Vol. 14 No. 3-text

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Journal of the
Vol. 14, No. 3 March, 1980

ISSN 0311-8150

Registered for Posting as a Periodical Category BTHE N.S.W. FIELD ORNITHOLOGISTS CLUB
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Vol. 14, No. 3 March, 1980
J. M. Forshaw (1969) gives the range of the Superb Parrot Polytelis
swainsonii as the interior of northern and southern New South Wales and
northern Victoria, stating also that there appeared to be two populations
completely isolated. Further authors have reinforced this belief in two separate
populations i.e. H. J. Frith Ed. (1969), P. Slater (1970), A. H. Lendon (1973), H. T.
Condon (1975), and H. J. Frith Ed. (1976). However, A. R. McGill (1960) makes no
mention of this fact.
None of the authors make any reference to there being observations in the
central region between the two populations. Forshaw (loc. cit.) quotes from an
unpublished manuscript of J. H. Calaby, who travelled between the Lachlan and
Macquarie Rivers but had not seen the Superb Parrot after leaving Cowra or
before reaching the Macquarie River to the north-east of Trangie. Calaby was
quoted as saying that he lived at Dubbo for a number of years and travelled
throughout the district without sighting the species.
This apparent lack of knowledge of the occurrence of the Superb Parrot in
the central -western region between the Macquarie and the Lachlan Rivers has
prompted me to review its distribution and provide evidence that the parrots
occur in this area.
Since moving to Parkes in late 1975, have observed the Superb Parrot over
a wide area of the central region beI tween the two supposedly isolated
populations. Locations where observations have been made include
-Cookamidgera; west of Alectown; between Parkes and Euabalong West along
the railway line; Tichborne; along the railway between Bogan Gate and
Tottenham; and between Parkes and Trangie.
J. D. Woodhouse (pers. comm.) has observed the species in the Parkes
district since he arrived here in 1951 and M. T. Kaveney (1979) observed the
species at Albert, near Tottenham for a number of years.46 Australian Birds (15) 3
Other observers have also recorded the species in this region i.e. at
Goonumbla (Wheeler 1972) and Gooloogong (Rogers 1973), this last record was
presumed to be a 10 km extension of the southern population. Rogers (1977)
likewise presumed an observation 12 km south-west of Trangie as probably the
southern limit of distribution for the northern population.
The distribution in the southern part of this State has been adequately
covered by H. J. Frith and J. H. Calaby (1953) in their paper on the Superb Parrot
and therefore will confine my comments to the central and northern limits of the
parrot’s distribution.
A search of literature has revealed other records which further clarify the
distribution of this species. The R.A.O.U. Campout at Round Hill Nature Reserve,
near Mt Hope recorded the species (Wheeler 1974) and Wheeler also lists them
for Lake Cargelligo. There also exists a record of a flock of four adults between
Hillston and Booligal (Frith and Calaby 1953) and for Goolgowi and Rankin
Springs (Wheeler 1969).
In the Orange District they were recorded at Borenore for a few months in
1968 (S. J. Heron 1973a).
In north-western New South Wales, A. K. Morris (pers. comm.) observed
eight near Narrabri on 29 July 1970; five birds near Hermidale in July 1973 and
another flock of 22, 12 km north of Hermidale in June 1978; three near
Tooraweenah on 5 July 1975; and two 12 km south-east of Ulamambri on 22
March 1979. A. 0. McCutcheon (A. Morris pers. comm.) who lives 14 km west of
Gilgandra has recorded them each year since 1935 around his property, and at
Gin Gin, Gilgandra and Gulargambone in the period April -August.
D. Johnson who lived at Bilambil, 14 km west of Baradine has recorded them
in May -August, in the Baradine – Terridgerie area most years that he resided
there 1945-1978.
G. Haddon when residing west of Gulargambone saw the bird regularly
during the winter months but after he moved to Quambone in 1976-1979 failed to
record them locally. There are many observations at Narromine, Trangie and
Warren published in literature, all for the period April -August.
W. R. Wheeler (loc. cit.) also records the species at Lightning Ridge, an
exceptionally northern locality, possibly based on an observation by P. A.
The species does not appear to occur east of Narromine, on the Macquarie
River. Calaby (Forshaw loc. cit.) never observed them at Dubbo, nor did S. J.
Heron (1973b) for the Goonoo State Forest to the north of Dubbo.
Whenever the Superb Parrot is encountered in the central -western region, the
associated habitat has been Savannah Woodland. The main Eucalyptus species
associated with this habitat are Bimble Box E. populnea, White Gum E. blakelyi,
Yellow Box E. melliodora and along the watercourses, the River Red Gum E.
camaldulensis. According to A. K. Morris (pers. comm.) the Narrow -leafed Box E.
woollsiana, is important in the north of the central region.March, 1980 47
This Woodland habitat which is flanked by Ironbark/Cypress Pine in the east
over 300 m, a.s.l. stretches from Cowra in the south to the Macquarie River east
of Narromine. In this area the River Red Gum is still to be found along the major
watercourses giving way to the River Oak Casuarina cunninghamiana on the
slopes. In the west, the woodland is flanked by Mallee/Cypress Pine. Savannah
woodland is also found in areas west of Bulbodney Creek, near Tottenham, and
along the higher ground which separates the different watersheds of the Bogan
and Lachlan Rivers. To the south this woodland extends to West Wyalong, the
main break being the Lachlan River. The vegetation association which separates
the Lachlan, Bogan and Bulbodney watersheds consists of Cypress Pine Callitris
glauca and a number of Acacias and minor Mallee species.
The Superb Parrot is usually to be encountered near blossoming Eucalyptus
or on the edge of roads or railway lines searching for grain. When feeding on
flowering eucalyptus, the bird pulls the whole blossom off, chews it up, then
discards them. The ground around such trees becomes covered in the remains of
blossom. It has also been observed to feed extensively on the seeds of Yarran
Acacia homalophylla.
When feeding and roosting in the tops of eucalyptus, Suberb Parrots are
quiet and plumage blends into the foliage making them easy to overlook. Only
when the birds emit a low twitter can they be found, this is particularly true when
resting in the middle of the day_ have found that they can be approached quite
closely, when they are feeding.
A large flock (130+) which was west of Alectown, roosted in the same patch
of Bimble Box woodland for several months, the birds dispersing by day in small
flocks into surrounding country in search of blossom or grain.
The Superb Parrot is sometimes found in intermixed flocks of Cockatiel
Nymphicus hollandicus. In flight the Superb Parrot and Cockatiel have the same
flight silhouette, which makes identification at a distance difficult.
have not found any evidence of breeding within the Parkes district, though
Woodhouse (pers. comm.) observed pairs investigating holes in Yellow Box in
September/October 1951 near Bogan Gate.
The Superb Parrot is generally regarded as nomadic, being present
whenever eucalyptus are in flower. Kaveney (loc. cit.) believed he observed a
southward movement in the years 1966-1969 when he resided at Albert.
It is interesting to note that during my search of literature, all the records for
the believed northern population were for observations between the months of
March -August, whilst those for the southern, between September -April.
Ornithologists residing on the Namoi/Bogan/Macquarie/Castlereagh Rivers
know this species as a winter visitor between March -August and published
records referred to earlier in this paper appear to support this view. The alleged
“northern population” referred to by Forshaw (loc. cit.) would appear to be
nothing more than a winter migratory movement. A. 0. McCutcheon claims that
the 19th April is the most usual date when flocks appear each autumn west of
Gilgandra (A. Morris pers. comm.).
R. Sharrock observed a flock at Temora in March of 16 birds (Buckingham
1978a) then again in April of over 200 (Buckingham 1978b), could this second
record have been an instance of pre -migratory flocking?48 Australian Birds (15) 3
Lightning Ridge
9 so 100
0, R
lac p I
Herm idale 10 -%-aD
0 GiUl aAmNc6rar
Euabalong West o TRUNDLEo 0 Alectown
Lachlao o PARKES
Murray R. ALBURY
Fig. Map of central -western New South Wales showing towns
and major river systems.March, 1980 49
In the Parkes area there appears to be a small nomadic resident population,
with an influx occurring in the winter months. have recorded them in the months
of May, June, July, August, September, November and December. They are most
common in June -August, flocks numbering in size between 10-30, with
occasionally larger flocks of 100+ being encountered in the winter months.
There appears to be no set route that the Superb Parrot follows in this
movement, for example, in 1976, the birds were frequently observed between
Cookamidgera and Bogan Gate but in 1977 they were encountered more towards
Tottenham, moving north. Possibly the route that the species adopts is influenced
by the availability of blossom. The actual number of birds appears to fluctuate
yearly, no doubt the speed of the movement north could also depend on the
amount of blossom available. This would explain why in some years during winter
months the parrots can be quite common in this region, but in other years quite
have not observed any return movement and possibly the return is more
direct due to the non -availability of food and the approach of the breeding
It is interesting to note that the movements have observed in the autumn
months have been of a northward direction whereas Kaveney (loc. cit.) recorded
in the years 1965-1969 a southward movement in the months of June -July.
From the data presented in this paper, it appears as though the Superb
Parrot in New South Wales can be encountered within the following boundaries,
WEST Barham, Hay, Hillston, Hermidale, Coonamble and Lightning Ridge, EAST
from Albury, Canberra, Borenore, Narromine, to Gunnedah and Narrabri. The
distribution takes in the major rivers and tributaries of the Murray, Murrumbidgee,
Lachlan, Bogan, Castlereagh and Namoi. See Fig. 1.
There appears to be evidence of a north and south local movement each
autum and a return each spring, this movement consisting of part if not all the
This parrot appears to be ecologically restricted to the Savannah Woodland
Frith and Calaby (loc. cit.) believed the species’ future was secure because
much of the southern part of New South Wales had been settled for some time.
Since their paper was published, some 27 years ago, a number of changes have
occurred. The species’ habitat is now under pressure due to widespread clearing
for cultivation and this has been accelerated in the last few years since the lifting
of wheat quotas; the development of new types of grains; and the concept of
broad -acre farming.
There is some evidence that the Superb Parrot is declining in numbers, and
is now considered to be New South Wales’ second endemic species (G. Holmes
pers. comm.) as it apparently no longer occurs outside this State.
In the Parkes District the status of this parrot appears to have altered and
seems now to be nowhere as common as what it was 20 years ago, when
residents knew this species well and they referred to it by the local name of
“Green Leek”.
From the foregoing information the Superb Parrot population would appear to
be declining and consequently there must be some concern for its future.50 Australian Birds (15) 3
The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of A. K. Morris, for
providing records and making helpful comments on the draft.
Buckingham, R. (Ed.), 1977. Unusual Sighting Reports, Serial 2. The Bird Observer, 550:171.
Buckingham, R. (Ed.), 1978a. Unusual Sighting Reports, Serial 14. The Bird Observer, 559:23.
Buckingham, R. (Ed.), 1978b. Unusual Sighting Reports, Serial 15. The Bird Observer, 562:51.
Condon, H. T., 1975. Checklist of Birds of Australia, Pt 1. Melbourne: R.A.O.U.
Frith, H. J. (Ed.), 1969. Birds in the Australian High Country. Sydney: Reed.
Frith, H. J. (Ed.), 1976. Readers Digest, Complete Book of Australian Birds. Sydney: Readers Digest
Services Pty. Ltd.
Frith, H. J. and Calaby, J. H., 1953. The Superb Parrot in Southern N.S.W. Emu 53, 324-330.
Forshaw, J. M., 1969. Australian Parrots. Melbourne: Lansdowne Press.
Heron, S. J., 1973a. Birds of the Orange District. Emu 73, 1-8.
Heron, S. J., 1973b. Birds of the Goonoo State Forest, N.S.W. Emu 73, 119-123.
Kaveney, M., 1979. The Superb Parrot in Central West of N.S.W. Aust. Birds 13, 447.
Lendon, A. H., 1973. Australian Parrots in Field and Aviary. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.
McGill, A. R., 1960. A Handlist of the Birds of N.S.W. Sydney: Fauna Protection Panel.
Rogers, A. E. F. (Ed.), 1973. N.S.W. Bird Report for 1972. Birds 7, 101.
Roger, A. E. F. (Ed.), 1974. N.S.W. Bird Report for 1973. Birds 8, 111.
Rogers, A. E. F. (Ed.), 1977. N.S.W. Bird Report for 1976. Aust. Birds 11, 95.
Rogers, A. E. F. (Ed.), 1978. N.S.W. Bird Report for 1977. Aust. Birds 13, 13.
Slater, P., 1970. A Field Guide to Australian Birds. Non -passerines. Adelaide: Rigby.
Wheeler, W. R. (Ed.), 1969. Bird Notes 1968-1969. The Bird Observer 455:8.
Wheeler, W. R. (Ed.), 1972. Bird Notes 1970-1971. The Bird Observer 483:8.
Wheeler, W. R. (Ed.), 1974. Birds and Where to Find Them (NSW). Melbourne: Jacaranda Press.
N. W. SCHRADER, 28 Best Street, Parkes N.S. W. 2870.
On the morning of 6 November 1979 an adult Square -tailed Kite Lophoictinia
isura was observed soaring over a Grafton street close to the main shopping
centre. After circling around for a short time it swiftly glided into a Pecan Nut Tree,
and perched somewhat precariously close to a nest of the House Sparrow Passer
domesticus. Its wings were outstretched and it appeared to be using them to help
support it amongst the foliage. Whilst perched in this manner it delicately reached
into the nest two or three times with its bill and each time appeared to remove
and devour a nestling. It then took to the wing and resumed its low level soaring
over the city. A similar incident occurred at South Grafton on 9 November 1979
when an adult Square -tailed Kite, possibly the same bird, landed near another
nest of House Sparrow in a Mugga Ironbark Eucalyptus sideroxylon. The predator
was unsuccessful this time as the nest was empty as the nestlings had fledged.
G. CLANCY, 17 Margaret Crescent, South Grafton, N.S.W. 2461March, 1980 51
Early in August, 1979 Ross Kurtz, of Glenroy Vineyards, Cooyal, a property
located 19 km east of Mudgee, observed a flock of finches feeding amongst the
vines. He considered that the finches were not native to the area and so an effort
was made to observe them further. This was not easy and it was also difficult to
obtain an accurate count of numbers as the finches were shy and quickly flew to
the cover of trees and vines when disturbed, often in the company of Double –
barred Finches Poephila bichenovii. However, on the 12 August 1979 Ross and
were able to observe a flock of 25, identifying them as Nutmeg Mannikins
Lonchura punctulata. The last sighting was made in the same area on 18 August
1979 when one was shot for positive identification.
It was considered important to obtain a specimen as I was not familiar with
the similar Chestnut -breasted Mannikin Lonchura castaneothorax, a bird known
to have occurred in the past, breeding at Mudgee during the period 1881-1888
(Cox and Hamilton 1889 Proc. Linn. Soc. 4, 411).
The bird that was shot was an immature, as the breast and sides were not
completely marbled, and the lower mandible was off-white in colour and not dark
silvery -grey as indicated for the adults. Description was as follows:
Bill upper dark grey, lower off-white; legs light grey; head and back
cinnamon brown, tail brown, under -tail coverts cinnamon; upper -tail coverts
brown; throat cinnamon, centre of abdomen buff; breast and flanks brown,
some marbling.
The vineyards are situated on either side of the permanently flowing Stoney
Creek, a tributary of the Cudgegong River. The area round the vineyards consists
of open farming and grazing country with scattered clumps of timber. Dominant
trees along the creek are Rough -barked Apple Angophra floribunda, Yellow Box
Eucalyptus melliodora and acacia sp. In the gardens around the house are a
number of introduced trees including the Peppercorn Schinus molle. This
observation constitutes the first inland records for New South Wales as Gosper
(1976 Aust. Birds 11, 8-11) in his comprehensive review of the species in New
South Wales makes no mention of inland localities.
N. K. KURTZ, Balmoral, RMB 4 Wollar Road, Mudgee N.S.W. 2851.52 Australian Birds (15) 3
At 14.30 hours on 5 January 1980 along the road between Bowraville and
Taylor’s Arm near Macksville, on the New South Wales north coast, was watch-
ing many Spine -tailed swifts Hirundapus caudacutus flying at tree -top height. The
swifts were flying across a paddock cleared for pasture, containing some very old
dead trees, that were approximately 35 m high. The Swifts were concentrated
around one tree in particular as though there was a hatch of flying insects there.
Some of the Swifts were attempting to take the prey items off the trunk of the
tree. One Swift was observed to land on the trunk for a brief period, about two
seconds, picked the food off the trunk and then continued flying again. When the
bird landed it perched on the trunk in a vertical position parallel to the tree at a
height about 2.5 m from the top.
When the other Swifts attempted to catch the flying insects(?) on and near the
tree, they appeared most awkward as they had to reduce their flight speed
sufficiently to be able to almost hover, and then continue normal flying.
At the time the observation was made, there was plenty of sunshine, but the
clouds were quickly building up for a big storm. continued to watch for another
five minutes after the first bird had landed but no other birds attempted to land
although they continued to circle and feed around the same tree.
TREVOR QUESTED, 31 Grafton Street, Greystanes N.S.W. 2145.
Lindsey (1977 Aust. Bird Watcher 7, 95) reported on the flight speed of the
Common Bronzewing Phaps chalcoptera. We present here similar information on
a related species, the Crested Pigeon Ocyphaps lophotes.
During a trip to South Australia, we flushed Crested Pigeons from the road-
side on numerous occasions. On 27 October 1979, 22 km north of Meribah,
South Australia, a single bird was flushed from the road’s edge. It flew in front of
and in the same direction as the vehicle. We adjusted our speed to that of the
flying bird until at 55 km we were neither gaining or losing on the bird in front of
us indicating that the speeds were equal.
The bird maintained this speed for 10-15 seconds for a distance of approxi-
mately 200 m before veering away from the road. The duration of this observation
over this distance and time gave us a satisfactory estimation of the flight speed.
Although the method was rough, it adds to a subject poorly discussed in
Australina ornithological literature as stressed in Lindsey’s note.
N. W. LONGMORE, Australian Museum, College Street, Sydney N.S.W. 2000.
W. E. BOLES, Australian Museum, College Street, Sydney N.S.W. 2000.March, 1980 53
Dariel Larkins (1979 Aust. Birds 13, 43-46) accurately describes how the
Grey Butcherbird Cracticus torquatus shades its nestlings, and suggests pos-
sible triggers for this activity. She also quotes Morse Nice who considers shading
to be “an important function of the parent”. With this one must agree, but not with
the assumption that shading is a voluntary action, that is, that the parent is aware
of the plight of its young and tries to help them.
Both Larkins and Charles (in Larkins loc. cit.) think that the heat of the sun
initiates shading but believe there is a contributing factor. The direct rays of the
sun would certainly cause discomfort; the other factor could be the heat gener-
ated within the nest; this would irritate the sensitive brood patch compelling the
sitting bird to rise and spread its wings so that cooling air might flow about its
body a posture matched by humans who raise their arms to cool off.
My own observations indicate that shading is brought about by conflict
between the discomfort caused by ambient heat, and the genetic conditioning
which obliges a bird to brood for a certain period. Examples of such conditioning
are the ways in which birds remain on addled eggs although the stimulus of
warmth is missing, and attempt to feed dead chicks which have not triggering
gapes. A conditioned parent, although distressed, will keep standing above its
nestlings and so creates a shade.
The posture adopted when shading i.e. with the back to the sun and feathers
sleeked to eliminate heat, is contrary to one basking position where the bird faces
the sun and fluffs its feathers so that heat rays can penetrate to the skin. Such
basking, however, causes heat stress in a few minutes whereas the sha – ding –
posture noted by Larkins was held for 32 minutes, indicating that the back to
sun pose is the cooler one.
In most, perhaps all of the activities associated with nesting the initial
stimulus appears to be a change in temperature. This is so when building nests
and feeding young; in both cases rest periods coincide with rising temperatures
and work periods with falling ones.
Eibl-Eibesfeldt (1970 Ethology 363) writes: “Each living organism is in con-
tinuous control of its environment through its sense organs and each is
programmed in such a way as to avoid unfavourable conditions and stay in a
favourable environment”. believe that one could oppose this view and argue
that the environment controls the organism.
It does seem that there is a predetermined degree of heat which releases a
chain reaction designed solely to relieve heat stress in nestlings.
MERLE BALDWIN, Gilgai, Via Inverell, N.S.W. 2360.54 Australian Birds (15) 3
On Saturday 26 January 1980 at approximately 1600 hours, while watching
waders at the old Cook’s River mouth in Botany Bay, we observed a Ringed
Plover Charadrius hiaticula alight onto the grey mud with a group of Mongolian
Plovers C.mongolus. As we are aware that Ringed Plovers have been rarely
recorded in New South Wales the following field notes were made:
The most prominent feature was the conspicuous white neck collar below a
smooth brown crown with a small black breast band below the white extending
around to the neck and back. Eye was black with a black line above and below
running from base of bill to cap. There was a noticable white eyebrow and white
forehead. Bill black with a yellowish base. When the bird was disturbed, it raised
itself up and revealed that the black neck band which was quite dark at the sides,
was lighter almost brown on the breast. Underparts, throat, and abdomen were
white. Wings brownish with a prominent white wing stripe obvious when in flight.
Rump was dark. Tail dark with white side edges and small white tips, with a
darker band near lower edge. Legs orange -yellow. It was noticed that the Ringed
Plover was shorter than the Mongolian Plovers but larger than the Red -necked
Stint Calidris ruficollis and Red -capped Plover Charadrius ruficapillus feeding
On the 26 January 1980 the bird was observed to be dragging one leg;
however on the 28 January 1980 it used both legs until late morning then
commenced to hop only on one leg again. This did not appear to hamper its
movement in any way, and the bird continued to feed normally. This habit of
dragging a leg has continued. Up to the time this article. was written on 7 February
1980 the bird was still present.
When we returned home after first sighting the bird, we consulted H. T.
Condon, and A. R. McGill (1974 Field Guide to the Waders) and P. Slater (1969
Field Guide to Australian Birds Part 1). The one major difference between our
notes and the two reference texts was that the black bar above the white forehead
which is clearly shown in the books, was not present on the bird we observed.
However Prater et al (1977 Guide to the Identification and Ageing of Holarctic
Waders) suggests that the second black forehead bar is a feature of summer
plumage of adult birds only. The yellow base to the bill and the brownish breast
bar suggest that our Plover was an immature, first winter bird. The white wing bar
and lack of white line on crown, seperates the Ringed Plover from the similar.
Little Ringed Plover C. dubius.
We are again indebted to Arnold McGill who agreed to accompany us the
following morning to see the Ringed Plover. McGill has seen the Ringed Plover at
Kooragang Island in 1967 (1969 Aust Birdwatcher 3, 199) and confirmed that the
bird we had under observation was the same species.
After photographing the Ringed Plover, we telephoned friends with the news
and since then many people have had the pleasure of seeing this rare bird, and
confirming our identification.
Four records exist for Australia, all for New South Wales, viz a specimen was
taken at Port Stephens (Gould 1865 Handbook of the Birds of Australia 11:231),
although this bird may have come from Port Stephens, South Africa; another
specimen from Malabar in 1908 now in the “H. L. White Collection”, National
Museum of Victoria (Emu 54, 227); in February 1967 at the mouth of the Hunter
River and again in November 1967 (McGill loc. cit.). The Ringed Plover occurs
widely in the Northern Hemisphere but apart from regular movements to South
Africa it is rarely recorded migrating as far south in Australia.
JUDITH AND NEIL RUSSILL, 75 Bonds Rd., Peakhurst N.S.W. 2210.March, 1980 55
The Beach Stone -curlew Esacus magnirostris is very rare in New South
Wales with the only location where the species is seen with any regularity being
Red Rock, north of Coffs Harbour. A pair was recorded there on 1 September and
14 November 1976 (Rogers 1977 Aust Birds 11, 90) and on subsequent
occasion since, whilst Clancy observed single birds on 10 October and 2
November 1979. A local resident, R. Edgar, states that a pair of Stone -curlews
has inhabited the one sand bar island continually for at least four years.
On 26 November 1979 the authors visited the sand bar island to carry out a
census of the Little Tern Sterna albifrons nesting colony as part of a north coast
survey of that species for the National Parks and Wildlife Service. At the time of
landing from the boat a pair of adult Beach Stone -curlews was observed in
addition to the breeding Little Terns. This was not surprising as R. Edgar (pers.
comm.) advised that the pair of Stone -curlews spend all of their time on the one
sand bar unless frightened off by the close approach of an observer. What was
surprising was that the parent birds instead of fleeing at our approach ran
towards us in a crouched position reminiscent of the crouching habit of the
Striated Heron Butorides striatus.
This unusual behaviour of the birds prompted a search of the island for a
nest which resulted in the discovery of a very young Beach Stone -curlew. It was
hiding in a shallow depression in the sand under the largest Casuarina on the
island. It was covered in grey -buff fluffy down, and had the characteristic facial
markings and bill of the species the latter being relatively shorter than those of
the parents. The effectiveness of the chick’s camouflage was illustrated most
impressively when, after examining the chick in the hand, it was placed back in
the depression and we left the island to collect a C.S.I.R.O. bird band that wold
be an appropriate size for the species. The C.S.I.R.O. list of band sizes does not
list a size for the Beach Stone -curlew as none had been banded prior to that day.
After collecting the bands we returned to the island but the young bird had
vanished. A thorough search of the vegetated section of the island at first proved
futile but after about twenty minutes the young bird was found lying motionless
near a small Casurina tree. We had passed very close to it a number of times
without seeing it! A C.S.I.R.O. bird band was placed on its right leg and then it
was placed back in the depression under the largest tree.
During the handling and banding of the young bird the parents became very
agitated and made several advances towards the banders. The agitation
increased as the youngster called out.
On January 1980 the young bird, which had lost most of its fluffy down and
had well 1 developed primaries, was found dead near the banding location. It had a
broken neck but the cause of its death is not know. On 6 January the pair of adult
birds were observed back at their usual location.
This is the second breeding record for N.S.W., the first being for a pair which
nested on the shoreline near Tweed Heads in October 1930 (A. R. McGill 1960 A
Handlist of the Birds of New South Wales p. 23). The young Beach Stone -curlew
was the first of its species to be banded in Australia.
G. P. CLANCY 17 Margaret Crescent South Grafton 2461.
M. CHRISTIANSEN Ridge Lane Lawrence 2460.56 March, 1980
At Clarenza on the Clarence River near Grafton two Azure Kingfishers Ceyx
azurea were observed on 20 May 1979 to exhibit unusual behaviour apparently a
form of display. The birds were perched on opposite concrete walls of a floodgate
and were both calling. The call was reminiscent of that of the Red -brown Firetail
Emblema temporalis. Suddenly one bird flew to the opposite wall and sat next to
the other bird but faced the opposite direction. Both birds tilted their heads with
the bill pointed towards the other bird’s tail. While in this position the birds began
to waddle, almost like penguins, in an anti -clockwise circular direction. This was
maintained for a few seconds until one bird flew away pursued by the other. The
display was considered to be a territorial aggressive display as both birds
appeared to be males (very bright colours), it was not the breeding season when
courtship displays would be expected, and the birds did not remain close
together after the display.
G. CLANCY, 17 Margaret Crescent, South Grafton, N.S.W. 2461.
At about 14.00 hrs on 20 March 1972, a still, sunny day, shade temperature
35°C a small brownish, unidentified bat, possibly Vespadelus pumilus, was
watched flying at the edge of a large pool of water north of Ivanhoe, New South
Wales. Apparently it was feeding on flying insects swarming just above the water.
Numberous Welcome Swallows Hirundo neoxena were feeding on the insects
also. One of the Swallows chased the bat and twice made a swooping attack upon
it which the bat eluded by making a sharp turn and rising. After the
second attack the bat had risen to about four metres above the water level when an
Australian Magpie -lark Grallina cyanoleuca which had been feeding along the
water’s edge flew up, almost vertically, and took the bat in its bill, seizing it on the
underparts just behind the wings. The two continued to rise at an angle, both with
wings beating, and disappeared into the foliage of a box tree standing in the water
about ten metres from the bank. The action was so quick and unexpected that was
unsure whether the bat towed the Magpie -lark into the tree or whether it I was
pushed and steered there by the bird. could not see into the tree
because of its dense foliage and when walked towards it ten Magpie -larks flew
out, none of which was carrying the bat. did not see the bat again.
A bat, or animal of similar size, seems an unlikely food item for a Magpie -lark.
However, in 1959 at Kyogle, New South Wales, ‘watched Magpie -larks feeding
upon the bodies of House Sparrows Passer domeI sticus which had been killed by
strychnine baits. The Magpie -larks pecked open the soft skins of the stomachs and
fed upon the stomach contents and the flesh of the Sparrows; at least six were
inadvertently destroyed as a result. The baits were inaccessible to the Magpie –
At Fletcher’s Lake, Dareton, N.S.W. a Red -capped Plover Charadrius rufi-
capillus left its eggs and performed a distraction display before a Magpie -lark
(Hobbs, 1972, Emu 72, 125). This suggests the Plover recognised the Magpie -lark
as a potential predator.
The literature claims the diet of the Magpie -lark is limited to insects and water
snails but perhaps it is more extensive and the bird is not so innocuous as it
The abnormal appearance of bats during the day has prompted a similar
pursuit reaction by another Hirundine, the Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
(Tugendhat 1966, Brit. Birds 59, 435 and Rosair 1975, Brit. Birds 68, 248).
J. N. HOBBS, 87 Plunkett Street, Nowra, N.S.W. 2540.E-41
Vol. 14, No. 3 March, 1980
Schrader, N. W. A review of the distribution of the Superb Parrot in
central New South Wales 45
Clancy, G. Nest robbing by the Square -tailed Kite 50
Kurtz, Norman Nutmeg Mannikin near Mudgee 51
Quested, Trevor Spine -tailed Swift perching on tree 52
Longmore, N. W. & Flight speed of the Crested Pigeon 52
W. E. Boles
Baldwin, M. Some thoughts on shading 53
Russill, J. & N. Ringed Plover at Botany Bay 54
Clancy, G. & A breeding record of the Beach Stone -curlew at Red
M. Christiansen Rock, New South Wales 55
Clancy, G. Azure Kingfisher display 56
Hobbs, J. N. Australian Magpie -lark taking a bat 56
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