Archive for the 'Glossary' Category

Bird Word: Ornithologist

Ornithologist: another name for a birder or bird watcher, but usually someone who takes their interest very seriously. Those who study birds as part of their work are best called ornithologists.

I regard myself as a birder primarily. I watch birds. I photograph birds. I write about birds (on this blog). I talk (as a guest speaker) about birds. I read about birds. People come to me with their bird questions in person, on the phone, by email or through asking questions on this blog. I answer as best I can, knowing that I am still very much an amateur and learning all the time.

At times, however, I am at best described as an amateur ornithologist. I do not get paid for watching or studying birds but I do take some activities very seriously. For example, I have collected data for three bird Atlases over the last three decades. The data collected has been published and is a valuable part of our knowledge of the birds of Australia.

A special offer you can’t refuse:

Anyone living within a few hours’ drive of Murray Bridge, South Australia, who would like a guest speaker on birds, please contact me via the contact form. I am willing to speak at schools, clubs, churches and any other organization.

And if you provide the ticket, I’ll even fly interstate!

And overseas!

Happy birding.

Bird Word: Oriental

Oriental: the region consisting of the Himalayas, India, SE Asia and Indonesia.

The term “oriental” refers to birds of a particular region of the world. It also happens to be the only region of the world I have visited outside of Australia. In 2005-06 I had a wonderful trip to Thailand and Nepal. You can read all about my adventures, including trekking near Mt Everest, on my blog called Trevor’s Travels.

Oriental can also be part of the name of some species. For example, the only one I can think of in the Australian context is the Oriental Cuckoo, also known as the Himalayan Cuckoo. It occurs in the northern and north eastern parts of Australia. This is one species on my “yet to see list.”

Bird Word: Nomadic

  • Nomadic: some species are able to move erratically between different regions in response to drought, rainfall or lack of food sources. For example, honeyeaters may move from their normal habitat to another area where there is an abundance of flowering trees.

Territorial birds

Wild birds can be very territorial, staying in the one location all their lives. Australian Magpies are like this. I could take you on a ten minute walk around our property and point out the boundaries of the territory “our” magpies inhabit. This becomes very evident in late winter early spring, just when they are beginning to nest. They defend their territory very willingly indeed. They also very rarely, if ever, stray from that territory.

Birds with larger territories

Other species are not as sedentary. They will move over much larger areas that could only be loosely termed their territory. Species like the Grey Currawong and White Winged Choughs are like that here in the Murray Bridge area of South Australia. Their beat can cover several kilometres in any direction.

Nomadic birds

Still other species can be highly nomadic. They respond quickly to changed environmental conditions. If one part of a forest or scrub is lacking flowering trees and other plants, birds like honeyeaters and lorikeets quickly move to an area where there is a more abundant or reliable food source.

Water birds in Australia will respond to drought conditions by leaving a dry area and moving to an area where there is still water. They can also respond very quickly to heavy rain and flooding. When the inland salt lakes fill in outback Australia, tens of thousands of water birds flock to these areas to breed, feed and live until the water dries up. They will then disperse to other areas where there is water. The Australian Pelican, for example, has been known to fly thousands of kilometres in search of water, sometimes at an altitude of several thousands of metres.

Bird Word: Nocturnal

  • Nocturnal: active at night, such as owls. (The opposite is diurnal, or active in the day time.)

I should go out birding more at night.

After all, if I want to actually see nocturnal birds, as opposed to merely hearing them, I have to make the effort to get out there in the wild of the night.

Owls and Frogmouths

From time to time – usually on those occasions when there is absolutely nothing on television (which is an increasing phenomenon these days) and we are just sitting reading or talking, we are aware of the night sounds outside. We will occasionally hear a screeching Barn Owl or the soft “ooming” of the Tawny Frogmouth. I have yet to get good shots of these two species.

Australian Owlet-Nightjar:

Another nice one to hear is the Australian Owlet-Nightjar, an occasional visitor to our garden. I actually got a really good view of one of these one beautiful afternoon a few years ago. It had settled on a dead limb of a neighbour’s tree and was quietly sunning itself. It was much smaller than I thought it would be.

Southern Boobook Owl

It has been many years since the last Boobook visit to our garden. This would have to be a favourite of mine; the haunting “boo-book” call echoes far in the Australian bush at night. My daughter hears one and sometimes two calling near her home in Clare in the mid-north of South Australia.

Spotted Nightjar

This well camouflaged species I’ve often seen while driving at night. I thought I would never get to photograph this species until a while back when a friend showed me where one was regularly roosting. Read about the Spotted Nightjar here, along with a photo.

Spotted Nightjar

Spotted Nightjar


When our children (who are now adults) were little we often went camping. A big part of any camping trip was to go out for a walk after dark with several bright torches. We would search for possums, owls and frogmouths, and any other animals getting out and about under the cover of darkness.

Must start doing that again.

Further reading:

Bird Word: Month List

Month list: a list of all the bird species seen by a birder in a particular month.

I am a self confessed list maker.

  • I make lists of things to do.
  • I make lists of things I’ve done.
  • I make lists of things I have.
  • I make lists of things I’d like.
  • I make lists of places I’ve been.
  • I make lists of places I’d like to visit.
  • I make lists of books I’ve read.
  • I make lists of…

I think you get the picture.

It’s almost (sic) an obsessive, compulsive thing.

Birding lists:

Birding was made for people like me. So many lists can be made in the pursuit of this hobby. I can make all kinds of lists:

  • A list of birds seen each day.
  • A list of birds seen each week.
  • A list of birds seen each month (a month list).
  • A list of birds seen in each year (a year list).
  • A list of birds seen in my lifetime ( a life list).
  • A list of birds seen in each location I visit to go birding (a site list).
  • A list of birds seen on television, or on films.
  • A list of birds for each state I have visited (a state list).
  • A list of birds for each country I’ve been ( a country list).
  • I can even make a list of BIRDS I HAVE NOT SEEN YET.


When I bought a specialised database for my bird records I was in heaven. All these lists now meant something – they had a purpose. I joyfully add new data to this ultimate list of lists. The computer can generate for me any kind of list I want in seconds.

  • A list of every time I’ve seen a particular species.
  • A list month by month or year by year for a location.
  • A list of places I’ve been birding.
  • A total list of all the birds I’ve ever seen.
  • A list of dates I’ve been birding.
  • Etc.
  • Etc.

I don’t think I’m sick – just a tad obsessed.

Further Reading: