Archive for August, 2007

Birds in the News #96

The latest edition of Birds in the News #96 has been posted here.

A bonus – as usual – was a truly wonderful photo of a Bald Eagle at the beginning of the article.

There are the usual links to interesting articles about birds in the news from around the world. Two features of particular interest to me included an article about the decline of House Sparrows and another about the breeding of Superb Fairy-wrens (which included a magnificent photo of the male wren in full breeding plumage).

The Second Australian Birdfair

The second Australian Birdfair at Leeton, New South Wales, is coming closer. It will be held from 15th to the 18th November.

The theme this year is “Our disappearing woodland birds – their future conservation.”

The Australian Birdfair 15-18 November 2007

  • Seminars and lectures about birds and other aspects of the natural world.
  • Birding and Nature related organisations, Market Stalls
  • Exhibits of interest to the bird watching industry.
  • Evening events
  • Organised, and self guided birdwatching tours
  • Entertainment, Art, and Varied Cultural activities.

It sounds like it will be a great event. I wish I could attend.

Perhaps I should treat myself to a special 60th birthday present on the 16th November!

Clever Crows are no Bird Brains

I’ve always known that crows and ravens were clever birds. They can be downright cunning at times. From a very early age growing up on a farm I was aware of their sneaky habits of flying into the chook yard to steal the eggs.

Over the years I’ve read further examples of these clever birds using tools to get to their food. Some of these indicators of intelligence have been filmed and shown on television. A more recent research programme has demonstrated an intelligence far beyond what was previously thought possible. The following quote comes from The Australian newspaper.

LONDON: Crows, famous for using tools, have even more impressive brains than previously thought.

Seven New Caledonian crows retrieved an unreachable snack with a stick, which first had to be obtained using a shorter stick.

This “metatool” use requires levels of intelligence and reasoning only seen before in humans and great apes.

It may have allowed humans to use simple stone tools to fashion more complex ones.

The new evidence shows a level of understanding similar to that of chimpanzees and orangutans.

University of Auckland scientists placed a meat treat out of the crows’ reach in a 15cm-deep hole. Nearby were two “toolboxes” with vertical bars through which the birds could insert bills, but not their heads.

A stick long enough to fish the meat from the hole was in one toolbox, but too far behind the bars for the crow to reach. The other toolbox contained a stone in the same position.

In front of both boxes lay a stick too short to extract the meat, but capable of reaching the long stick.

All seven crows worked out how to get the long stick and extract the meat.

Further reading:

Another new bird for my district list

I received a tip off from a fellow birder that a bird I hadn’t seen for some time had been seen in the local wetlands just five minutes drive from home. I had some business to attend to in the business section of town so I took the opportunity to do some birding on my way home.

I written before about the Rocky Gully Wetlands area here in Murray Bridge in South Australia. It is usually a fruitful place to stop for a few minutes just to see what is around. I was not disappointed. IN about thirty minutes of birding I managed to list 27 species, including Common Sandpiper, a new bird for my Murray Bridge and district list. I have seen it elsewhere but this was a first her for me. I forgot to take the camera, but I don;t think I would have been able to approach close enough anyway.

Other notable sighting included good views of Superb Blue Wrens, about a dozen Black Winged Stilts and some fine Chestnut Teals. I also had excellent views from the bird hide of two Nankeen Kestrels sitting on a sign. One was obviously a juvenile for it kept begging food from the other. The adult bird flew off for a few minutes and returned with what looked like a mouse. It then proceeded to feed the young one.

Further reading:

Australian Pelicans, Rocky Gully Wetlands

Australian Pelicans, Rocky Gully Wetlands


During most days I am quite aware of the birds in our garden and around our five-acre property. From my office where I spend most of my day writing I can hear the birds calling. Most days I usually spend some time outside working in the garden or the shed and on those occasions I get to see the birds as well.



One species that is a delightful occasional visitor to our garden is the beautiful Mistletoebird. Over recent weeks I have been hearing this species calling on many occasions, sometimes several times a day. They are elusive little birds however, and I haven’t managed a recent photo of either the male or the female.

Further reading: