As I was driving past the Pinnaroo Primary School recently I spotted a lovely mural painted on the wall of a classroom. The mural illustrates various aspects of the local farming activities and the environment. I’ve shown it in the photo above – click on it to enlarge.
From a birding viewpoint I was pleased to see the Malleefowl shown prominently as a part of the painting. Pinnaroo is in the heart of mallee country in South Australia.
The Malleefowl is an amazing bird unique to this part of the world and is classified as a vulnerable species in Australia. It is about 55-61cm in size (like a smallish turkey) and quietly feeds on seeds and berries in the mallee scrub, or on wheat seeds in farming areas.
The male Malleefowl builds a rather odd nest. It is a mound of dirt, leaves, sticks and bark and can be from 2 to 5 metres in diameter and up to 1.5 metres high. He will work this mound like a compost heap over the summer months, the rotting vegetation and sunlight heating up the mound. Over many months the female lays about 5 to 30 eggs in tunnels in the mound which are then covered over. The heat inside the mound is kept at almost exactly 33C throughout the incubation period which can last many months. On hatching, the young struggle through the dirt of the mound before running off through the scrub, independent from the beginning.
This species can be found nesting within 20km of my home, yet I’ve only ever seen one in the wild on a handful of occasions. One memorable occasion occurred a few years ago when I saw 6 birds in a period of 10 minutes. You can read about that encounter in an article called What kind of a duck was that? (Click here)
Below I have also included photos of two Malleefowl nests I have found in different parts of South Australia.
On my recent trip to Pinnaroo east of here in Murray Bridge I saw the above bushfire prevention sign on the side of the road. As I flashed past I thought, “My readers might like to see that.”
So I came to a screeching halt and backed up. Well – I checked the mirror first. Good thing too – a big truck was following me about a hundred metres back. I let him pass before taking the photo.
Most local councils in Australia have strict regulations about lighting fires, especially in rural areas. Many farmers still use burning off as a strategy for controlling weeds. Lighting a fire during the summer months is asking for trouble, hence the signs.
The message of this sign seems to be appealing to bird lovers.
But what kind of bird?
The two parrots depicted by the artist appear to be rosellas, but they are nothing like any of the rosellas in my field guides. I guess the artist wanted to depict a generic type of parrot, appealing to a very broad audience.
I suspect the artist has adapted an illustration from a children’s colouring book. I’m sure I’ve seen something very similar in one of those “Colour by Number” type books.
I doesn’t matter – if it gets the message across and prevents fires, then it has achieved its purpose. Pity though – I’d like to have a photo or two of the parrots featured. They’d look good here on my blog.
The photo above shows a Cockatiel (left) and a Pink Cockatoo (centre) in the aviary in Pinnaroo, eastern South Australia. Both species are relatively common in the area. This is not a particularly good photo of the Pink Cockatoo – see below for a better shot which my son took some years ago at the Taronga Park Zoo in Sydney.
The Pink Cockatoo is also known as the Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo, named after an early Australian explorer.
This beautiful member of the parrot family is widespread throughout much of the arid and semi-arid regions of mainland Australia. It is far less common than other cockatoos. It is always a special bird to see in the wild, especially when they land and they raise their stunning crests.
When I visited Pinnaroo in eastern South Australia last week I visited the local aviaries next to the caravan park. I’ve featured some of the birds seen over recent days. Next to the aviaries was a large enclosure containing a small flock of Emus. They cam over to the fence to see what I was up to. I ignored them as I took photos of the birds in the cages. By the time I’d finished, the Emus had lost interest in me and had wandered off.
If you look carefully in the photo above, you can see an Emu sitting under the tree on the left hand side. It looks as though this is a male sitting on eggs. The female Emu will mate with the male, select a nesting site on the ground, a rough scrape in the dirt lined with a few twigs or leaves. She will lay the 5 to 11 large green eggs and then will leave.
The male takes over the task of incubating the eggs and caring for the young for up to 18 months. Meanwhile, the female wanders off and may mate with several other males during the breeding season.
Emus can be found throughout most parts of mainland Australia, especially in pastoral and cropping lands, plains, scrublands and national parks.
I took this photo of two Galahs in the aviary next to the Pinnaroo Caravan Park last week. Rather sad looking birds if you ask me. I guess they’d rather be out in the fields pinching the seeds from a farmer’s wheat crop. At least they have each other – many parrots mate for life. It’s a little hard to tell but by digitally enlarging the photo it looks like the one on the left is a male, the other a female. (Males have dark brown eyes, females red eyes).
Even sadder is the solitary Little Corella shown below.