of Australia, south and all the way through to southern west Australia. They are also found on other nearby Pacific islands of New Caledonia, New Guinea, Fiji, New Zealand.

They are a medium sized bird with a slate grey head, wings and back, it’s breast is a lighter grey, tail is horizontally striped with black and white. A clear identifier of the Fan-tailed cuckoo is the yellow ring around its eyes.

Fan-tailed cuckoo near Middle Harbour river – note the yellow eye ring, a good way to identify the bird.

Cuckoos have an interesting and brutal way of child rearing. The cuckoo mother lays it’s eggs in the nests of other species of birds. It ejects one of the existing eggs then leaves. The cuckoo eggs often hatch first and the chick then proceeds to push the other eggs out of the nest. The presumably unsuspecting host bird then raises the cuckoo chick as it’s own! What a bastard!

Notes and Sources

Variegated Fairywren

Malurus lamberti

[Update] I originally posted this as Malurus elegans – The Red-winged fairywren. It still looks very much to me like the Red-winged fairywren but due to it’s location it’s almost certainly a Variegated fairywren.

In an effort to get some new material to post I camped myself out the back of the house with a camera for a while. I had a first try with Tom but sitting silently in the bush with a 3 year old was never going work! It turned out to be a productive trip in the end, if this bird is what I think it is I cant find any reference of it being present in the Sydney area.

After 15 minutes or so if sitting a pair of these tiny grey birds came into view, playing and chasing each other through the scrubby undergrowth. They really are small, not including the tail I would say less that 10cm from beak to bottom. Their call was a soft shrill, almost like the cross between a buzzing insect and a cherp.

Female Red-winged fairywren
Female Variegated fairywren – they are small ( about 10cm without tail ) and fast! bouncing through the undergrowth

Variegated fairywren – now you see her..

Variegated fairywren – and she’s gone!

After a bit more waiting a similar sized but much more brilliantly coloured individual appeared. He was always on the move, it was hard to get a good photo as he flew around in the trees and undergrowth, always avoiding exposed locations.

Male Variegated fairywren – stunning, almost luminous markings

Variegated fairywren. It was difficult to get a good photo as he darted about the undergrowth, never exposing himself.

When I got back and had a chance to process and study the photos I identified the birds as female and male Red-winged fairywrens. Yet another bird I’ve not heard of, but most interestingly they are only meant to be found in the south west corner of Western Australia. After some more searching it seems there is a very similar looking species called the Variegated fairywren that is much more widespread across Australia. It consists of 4 subspecies, one of which, Malurus lamberti lamberti is reported in suburban bushland in Sydney.

The Variegated fairywren is found in forest undergrowth, they are constantly on le move and avoid open exposed positions. Like other fairywrens they are notable for their sexual dimorphism, with the male being very pretty and the female smart but a bit dull. They nest near the ground in a coarse dome of bark, leaves and grass usually concealed in dense vegetation.

Breeding is from September to January, I spotted these guys today ( December ) maybe I was watching a courtship.

References and other sources

Links from original post to information on the Red-winged fairywren: