An Early Interest in Birds

Like many birders I can trace my interest in birds back to an early age. I lived on a wheat and sheep farm at Taplan in the Murray Mallee district of South Australia. This area is hot and dry and often dusty in the summer time and cool, frosty and sometimes wet in the winter time. Most times it just forgets to rain – and the farmers struggle to grow a crop or enough pasture for their sheep or cattle.

Common Farm Birds of the Murray Mallee

There were about ten acres of mallee scrub surrounding the house and sheds. This was a quite rich area for native Australian birds, especially when the mallee trees were in flower. There were always honeyeaters around, mainly Red Wattlebirds, Noisy Miners and Singing Honeyeaters. Australian Magpies, Australian Ravens, House Sparrows and Common Starlings were common around the house, garden and sheds. Thornbills, Weebills, Pardalotes, Willie Wagtails and Magpie Larks were common too. The Magpie Lark was locally called a Murray Magpie and I was always intrigued by their mud nests.


There were many rabbits in the district and sometimes these breed into plague proportions. Mice were also a problem and mice plagues come and go as well. This smorgasbord of food maintains a healthy population of raptors. Nankeen Kestrals, Black Shouldered Kites and Collared Sparrowhawks were common, the latter not welcome when there were chickens in the chook yard. Wedge Tailed Eagles are majestic birds as they soar on high; unfortunately my father occasionally shot them if they strayed too near the lambing ewes. Brown Falcons, Spotted Harriers and Little Eagles are also found in the district.

Pigeons and Parrots

The Crested Pigeon was the dominent member of its family, and they can been seen sitting on fence wires and on telephone wires throughout the region. There are a few Common Bronzewing Pigeons where the habitat is suitable and the feral Rock Dove is growing in numbers. Peaceful Doves are a delight wherever they occur and are found in this area too.

Galahs are the dominent parrot but I have also seen the stunning Major Mitchell Cockatoo in the district. Its bright pink breast and yellow and red crest bring a splash of colour to the sometimes drab mallee environment. Other common species include the Cockatiel, Mulga Parrot, Mallee Ringneck. Blue Bonnet and Budgerigar.


I never followed the hobby of my cousin Ron. He was an avid collector of bird’s eggs, in an era when this was not frowned upon; indeed, some praised him for his excellent collection. I was a little hesitant about heights – and still cautious nearly fifty years later – and birds eggs are usually found up in trees. Such a hobby never got off the ground for me. Instead, I played it safe and sound on the ground collecting bird’s feathers. Both activities are not only frowned upon these days but are probably illegal.

The feathers I identified from my brother’s field guide (Calley’s “What Bird is That”) and then I sticky taped the feathers in a spare exercise book, carefully annotated with species name, together with the date and place collected. Unknown to me at the time but I was preparing myself for a life-long passion about birds, keeping records and studying the natural environment.

I wonder what ever happened to my collection of feathers?


7 Responses to “An Early Interest in Birds”

  1. sonya says:

    just wondering if blue bonnets are rare? what are they worth. are they found in SA??

  2. Trevor says:

    Hi there Sonya. Welcome to my blog. Blue Bonnet Parrots are widespread in mallee, dry woodland and semi-arid areas of Australia, including NW Victoria, western NSW, SW Queensland and eastern South Australia.

    There is an isolated race called the Naretha Parrot on the Nullabor Plain. This race is rare in the wild and very rare in captivity.

    I have seen Blue Bonnets near Tailem Bend, several places in the Loxton area, Peterborough, Orroroo, Yorke Peninsula and NW Victoria. They are widespread but not common anywhere but would not be considered rare.

    If by “worth” you mean their value to the bird trade I have very little idea though a quick search on the internet found one shop quoting $110-$160 per pair ($500 pp for the Naretha Parrot). They have been a commonly kept pet for many years now.

    I hope this helps.

  3. Diana says:

    hi,I was just wondering if you could help me out, I’ve found a pure white egg,it was still warm and I couldn’t see a nest around.It’s only about as big as my thumb,what do you think it is,what should I do,do you think it will hatch and if it does how will I care for it?

  4. Trevor says:

    Hi there Diana. Welcome to my blog about Australian birds.

    I am sorry but from your description it is almost impossible to tell what species of bird the egg belongs to. Where in Australia was the egg found? Where in relationship to trees, shrubs or buildings? What birds were around at the time? What are the common birds in your area?

    There are so many variables that I couldn’t even begin to have a good guess. Eggs are often found on the ground and this is the result of a variety of events. We have some very active cuckoos in Australia which lay their eggs in the nests of other species. The baby cuckoos instinctively push other species eggs out of the nest before they hatch so that they get all the food. (Greedy, heh).

    Other species steal eggs from nests to eat – crows, ravens, magpies, currawongs and many others. This is so that they may survive – it is the natural order of things, not cruelty. Sometimes these birds drop the eggs while carrying them.

    Some species – especially pigeons and doves – make nests that are so flimsy that the egg simply falls through the bottom. The nests are so insignificant you might not even see them in a tree.

    You are best advised to throw out the egg. Hatching it is a specialty job for the birds – or people who keep birds who have special incubators. Even if you did manage to hatch it, feeding the baby is far more demanding than a human baby – and we know how demanding they can be.

    When you say it was as big as your thumb – did you mean you thumb nail? If so, it is possible it was a honeyeater’s egg – but which species is very hard to tell.

    Sorry that I cannot give you any more help than that.

  5. Diana says:

    I forgot to mention that I asked a man nearby what kind of bird he thought that it was,and he replied that it looked like a Diamond Doves egg.I do not know what past experience he had had caring for birds, but this may be of interest.

  6. Diana says:

    It[the egg] was found in W.A,near Perth,and is as big as my thumb,not the nail.I see multitudes of common Bronze wings each day,perhaps its one of those?There were a few trees around were I found it, but it was next to a large shrub.You probably won’t be able to help me here, but do you know any idividual or organization who would be able to hatch it and care for it in W.A?

  7. Trevor says:

    Sorry for the delay Diana. Try this web site for contacts in WA

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