Vol. 10 No. 1-text

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Journal of the
Volume 10 No. September 1975

Registered for Posting as a Periodical, Category B Price $1.00THE N.S.W. FIELD ORNITHOLOGISTS CLUB
PATRON A.H. Chisholm, O.B.E.
R. Cooke
Dr. R. Mason
The object of the Club is to promote the study and conservation of Australian birds and their
Annual subscription rates to the Club are
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Family Member $5.00
Junior Member (under 17) $1.00
All members receive a quarterly newsletter and a copy of the quarterly journal, Australian Birds.
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address is:
18 Russell St., Oatley, 2223.
Manuscripts should be sent to the Editor at:
P.O. Box 39, Coonabarabran, 2857.MOS
Vol. 10, No. September, 1975
The Common Sandpiper Tringa hypoleucos is generally regarded as being one of New
South Wales’ rarest waders. However, the apparent rarity of the species, as suggested by early
literature, may be considered to be the result of two main factors. These are:- (1) the poor
coverage of the State by ornithologists, as until recently observation has been more or less
restricted to the main centres of population; and (2) the peculiar preference of the species
for a habitat consisting of the upper reaches and eroded riverbanks of estuaries (Gosper in
litt). Such areas are generally avoided by other waders and hence, overlooked by observers.
Prior to the 1960s there had been only a few coastal observations,of the Common Sandpiper
in New South Wales (McGill 1960) and one inland record (Hobbs 1958).
On 11 October 1973 one of these birds was discovered feeding on the exposed tidal
mudflats of a small inlet known as “Bettsy’s Bay”. This bay is situated just north of the
confluence of the Lane Cove and Parramatta Rivers and forms the mouth of Gore’s Creek.
The species was the first wader I had ever recorded there, even after six years of bird –
watching in the area. I was able to keep a weekly check on the bay because of its close
proximity to my home. A second bird was noticed on November and the pair resided here
till 21 February 1974, when they were last seen after a stay of over four months. Upon
examination of the literature, it became apparent that very little recent information had been
published about the bird and that the species’ status within New South Wales and south-
eastern Australia was in need of a review.2. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (1)
According to the data now available, the Common Sandpiper would appear to be a
regular “summer” visitor in very small numbers to south-east Australia. Such a status would
defy normal “common -rare” terminology. Gosper (in litt.) describes the species as a “regular
but uncommon summer visitor to New South Wales’ north coast based on detailed study of
two sample areas, the Hunter and Richmond estuaries”. He suggests that it probably occurs
in the upper estuaries of all major river systems. A search of the literature proved this to be
quite the case. “A Checklist of the Birds of Clarence Valley” (compiled by the Clarence
Valley Naturalist’s Club, 1961) would indicate that the bird is not an uncommon sight and
in the adjacent part of Queensland it is an uncommon summer migrant.
In Victoria, the species is also a regular but scarce wader to the coast (Smith 1972)
and inland occurrences are quite frequent (Wheeler 1967 and pers. comm.. In Tasmania, it
has been recorded from several areas fairly regularly (Thomas 1970 and Milledge, in litt.).
There are now well over 100 records of the Common Sandpiper occurring in New
South Wales which have been listed in TABLE 1, and indicated on a map, although this is
undoubtedly still incomplete. More than 50% of the records pertain to birds seen over the
last three seasons commencing 1971-1972. However, one of the great difficulties with
“records” as such is that many probably refer to the same bird(s). Hence, it has become
necessary to divide records into two categories:- (1) single observations, when birds are
sighted only once in an area; and (2) continuous observations, when birds have been seen
repeatedly in an area as a result of subsequent visits. Unfortunately, the latter is very often
difficult to distinguish from the former especially in an area as big as Kooragang Island
which is over 2430 ha and where there is a problem of possible individual interchange.
The Common Sandpiper is known throughout the world for its rather solitary habits.
Indeed, there are only about 20 records of three or more birds together for the whole of
south-east Australia. Flocks of up to 50 in Arabia (Boehm 1960) and 41 in Darwin, N.T.
(Crawford 1972) must be considered exceptional numbers. These large flocks are usually
encountered during migration, although Gill (1970) reported three sightings of about 20 birds
flying down the Johnstone River at dusk during November -December 1965. May (1966)
observed 14 birds also in November 1965 around Griffith’s Island, near Port Fairy, Victoria.
Nevertheless, the number of Common Sandpipers occurring in an area must depend on
the suitability of habitat and availability of food. Therefore, an investigation of habitat
preferred by the species may prove it to occur in somewhat larger groups. Such seems to be
the case on Kooragang Island where whilst only one or two birds are usually observed on the
more popular Stockton side, up to 10 are recorded regularly on the west end in the upper
reaches of the Hunter estuary. Smith (op. cit.) has also noted up to 10 birds at the mouth of
the Yarra River, Victoria.September, 1975 3.
The following is an attempt to estimate the optimum number of Common Sandpipers
visiting and taking up winter residence annually in the three south-east States. These numbers
do not allow for any seasonal variation or fluctuation and assume that the number of birds
occurring in each State has reached an equilibrium. Based on the limited quantitative and dis-
tributional data available evidence suggests about 50 birds being regular to New South Wales
(including inland) and 30 for Victoria, with an extra 10 for the Murray Region. A maximum
of ten birds is estimated for Tasmania where there is less than twelve records. All of these
estimates can be considered as crude approximations and exclude birds recorded during
passage. Again, detailed surveys of favoured habitat could prove these results to be quite
Van Gessel et al (1972) described the Common Sandpiper as a “passage migrant” (as
distinct from a “non -breeding summer visitor”) through Kooragang Island. However, there is
no evidence to prove this statement true or otherwise as yet. In discussing the species
observed pattern of occurrence on the Hunter Estuary, Gosper (in lat.) puts forward the
following three points.
(1) If waders are capable of making long journeys (Thomas 1970) across central Australia
and the Sahara in Africa, then perhaps it could be assumed that this species may well
fly from, for example, the northern coast of Australia or Southern New Guinea, direct
to Victoria, without making landfall or pausing in places like the Hunter estuary. At
the moment, there is only circumstantial evidence on which to speculate and the
question of passage through the estuary remains to be resolved.
(2) Thomas (1968) suggests that the ‘orientation mechanism of waders directs them into
the general wintering areas from which final “homing” is by visual navigation’. Birds
arriving in small flocks during the arrival period may be found at resorts that do not
support a resident population of the species involved. This, when applied to the

Common Sandpiper, means the birds could arrive from time to time at resorts such as

Kooragang East Stockton but do not remain there. Instead they may locate and
settle in more favoured areas (e.g. Kooragang West). Once the birds become established
they remain there throughout the “winter”.
(3) This idea could also explain the brief appearance of larger parties of up to four birds
seen during autumn and perhaps spring passage at Stockton, but only the odd bird
throughout the intervening months. These theories however can only be substantiated
by the banding and re -trapping of birds at different points.
Many references are made to the species’ status in Western Australia where Serventy
and Whittell (1962) state “This bird is among the most regular and well -dispersed of the
waders the consistency of its occurrences in Western Australia is in great contrast with
the situation in the east”. One reason for this situation could be that there are two major
migration routes or “flyways” used by Palaearctic waders to reach Australia. One, the
“Eastern Flyway” would pass through Japan or southern China and the Philippines or4. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (1)
across the Pacific Ocean to the New Guinea region. This flyway would cater for the majority
of waders visiting eastern Australia. The other, the “Western Flyway” would cross the Asian
continent and pass through the Malay Peninsula to reach northern Australia via Indonesia.
Thomas (1970) points out that much of south-east Asia and Indonesia is unsuitable for
wintering waders. “This region cannot probably accommodate very large numbers of waders,
except species like the Common Sandpiper, that winter along rivers”. Thus, the species could
follow the Western Flyway, and by so doing, arrive in larger numbers in the north-west of
Australia from where it may spread south and east. Another possibility (ibid, p.146) is that
New Guinea may represent a cordillera barrier to any of the birds using an Eastern Flyway.
The Common Sandpiper is apparently a very common winter resident in New Guinea and
many birds reaching that country are likely to remain there instead of continuing on to
eastern Australia. The Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola is another wader that also seems to be
more common in the west. Examples of the opposite case, i.e., birds more common in the
east would be the Bar -tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica and Tattlers Tringa sp. which could
follow an eastern flyway.
Many migratory waders are more common in the north of Australia than the south e.g.,
Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris, Oriental Dotterel Charadrius veredus and Little Whimbrel
Numenius minutus. The Common Sandpiper too probably becomes increasingly rarer as it
proceeds south (Amiet 1957).
One widely accepted hypothesis for this situation is that birds breeding in the far north
of the Northern Hemisphere migrate to the far south of the Southern to find a corresponding
latitude of nearly identical conditions. Thus, the Common Knot Calidris canutus which
breeds in the Arctic, winter more commonly in the south than in the north of Australia. The
Common Sandpiper has a very large breeding distribution but it does not extend up into the
far north. Consequently, we would expect it to be more numerous in northern Australia
which does appear to be the case.
An interesting point about this bird, apart from its unwader-like haunts, is its unusual
manner of flight. When disturbed, it will almost always follow streams, flying low over the
water, unlike most waders which will take high into the air. Its ordinary flight is distinct
from any other wader’s, consisting of a quick flickering wingbeat followed by a glide on
stiff, bowed wings. However, according to Witherby et al (1940) the Common Sandpiper has
another flight which it uses when travelling over some distance and higher in the air. It is “a
more normal, regular wing action through a wide arc, much like any other sandpiper or
stint”. No doubt this would enable it to reach its frequently hilly breeding grounds which
may be up to 4 500 m in altitude (Dement ‘ev et. al 1969).
The species has a tendency to move to nearby coastal regions before migration begins,
but migration occurs along both coastal and inland routes (Goss -Custard 1969). On migration
it keeps to river courses following the bends; where there are no rivers these birds areSeptember, 1975 5.
practically not encountered during migration (Dement’ev. et. al 1969). Apparently spring
passage takes place predominantely at night but autumn passage proceeds throughout the day.
At night, waders can fly long distance without fear of predators.
Observations in the Hunter and Richmond estuaries indicate that the number of
Common Sandpipers in New South Wales gradually builds up from August, perhaps even to
December or early January, but departure takes place over a shorter period in March -April.
The latter would be consistent with the “improved” state of the birds (see below), aiding
their perhaps faster spring passage.
Records of overwintering and breeding -plumaged Common Sandpipers are scarce from
anywhere in Australia. One bird overwintered at Stockton between 18.5.73 and 6.8.73 (Van
Gessel in litt). Another late record (Hobbs in litt) was of a bird present between 7 March
1962 and 19 May 1962 at Dareton, near Mildura. This bird frequented an irrigation channel
and assumed full breeding plumage. Bravery’s (1970) sole record of the species in breeding
dress (in north-eastern Queensland) was of two birds on 4-7 March 1969. The only other
records I can find for the species in this plumage concern a specimen taken in Darwin on
17 July 1970 by Crawford (1972) and a bird seen by Gosper (pers. comm.) on 7 April
1973 at South Ballina.
A total of 45 specimens of the Common Sandpiper have been banded by the CSIRO
Bird Banding Scheme to date. All but 7 of these refer to birds caught in Papua-New Guinea.
There have been 3 recoveries, all recaptures at banding site and all within P.N.G.
Of the seven banded in Australia, five were caught at Stockton by F. G. Van Gessel
and S. G. Lane. Van Gessell advises that the data from three birds banded in November 1973
and another two in March 1974, suggests moult takes place not only during migration but
continues throughout the year until it reaches the breeding grounds to complete the final
moult. His conclusions are supported by Russian data on the prenuptial and postnuptial
moults of the species. Moult in waders has been dealt with extensively by Thomas in recent
Banding studies of waders in the Kooragang area have also shown that a considerable
weight increase is experienced during the last weeks prior to departure; usually up to one
third of the body weight. Having only two samples of this species, it does show a similar
trend with a comparative one third body weight increase. This compares favourably with
results obtained for the Red -necked Stint Calidris ruficollis in Tasmania where there was an
average 55% weight increase (Thomas & Dartnell 1970).6. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS (10)1
The Common Sandpiper seems to be very active at night, feeding on both rising and
falling tides. Also, at night it prefers its own species’ company while during daytime it feeds
apart (Van Gessell in litt.). This latter observation agrees with the findings of Goss -Custard
(1969). However, the pair at Bettsy’s Bay were most active on falling and low tides in day-
light and they commonly fed together.
I do not intend to give a full description of the species, suffice to say it is one of the
most easily recognized of waders, exhibiting typical tringine outline and teetering habits but
possessing a prominent white wing -bar. Its characteristic flight and piping call also aid in its
identification. The only bird with which it could be confused would be the Spotted Sandpiper
T. macularia which breeds in North America and has not yet been recorded in Australia. This
bird in eclipse plumage is almost identical to the Common but may be separated from that
species apparently by its call, or reluctance to do so;its shorter wing -bar; and sometimes
differently coloured legs. Adults in breeding plumage are distinguished by black spots on the
underparts and a bright straw-coloured bill, tipped black.
The Common Sandpiper is probably not as rare as previously indicated in south-east
Australia. From my own observations, I have found that unless the bird calls or is disturbed
while feeding, it is very easily overlooked. Its plumage blends well with mud and sometimes
rock, especially when at rest. If startled the bird will often freeze, rendering itself almost
invisible for quite sometime. The species is also fond of rocky habitations if near water such
as break -waters.
The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Messrs. D. Gosper, F. Van Gessel,
W. R. Wheeler, D. Milledge, J. Hobbs, G. Holmes and A. Morris. Information from the records
of the late Keith Hindwood was provided by Mr. E. S. Hoskin. Special thanks also to Mr. S.G.
Lane for permission to use his reference.
Amiet, L. 1957 “A Wader Survey of Some Queensland Coastal
Localities” Emu 57: 236-254
Boehm, H. F. 1960 “Notes on Some South Australian Waders, Part I”
Emu 60: 211-218
Bravery, J. A. 1970 “The Birds of Atherton Shire, Queensland” Emu 70:49-63.
Crawford, D. N. 1972 “Birds of Darwin Area” Emu 72: 131-148.
Dement’ev, G.P., 1969 “Birds of the Soviet Union” Israel Program for Scientific
N.A. Gladkov, & E.P. Translations, Jerusalem. 3: 272-282
Gill, H. B. 1970 “Birds of Innisfail and Hinterland” Emu 70: 105-116September, 1975 7.
Goss -Custard, J. 1969 “Birds of the World” pp. 894-896. IPC Magazines Ltd.,
Hindwood, K. A. & 1954 “Waders of Sydney (County of Cumberland) N.S.W.”
E. S. Hoskin. Emu 54: 217-254
Hobbs, J. N. 1958 “Common Sandpiper Inland in N.S.W.” Emu 58: 287.
McGill, A. R. 1960 “A Handlist of the Birds of N.S.W.” Fauna Protection
Panel, Sydney.
May, I. 1966 “A Holiday at Port Fairy, Vic.” Bird Observer 414: 4.
Seventy, D. L. & 1962 “Birds of Western Australia” 3rd ed. Patterson Brokensha,
H. M. Whittell. Perth.
Smith, F. T. H. 1972 “Victoria Wader Records, 1969-1971”. Bird Observ(482:5.
Thomas, D. G. 1968 “Waders of Hobart”. Emu 68: 95-125.
1970 “Wader Migration Across Australia”. Emu 70: 145-154.
Thomas, D. G. & 1970 “Premigratory Deposition of Fat in Red -necked Stint”.
A. J. Dartnall. Emu 70: 87
Van Gessel, F. W. & 1972 “A Checklist of the Birds of Kooragang Island”. Supple-
T. G. Kendall mentary check -list to “Birds of Kooragang Island” Hunter
Natural History 4: 194-221.
Wheeler, W. R. 1967 “A Handlist of the Birds of Victoria”. VORG: Melbourne.
Witherby, H. F. 1940 “The Handbook of British Birds”. H. F. & G. Witherby,
et. al.
R. NOSKE, 4A Wyndarra Place, Northwood. 20668. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (1)
NOT NUMBERS OF BIRDS.September, 1975 9.

Kooragang (East End)10. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (1)
Taverner (1969) saw immature Whiskered Terns Chlidonias hybrida at a breeding colony
in Spain, that had dark shoulder -patches. He sounded a warning that these could cause con-
fusion in identification of Black C. nigra and Whiskered Terns when in their non -breeding
plumage. However, identification and other reference books continue to stress that the dark
shoulder -patches of the Black Tern are diagnostic in separating it from the other marsh terns.
This is unfortunate and may have led to the possible mis-identification of a Black Tern at
Wanaaring, New South Wales (Miller and Lalas 1974).
had previously noted the patches on juvenile hybrida in Australia but following the
publication of the Black Tern record, carefully examined Whiskered Terns at breeding
colonies near Ivanhoe (32° 55’S 144° 20’E) in late 1974. studied over two hundred juvenile
terns, a few while banding them, but most while they were flying with their parents or being
fed by them. All had dark brown shoulder -patches forward of and below the front of the
wings as extensions of the brown mottling of the mantle and wing coverts. Although variable
in size and prominence, many were as extensive and conspicuous as the one displayed in the
photograph of the Wanaaring tern. As the early juvenile plumage faded and the first autumn
or winter plumage was assumed the patches gradually disappeared and a month after taking
to the wing very few birds showed them. When wearing the patches the juvenile terns showed
other signs of immaturity such as the extensive mottling of mantle and wing coverts; and
were invariably with and being fed by adults from whom they solicited food with a whining
call. An experienced observer watching them for a short time would identify them as
juvenile hybrida quite easily.
As Miller and Lalas did not study their bird in the field, and apparently, until
development of the photograph had no reason to doubt it was a Whiskered Tern, it is
advisable to reconsider the record. D. I. M. Wallace, to whom the photograph was referred,
itemised different features of the plumage he considered were compatible with niger. My
observations of juvenile hybrida show that it can also display each of these features, in
addition to the shoulder -patches.
The head -cap of Hybrida is whitish immediately behind the bill, gradually darkening
as it extends back over the head. On the nape it is particularly dark, almost black, and forms
a narrow band that extends downwards to join an equally dark spot behind and below the
eye. This pattern is excellently reproduced in the photograph. The flanks of hybrida retain
some of the brown fledgling plumage. In some birds it is an extensive patch under the wings,September, 1975 11.
in others there is a mere smudge. The shadow of the wings tends to make these marks much
darker than they actually are. The underwing is white with quite dark grey leading and trail-
ing edges and dark brown to blackish tips to the primaries. At all times it is strongly marked
with a noticeable contrast.
The shoulder -patch, the head -cap, the flanks and the underwing are therefore features
shared, to a degree, by juvenile hybrida and non -breeding niger and a basis for the certain
identification as either must be sought elsewhere in the photograph. The bill is heavy and
short, as is that of hybrida, whereas niger has a relatively narrow and long bill. Wallace con-
siders this does not bar identification as niger because the angle of the photograph may
exaggerate the appearance. The angle might shorten the bill but it is questionable if it would
deepen it. Close examination of the wing coverts immediately behind the shadow effect on
the forewing reveals a suggestion of mottling, an indication of extreme immaturity.
On the last two points the Wanaaring tern was more probably a juvenile Whiskered Tern,
but undoubtedly it cannot be claimed as a definite Black Tern, without supporting evidence
obtained in the field at the time.
Observers in Britain, where the Whiskered Tern does not breed, can safely identify a
marsh tern with dark shoulder patches as a Black Tern but for Australian observers a little
more effort is required. There is no need to reconsider earlier Australian observations of the
Black Tern. That seen by Bell (1959) was in nuptial plumage and the one seen by Rogers
(1969) had uniform dark grey mantle and upper wings and could not have been a juvenile
Whiskered Tern.
Bell, H. L. 1959 An Australian Sight Record of the Black Tern.
Emu 59 62-63
Miller, Ben and Chris 1974 Black Tern photographed in Inland New South Wales.
Lalas. Aust. Birds 9: 14-16
Rogers, A. E. F. 1969 Black Tern near Newcastle, NSW. Emu 69: 238-239
Taverner, J. H. 1969 Whiskered Terns with dark shoulder -patches.
Brit. Birds 62:33
MR. J. N. HOBBS, Columbus Street, Ivanhoe, N.S.W. 2878.12. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (1)
Schultz (1975) has recently outlined the dangers to wildlife caused by feral cats, giving
specific instances of the toll taken on birds. Elsewhere, Roberts (1974) described the
depredations of one feral cat at Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve, near Coffs Harbour, on the
White-faced Storm Petrel Pelagadroma marina population that attempted to breed on the
island. The problem, however, is not only confined to feral cats, for well fed and well looked
after domestic cats can cause similar havoc to native fauna populations.
At Wahroonga, New South Wales, within one kilometre of Ku -ring -gal Chase National
Park, one well fed desexed male cat has killed the following fauna during the period 6 March
1969 to 2 May 1975. (No records for the period 22 December to 10 April 1970/71 were
maintained due to absence overseas but I was advised that many feathers were cleaned up).
Scoldings failed to deter this cat but they definitely saved the lives of many intended victims.
Species taken were:- Fantailed Cuckoo Cuculus pyrrhophanus 2, Grey Shrike -thrush
Colluricincla harmonica 2, White -eared Honeyeater Meliphaga leucotis 3, New Holland Honey-
eater Spinebill Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris 1, Little
Wattle -bird Anthochaera chrysoptera 3, Red Wattle -bird A. carunculata 22, Indian Myna
Acridotheres tristis 4 (adults and young), Magpie Lark Grallina cyanoleuca 7 (adults and
young), Grey Butcher -bird Cracticus torquatus 1, Black Rat Rattus rattus 4, Brown Rat
R. norvegicus 1, House Mouse Mus musculus 1, Lesser Long-eared Bat Nyctophilus
geoffroyi 1, Frog Limnodynastes peroni 3, Tiger Snake Notechis scutatus 1 (small), Skink
Leilolopisma species 5, Blue -tongue Skink Tiliqua scincoides 2.
Elsewhere the following kills made by domestic cats have been brought to me: –
Birds Land Rail Rallus philippensis (1 Dorrigo), Water Rail Rallus pectoralis (1 Gosford),
Spotted Turtle Dove Streptopelia chinensis (1 Wahroonga), Rainbow Lorikeet Trichoglossus
haematodus (1 St. Ives), Crimson Rosella I’latycercus elegans (1 Smiggin Holes), Eastern
Rosella P. eximius (2 Gloucester), Fantailed Cuckoo (1 Wahroonga), Superb Blue -wren
Malurus cyaneus (1 Gloucester), White-browed Scrub -wren Sericornis frontalis (1 Wahroonga),
Starling Sturnus vulgaris (1 Wahroonga), Indian Myna (1 Avalon).
Mammals Black -tailed Phascogale Phascogale tapoatafa (1 Gloucester), Ring-tailed Possum
Pseudocheirus peregrinus (1 Audley, 1 Jindabyne), Sugar Glider Petaurus breviceps (3 Audley,
Berowra Heights), Antechinus swainsoni (1 Smiggin Holes), A. stuartii (1 Wahroonga,
West Head).
Within the”Recovery Round-Up”section of the Australian Bird Bander there is ample
evidence of the depredations of domestic cats on native birds. Quail, pigeons, ducks and a

host of smaller birds all are recorded as falling victims to the domestic cat.

Cats appear to be a world-wide menace to birds, even in suburban England I quoteSeptember, 1975 13.

from a recent letter from an aunt “A miserable cat has been at a nest of hedge sparrows

in the great bush at the end of the garden made a big hole in it and made off with all of
However, out of 31 feral cats taken within the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and the
adjoining Muogomarra Nature Reserve, 29 contained bread, cake, chop bones, fat and other
picnic refuse in their stomachs. Two of these included skink, another two beetles, four had
fur in the lower gut and one included an Eastern Rosella. The remaining two had only the
introduced House Mouse in their stomachs. Six examined at Dorrigo, April 1975 all had
picnic refuse except one which had mainly black crickets, with some grasshoppers. None had
any fur in the lower gut but one had feathers.
A similar situation occurs at Royal National Park some 30 km south of Ku-ring-gai
where Wildlife Research Officer, I. Mahood (pers. comm.) advises that of 142 stomach
contents of feral cats caught in the park, only two contained the remains of birds, in each
case that of the Crimson Rosella.
It would appear therefore, that from the limited information available to me, the well
fed domestic cat can wrought havoc on wildlife equal to that of the feral cat, if not worse.
Persons interested in the conservation of birds should not keep cats.
I thank A. K. Morris for assistance with the manuscript and E. M. Rose for collecting
feathers and other remains, as well as saving the lives of many birds. My thanks are extended
too to all those persons who brought in cat killed specimens.
Roberts, P. E. 1974 Cat Amongst the Storm -petrels. Parks and Wildlife 1:110.
Schultz, W. 1975 Feral Cats a Danger to Wildlife in Australia. The Bird
Observer 521.

A. BARCLAY ROSE, 24 Fisher Avenue, Wahroonga, N.S. W. 207614. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (1)

Mr. John S. P. Ramsay, of Sydney, recently attained the age of ninety years and was
warmly congratulated by members of the NSW Field Ornithologists Club. He is, no doubt,
Australia’s oldest ornithologist and because he was born at the Australian Museum when his
father, as Curator, was in residence there, he is (as he lightly suggests) probably the oldest
living “museum piece” in the world!
John Ramsay was a pioneer bird -photographer and some of his pictures, taken early in
the century, remain among the best of their kind ever achieved. He was also one of the com-
petent field -workers who assisted the late H. L. White to build up his national collections.
See, in this regard, a notable article by Ramsay (1919 “Notes on Birds Observed in the
Upper Clarence River District”, Emu 19: 2-9) particularly in relation to observations on the
Paradise Riflebird Ptiloris paradiseus.
Becoming friendly then with White’s professional field -worker, S. W. Jackson, he cared
for that “character” in later years and subsequently transferred the large collection of
Jacksonian negatives and diaries to the National Library in Canberra.
Australian libraries have, indeed, benefited considerably through the Ramsay medium.
John Ramsay’s father, Dr. E. P. Ramsay, Curator of the Australian Museum during 1874-94,
was the first Australian -born ornithologist of status. He not only described numbers of new
species, including the famous Rufous Scrub -bird 4 trichornis rufescens but corresponded
freely with scientists and naturalists both in Australia and abroad. Almost all of this valuable
material, as well as Dr. Ramsay’s own diaries, has now been transferred to the Mitchell
Library in Sydney.
Fortunately, in addition to retaining his personal material Dr. Ramsay safeguarded
family papers left by his father, David Ramsay, M.D. (who was associated with Governor
Macquarie); David Ramsay’s father-in-law, the notable pioneer merchant Simeon Lord (1770-
1840); and also by Mrs. E. P. Ramsay’s father, Captain H. T. Fox; a much -travelled mariner.
These historical items, being disinterred recently from the family “old oak chest”, have also
gone to the Mitchell Library.
Not the least interesting letter in the Ramsay zoological material is a letter from James
F. Wilcox, discoverer of the Rufous Scrub -bird. Writing on 3 July 1866 he narrates that he
encountered the extraordinary little bird, in rainforest country in Lismore, N.S.W., on
17 November 1865. After being repeatedly misled by its elusiveness and remarkable ventril-
oquism, he managed to shoot a speciman. This graphic letter was one of the factors that
caused Dr. Ramsay to make, a little later, a personal visit to the area, where he obtained
other specimens of Atrichornis and much additional material of importance (Chisholm, 1951,
“The Story of the Scrub -birds”. Emu 51:89-112, 285-97).September, 1975 15.
Wilcox, an Englishman who with. John Macgillivray served as a naturalist under Owen
Stanley on H.M.S. Rattlesnake, was later a dealer in natural history in Sydney, and later
again worked with Macgillivray in the rainforests of north-eastern New South Wales. He died
in Grafton in 1881. There are a biography and a portrait of Wilcox in Whittell (1954, Liter-
ature of Australian Birds) because of his several discoveries, which included two distinct species
in the Cape York area.
One of Wilcox’s daughters, Mrs. Edith Bloore of Sydney, wrote me in 1952 a brisk
account of her father’s natural history activities in the north-east of New South Wales and
in turn gave her a copy of his historic letter of 1866 to Dr. Ramsay. Mrs. Bloore has since
died but her interest in the Wilcox record is being maintained by her daughter, Miss Leila
Bloore, a dedicated social worker in Sydney.
Further to the matter of descendants of notable Australian naturalists, regret to report
that Harry Barnard died, in Melbourne, a few months ago. He was the son of Harry G.
Barnard, a highly competent field -worker in ornithology, especially touching tropical areas,
who died in 1966 at the age of 97 (Chisholm, 1967, Emu 66: 289-391). The remaining
descendants of Harry Barnard senior are Lady Fryberg of Brisbane and Mrs. Marion Upfold
of Buderim Mountain, Queensland.
A few years ago Norman Chaffer of Sydney, in an interview with Harry Barnard, tape-
recorded the veteran’s recollections, particularly in relation to his first contact, in 1889, with
the beautiful male Golden Bowerbird Prionodura newtoniana on Mt. Bellenden-Ker. A copy of
that recording has gone to the National Library.
It is, we may agree, fortunate that such historical acquisitions, and particularly the
Gould and Ramsay collections in the Mitchell Library, now remain for all time in the
possession of the Nation.
A. H. CHISHOLM, History House, 133 Macquarie Street, Sydney, 2000

On 3 January 1973, I found a Reed -warbler’s nest built in the rushes growing in a pond
on Mona Vale Golf Links, New South Wales. The nest contained a complement of three fresh
eggs, which is normal. However, I immediately noticed that the ground -colour of one egg was
totally different to the ground -colour of the other two eggs. The underlying marks and major
and minor cover marks of all three eggs were similar except for slight variations. Descriptions
are as follows:- Two eggs had a ground -colour of brownish -yellow, underlying marks of cloud –
grey and cover marks of yellow ochre, vandyke-brown and umber. One egg had a greyish-AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (1)
white ground -colour and because of the paler colour, an optical illusion caused it to appear
slightly larger than the darker eggs. Due to the ground -colour, the under marks showed up as
At first I thought I had found a nest of the Australian Reed -warbler containing an
atypical egg. The atypical egg, or odd egg, not infrequently occurs in clutches of the British
Reed -warbler, A. scirpaceus. The atypical egg however, becomes the odd egg of a clutch, not
because of a difference in ground -colour, but because of a difference in cover marks. In
clutches of British Reed -warblers, atypical eggs are usually more sparingly marked (Brown
1946) and as one would obviously expect, are the last egg to be laid in a clutch.
Dismissing as a possible explanation, a cyanic tendency having had an influence on the
greyish -white ground- coloured egg, am now predisposed to believe that my golf link’s nest
contained two distinct forms of eggs.
Ground -colour determines a form. In addition to the two forms with ground -colours of
brownish -yellow and greyish -white already mentioned, the typical race, australis, produces
two other forms possessing ground -colours of faint bluish and greenish -white.
Prynne (1963) states “… As far as is known every individual bird, be it Cuckoo,
Guillemot or any other, produces its own particular type of shell throughout its life.”
gather from this that ground -colour is also included. It would appear that the golf link’s nest
contained incomplete clutches from two different hens and that if I had made a return visit
two or three days later, more than three eggs would have been found in the nest.
Eggs deposited by two hens in the one nest seem to suggest polygamy in the Australian
Reed -warbler. Polygamy certainly occurs with the very similar Great Reed -warbler
A. arundinaceus as proved by Kluyver (1961), but in that case each hen had its own
separate nest.
The golf link’s nest was attached at perfectly equal intervals to three stems of Scirpus
litoralis, several clumps of which grew amidst dense Bulrushes Tvpha orientalis that thickly
fringed one end of the pond. The nest too was of interest as it contained two feathers of
the Dusky Moorhen Gallinula tenebrosa, worked into and around the rim of the cup. The
nest was complete in itself, there being no evidence of it having been built on the top of a
false nest.
On one occasion I watched the cock bird hopping about in an ungainly manner on a
nearby golf green. The tail was cocked up and the bird was snapping up small insects that
had apparently been disturbed by a water spray that was playing on to the green. When the
bird saw me it immediately flew back to the Bulrushes uttering the usual call notes.
At Narrabeen Creek, N.S.W., where I am in the habit of watching Reed -warblers, I have
tape recorded in addition to the well known “twitchee-twitchee-twitchee, quarty-quarty-
quarty” song, other notes which can only be phonetically interpreted as “prit-prit-pritik”. Ali
(1945) describes the song of the Indian Great Reed -warbler A. stenorius brunnescens as “karra-
karra-kareet-kareet” or “prit-prit-pritik”.September, 1975 17.
He also describes the eggs as having ground -colours of greenish, yellowish or greyish –
white, the cover marks either blackish -brown or dark chestnut -brown and the underlying
marks of a lavender colour. The complements vary from C/3 to C/6, but usually C/4.
Although the colours of bird’s eggs possess little value in taxonomy, it will be seen that
both the song and the eggs of the Indian Great Reed -warbler match very closely those of the
Australian Reed -warbler. This would appear to strengthen the view taken by modern taxon-
imists, that the several races of reed -warblers inhabiting Australia are merely subspecies of
the Clamorous Reed -warbler A. stentorius.
Ali, S. 1945 “Birds of Kutch.” University Press, Oxford.
Brown, P. E. 1946 “Preliminary Observations on a Colony of Reed -warblers.”
Brit. Birds 39: 290-308.
Kluyver, H. N. 1961 “Some Observations on the Domestic Life of the Great
Reed -warbler.” R.S.P.B. Bird Notes 30: 14-16.
Prynne, G. M. F. 1963 “Egg Shells” Barrie and Rockliff. London.
MR. L. C. HAINES, Viney Cottage, Loquat Valley Road, Bayview, N.S. W. 2104

On 19 February 1975 at 0900 hrs about 2 km east of Mount Colah Post Office, four
Gang -gang Cockatoos Callocephalon fimbriatum were watched for some time at a distance of
10 m, later was able to approach within 3 m.
In one tree there was one adult male, an adult female and an immature male. The
immature was continually “churring”, except for a short period when it fed, moving about
clumsily. At one stage all three birds were in a straight line on my side of a Dwarf Apple
Angophora cordifolia, about 2 m high. The male was on top, almost joining it directly below
was the immature male and practically touching its tail and directly below was the adult
The young male stopped feeding and with wings partly raised, started churring, while
looking up at the male who took no notice. The adults chewed through many fruits, biting
off the stern sometimes just below a single fruit or at other times selecting a stem containing
up to nine fruits. They would clasp it with a foot and tear strips off with the upper bill,
invariably starting from the base. The lower bill was used to spoon out the seeds, the black18. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (1)
tongue of the female being clearly seen sorting them out and dropping some parts. Only the
seeds were scooped out, the remainder being dropped. The fruits were still green yet some of
the husks were completely cleaned out, others only partly so.
The birds appeared to have black eyes surrounded by light grey bare skin. The upper
parts of the bill were grey and appeared much thicker than the working points which were
whitish and obviously well used though this did not show up as much in the younger bird.
While chewing the birds continuously moved their eyes around in circles as if trying to see
what they were eating as well as keeping a watch.
Meanwhile the first bird sighted was in a Narrow -leafed Stringy -bark Eucalyptus
oblonga, about 10 m to the north-west of the other three. It was apparently an immature
female by plumage, and was very quiet, eating fresh eucalyptus seeds. The tree was in flower
and bore fruit, some fresh, others old and open. This cockatoo was biting the stem off
below the nuts and then holding them with a foot.
A slow approach was made to within three metres but then the immature female
farthest away on my left saw me and standing upright with its crest erect, squawked. The
adult female saw me and squawked; the adult male then did the same and flew off followed
by its mate. The immature male still sat there, so moved closer but he suddenly bobbed up
and down before squawking and flying off to join the others about 30 m away. While this
was going on they were all uttering short alarm calls.
The feeding area was examined. The Dwarf Apples had many bare stalks sticking up
and on the ground there was a carpet of bits and pieces. While I was examining this and
collecting evidence, the adults flew back to within four metres of me but the female saw me
and flew off though the male stayed until moved again. The Eucalyptus remains were not
easy to find as they were in a thick bush and much smaller; however, some were found
opened up and with the small seeds removed. They were not as green as the fruits from the
When left, the two immatures were sitting together about 30 m away, their bodies
touching while they preened. The adults could not be seen. The younger birds could be dis-
tinguished by not having any part of the crest showing, while in the adults the filamentary
feathers were always conspicuous. The Gang -gangs remained in the area for the rest of the
day, apparently resting but could hear an occasional “churr” from the immature male. None
of the others made any noise while feeding, only when they were alarmed. All commenced
to feed again at about 1500 hrs.
After mentioning this, my first sighting of these birds in Ku-ring-gai Chase National
Park, the Works Supervisor F. King told me that about two weeks before, near his house at
North Turramurra entrance he saw five feeding on the seeds of the Christmas Bush
Ceratopetalum gummiferum. In 25 years of working in the Park he has not seen them before.
Ranger A. Norman (pers. comm.) observed a pair flying across the road in Turramurra on
12 February 1975 and M. F. Lovell (pers. comm.) saw one about the same time in the bushSeptember, 1975 19.
near Wahroonga. Mrs. D. Larkins et. al. observed one immature male at the North Turramurra
edge of the Park on 12 March 1975. On 2 May 1975 an adult female was found injured by a
car on the side of the road 1 km inside the Park from the Mt. Colah entrance, it later died.
Its gizzard contained eucalyptus seeds, species not known. I have not seen them since, but by
the remains of the Dwarf Apple they had been in the Mt. Colah works depot area for about
10 days before. S. Foster (pers. comm.) reports hearing the “churring” for about two weeks
prior to this date and thought that it must have been a young Raven Corvus coronoides.
Although persons working in the Park have not seen Gang -gangs there in recent years,
they are included on a bird list prepared by K. R. Ayers in 1968. He has advised (pers.
comm.) that P. E. Roberts recorded 4 Gang -gang Cockatoos on 4 April 1965, flying from Mt.
Ku-ring-gai towards Apple Tree Bay and again a few days later. These Cockatoos are regular
visitors to the taller forests of the Cheltenham – Beecroft area, some 10 km south-west of the
Park. None of the plant species on which the Gang -gangs were feeding is recorded by J.
Forshaw (1969 Australian Parrots pp. 73-76) as known food trees. The assistance of J. Forshaw
and A. K. Morris in the preparation of this note is gratefully acknowledged.
A. BARCLAY ROSE, 24 Fisher Avenue, Wahroonga 2076.20. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (1)
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  1. Species, names and the order in which they occur are to be in accordance with “A Check-
    list of the Birds of Australia, 1. Non -passerines”. H. T. Condon (1975) Melbourne: RAOU.
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    Finch, B. W. and M. D. Bruce 1974 The Status of the Blue Petrel in Australian Waters.
    Aust. Birds 9:32-35
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Noske, R. The Common Sandpiper in N.S.W….
Hobbs, J. N. The Wanaaring Black Tern … 10

Rose, A. Barclay Domestic Cats that Kill Wildlife … 12

Chisholm, Alec Ramsay, Wilcox, Barnard Notable names in Australian
Ornithology … 14
Haines, L.M. Courtney Notes on the Australian Reed -Warbler Acrocephalus
Australis (Gould) 1838 … 15

Rose, A. Barclay Gang -gang Cockatoos in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park … 17

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