The annual calendar features stunning shots of the red-tailed black cockatoo and the red-capped robin, as well as the shy and unobtrusive painted button-quail, and the crested shrike-tit, which is heard more often than it’s seen.
Superb parrot. The aptly named superb parrots live on the slopes and plains west of the Great Dividing Range in New South Wales, spending the winter in northern and central regions of the state, and then heading south to the riparian river red gum forests of the Riverina to breed, especially along the Murray and Murrumbidgee rivers.
Painted button-quail. Shy, unobtrusive and superbly camouflaged, painted button-quails are sometimes so inconspicuous in the forest that they can be difficult to find. The only sign that they’re there may be the tell-tale circular patches – known as ‘platelets’ – they leave in the leaf litter. These are formed when the birds forage for seeds on the forest floor, spinning on alternate legs while scratching among the fallen leaves to reveal a round patch of bare soil.
Varied sittella. Usually a noisy chatter from the treetops is the first sign that varied sittellas are around. They forage high in the branches of eucalypts, especially those with rough bark, where they explore cracks and knotholes, probing them to glean tiny insects and other invertebrates. When foraging, they spiral down the tree trunks and branches (unlike treecreepers, which always spiral up the trunks).
Crested shrike-tit. This arresting bird is heard more often than it’s seen, though it’s not the call of the crested shrike-tit that’s the giveaway. Shrike-tits use their strong, stout bills to rip bark from the branches of trees to reveal insects and other invertebrates underneath, and it’s usually the sound of tearing bark that attracts the ear, rather than the bird’s mournful, piping whistle.
Square-tailed kites. Usually seen circling low and slow just above the treetops as they search for food, square-tailed kites mostly hunt other birds, especially songbirds. Their prey is usually ambushed, plucked from among the foliage of the trees and, during the breeding season, chicks are often stolen from their nests – it is rumoured that square-tailed kites are capable of snatching a nestling with each foot.Note: BirdLife Australia has a strict code of ethical bird photography. This image was taken with a long lens. The birds were not disturbed and both chicks successfully fledged.
Red-capped robin. Red-capped robins are often seen as they perch on a stump or low branch. They patiently watch the ground below, waiting and hoping to spot an insect or other invertebrate among the leaf litter, before pouncing. Their call is usually a quiet, insect-like trill but on rare occasions they may mimic the calls of a scarlet robin.
Red-tailed black cockatoo. The sight of a flock of red-tailed black cockatoos flapping on broad, lethargic wings as they slowly trail across the landscape is one that lingers in the memory. They are usually seen flying above the treetops but, with a flash of their blood-red tail panels, can suddenly spiral down to land in the branches of trees or on to the ground to forage.
Forty-spotted pardalote. These tiny birds rely on white gums to nest and feed, gleaning insects and prising lerp from the leaves with their hooked beaks. Preserving old gums, in forests and on farms, is one of the keys to protecting this endangered Tasmanian native, but revegetation programs have also proved successful in creating new habitat.
Diamond firetail. Like most finches, diamond firetails eat seeds, which they usually peck from the ground, though they sometimes also pluck them from the seed-heads of tussocks of grass. Grass doesn’t only provide a food source, as its stalks and blades are also expertly woven into strange, bottleshaped nests, with the neck of the bottle forming an entrance tunnel to a feather-lined chamber, where up to seven glossy white eggs are laid.
Blue-faced honeyeater. In Queensland the blue-faced honeyeater is sometimes known as the banana bird, owing to its habit of foraging for insects among the foliage of banana trees, though they sometimes eat the bananas as well. Similarly, it is known as the pandanus bird in the Northern Territory, again reflecting its occasional foraging habitat. But these birds are more likely to be seen feeding in open eucalypt or paperbark forests and woodlands, or in monsoon forests, and sometimes even among mangroves.
Grey-crowned babblers. It’s seldom difficult to tell when a party of grey-crowned babblers is in the vicinity. Their scolding, whistling and chattering calls readily give their presence away, but their most well-known call is a distinctive ‘ya-hoo’, given as a duet by pairs of birds –the female gives a harsh ‘ya’ and the male responds with a high-pitched ‘hoo’, though given the precise timing it sounds as though the call was given by a single bird.
Barking owl. Unsurprisingly, the barking owl is named after one of its distinctive calls – a dog-like woof-woof – but it also makes a number of other noises. One of these calls sounds uncannily like a screaming woman. They are so convincing that when the early settlers heard these far-carrying shrieks coming from the depths of the forest at night, they assumed that someone was meeting a grisly fate.