Over recent days I have been sharing photos of some of the birds I saw during a visit late last year to the Monarto Zoo which is about a ten minute drive from our home in Murray Bridge.
During one of the bus trips through the park visitors are taken past a large lagoon. This is filled from Rocky Gully creek which flows through the zoo. I use the word “flows” loosely; it only runs after good rains and is quite often a dry creek bed for much of the year.
The zoo management has dammed this creek at one point to provide a semi-permanent water hole for the giraffes and zebra. When it contains water it attracts small numbers of water birds, including this one Black-tailed Native-hen shown in the photo above. Native-hens are widespread throughout Australia except the far northern coastline, the eastern seaboard, drier inland areas and it is also absent from Tasmania. (The similar species the Tasmanian Native-hen is endemic to Tasmania.)
It is quite unusual to see just one of this species. They are more often seen in small flocks and, when conditions are right, they can erupt into an area and breed rapidly, and can then number in the hundreds or even thousands.
One of the interesting birds you can see at the Monarto Zoo near my home town of Murray Bridge is the Ostrich. The zoo boasts a large flock of this species and they breed readily in captivity.
Ostriches are native to Africa but there have been some feral populations in different parts of South Australia over the last century and a half. Originally they were imported and farmed for their feathers. These were used for decorations, usually in ladies’ hats. When this fashion quickly faded the industry declined and some birds were released and formed feral breeding populations, especially along the Coorong south east of Adelaide, and north east of Port Augusta. From time to time there are reports of small flocks still living in that area.
More recently there has been short lived resurgence in the farming of this species, this time as a meat bird.
Yesterday I wrote about the Black Kite I saw on a visit to Monarto Zoo last year. Just before that sighting I took the above photo of a Whistling Kite. This was soaring quite a bit higher than the Black Kite, so the photo is nowhere near as good. Clicking on the photo will enlarge it slightly.
Whistling Kites are widespread throughout most of Australia. Their preferred habitats include open forest, hilly areas, timbered watercourses and around lakes, swamps, estuaries and mudflats. I have usually seen this species as a single bird, though along the nearby River Murray I have occasionally seen two or three near each other.
The name comes from the distinctive shrill whistling call. When breeding they make a large platform of sticks high in a eucalypt tree (or other convenient tree). This nest can be re-used and added to over many years until it is quite large.
Last spring my son and his family came over to South Australia for a short holiday. During that time we all went to the local open range Monarto Zoo. This zoo is a part of the Adelaide Zoological Gardens and we like visiting on a regular basis, especially seeing it is a ten minute drive from home here in Murray Bridge. Being Life Members we also like to get value from our tickets.
On this visit last year the weather was beautiful with plenty of sunshine and a pleasant breeze. The bird life was also very cooperative.
I took the above photo of a Black Kite soaring low overhead as we went on one of the walking trails in the zoo. It came low and also slowly enough to get a reasonable photo.
Black Kites are widespread and common in the Murraylands region. Quite often – almost daily – we have one or two glide quietly over our house. In other parts of the town I have also seen small flocks of up to about five soaring near each other. Several years ago I saw about fifty on the ground or gliding low overhead near a small abattoirs on the eastern edge of town.
If I want to see some Ostriches here in South Australia I only have to drive for about ten minutes. Ostriches are not native Australian birds, of course, because they have been introduced into Australia from Africa.
The Ostriches I can see are actually in the open range Monarto Zoo near Adelaide, South Australia. The zoo features many animals from Africa, including a small flock of Ostriches.
The Ostrich is actually on the official list of Australian birds. In the nineteenth century they were brought to Australia and farmed in a number of localities. They were primarily bred for their feathers, the plumes being much in demand for decorating ladies’ hats. The fashion didn’t last and many Ostriches were released or escaped into the wild, forming small breeding colonies. I know of two such areas: the Coorong south of here and north of Port Augusta. I believe there is still a very small remnant population near Port Augusta but I never managed to see any despite living there for many years.