Vol. 24 No. 4-text

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Journal of the
Volume 24, Number 4. June 1991
President P. Davie
Vice -President S. Fairbairn
Secretary R. Hill
Treasurer T. Florin
Minutes Secretary M. Sach
Activities Officer A.O. Richards
Conservation Officers E. Karplus
J. Melville
Journal Editor A.K. Morris
Records Officer R. Cooper
Newsletter Editor T. Karplus
Other Committee Members H. Biddle
D. Seims
H. Jones
The object of the club is to promote the study and conservation of Australian
birds and the habitats they occupy.
Annual subscription rates of the Club (due October each year) are:
Adult Member $25.00
Junior Member (up to 17 years) $10.00
All members recieve a newsletter and a copy of the quarterly journal ‘Australian
Birds’. The price of the journal is $5.00 plus postage per issue to non members.
Club badges are available to club members at $2.50 or $3.00 if posted. The club
holds a meeting and a field excursion each month.
All correspondence should be addressed to the Hon. Secretary and all member-
ship fees should be sent to the Hon. Treasurer at: PO Box C436, Clarence St,
Sydney NSW 2000.
Manuscripts should be sent to the Editor at: Wombat St, Berkeley Vale NSW
2259.Volume 24, (4) June 1991
All known records of the Red Goshawk Erythrotriorchis radiatus in New South Wales,
1790-1990, were collated and appraised in connection with a field survey of the species.
There were at least five, possibly eight Red Goshawk specimens taken before 1900, a
sighting and two clutches taken before 1920, and thereafter no records until the late 1960s,
since which there have been on average two acceptable reported sightings per year. Some
recent literature reports are rejected. Most recent records are from the extreme north-east
corner of the state, in the Northern Rivers region. The goshawk was formerly a breeding
resident on the north coast rivers but is now a rare vagrant, virtually extinct as a breeding
species in NSW, and urgently in need of active conservation.
Recently, summarised the status of the Red Goshawk Erythrotriorchis radiatus in
New South Wales, and the results of a survey of the species in that State (Debus in press).
This paper is an ancillary publication. It indicates the basis for acceptance or rejection of
all literature records of the species in New South Wales with which I am familiar. These
records form the basis of my assessment of the species’ past status in New South Wales.
June 1991 Page 72METHODS
Records were accepted or rejected on the existence of specimens or adequate
descriptions. Specimen records for New South Wales were extracted from a catalogue of
Red Goshawk specimens in the world’s museums (Debus & McAllan in prep.). Sightings
were obtained from the literature, from the RAOU Atlas of Australian Birds project (unusual
record forms) and from informants. Sightings were accepted if written or verbal descriptions
were adequate to establish the bird’s identity. Site inspections during the survey and the
experience of informants as ornithologists were also taken into consideration, and in a few
cases (e.g. recently deceased informants) it was necessary to rely to some extent on the
person’s reputation amongst ornithological colleagues. This approach caused some
records provisionally listed by Debus (1982) to be rejected. Several first-hand or second-
hand reports, via personal communications, are not listed here because there was
insufficient information to establish whether the identification was correct.
The list is presented in chronological order, with regions as defined by Morris et al.
(1981). Records are coded as accepted (A), unconfirmed (U) or rejected (R), those
accepted corresponding to the records in Table 1, Figure 1 and Appendix 1 of Debus (in
press). Available descriptions and notes accompanying the records are reproduced here,
if they add to published information or help to substantiate the record and any conclusions
drawn. In some cases precise locality details have been deliberately withheld.
Central Coast (A)
Specimen collected in or near Sydney before 1800 (the Watling drawings: North
1912, Mathews 1916, Hindwood 1970). There has been a suggestion that it came from Port
Stephens (lower Hunter/Mid-north Coast – see Debus 1982), apparently on the basis that
the Salamander, a First Fleet vessel, visited Port Stephens in 1791 (see Schodde &
Weatherly 1982). However, the Red Goshawk drawings have been attributed to the “Port
Jackson Painter” active around Sydney from 1788 tothe 1790s (Pearce 1989). Furthermore,
the fact that the goshawk was found nailed to a settler’s hut indicates that it came from the
Sydney region. From information in Whittell (1954) and Hindwood (1970), the paintings can
be dated to between December 1789 and December 1794, and therefore before the Hunter
River was explored in 1797 by Lieut. Shortland (e.g. Bartholomew & Cramp 1966). Field
notes on the Red Goshawk painting were in Surgeon -General John White’s handwriting,
and the painting was not actually signed by Watling (Hindwood 1970). During his stay, White
was stationed in Sydney (Whittell 1954), where it is likely that he interviewed the collector.
The collector’s information on the bird and a copy of the plate (Slater 1978, Pearce 1989)
show it to be a juvenile or immature female on size, plumage and eye colour (notwithstanding
somewhat conflicting information on its eyes and Pearce’s erroneous statement on Red
Goshawk soft -part colours; cf. Debus & Czechura 1988a). There is no evidence that the
specimen was preserved or taken with the drawings to England by White in 1794.
Page 73 Australian Birds Vol.24 No. 4Central Coast? (A; region uncertain)
British Museum (Natural History) specimen no. 1863.7.7.6 from “New South Wales”
(no other data), “collected by G. Caley” and presented by the Linnean Society as the type
of Haliaeetus calei radiatus] (label details per D. Mead). Vigors & Horsfield (1827) were
aware of the Watling drawings and of Latham having named Falco radiatus, but they named
the Caley specimen in the belief that it was a new species, as they compared it with Latham’s
illustration and pointed out several differences between the two individuals. George Caley
was in Australia between 1800 and 1810, and collected specimens in the vicinity of Sydney,
the lower Blue Mountains and the Hunter Valley (Currey 1966). The BMNH label implies
that he shot the Red Goshawk. From measurements and plumage details supplied by D.
Mead, this bird was an immature female, possibly a second -year bird (C. Edelstam).
Contrary to Hindwood & McGill (1958), it appears that Caley’s was a second specimen
within the first 10-20 years of European settlement, and not the same as the Watling bird.
In support of this is the condition of the Caley specimen – it is in “excellent condition”, and
does not look like it was ever nailed to anything (D. Mead pers. comm.). A comparison of
colour photographs of the Caley specimens (per D. Mead) and a print of the Waiting painting
(Pearce 1989, Plate 4, p.18) suggests that they were two different individuals , of two
different ages. Caley took field notes on the specimens he collected (e.g. Webb 1990), but
in the case of the Red Goshawk specimen there were none published. Field notes assumed
to apply to Haliaeetus calei (e.g. by North 1912) apply to Haliaeetus canorus [=Haliastur
sphenurus, Whistling Kite], cf. Vigors & Horsfield (1827), therefore there is no clue to the
specimen’s precise locality. It could have come from Parramatta, the HawkeburyiNepean,
lower Blue Mountains or Hunter Valley, therefore its provenance is here treated as
Northern Rivers and Mid -north Coast (A)
John Gould (1843) reported the Red Goshawk to “inhabit the dense brushes”
bordering the Manning and Clarence Rivers. [Note correct publication date of Gould’s work,
i.e. December 1843, from Waterhouse (1885) and Sauer (1982)1 Gould himself was never
on the Manning or Clarence during his Australian visit (cf. Hindwood 1938, Whittell 1954).
However, his other locality records were supported by specimens, and there were two
possible contenders for the Manning and Clarence localities in his own collection. Two Red
Goshawk specimens, a male and female in the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences
(USA), were from “New South Wales” (details per I. McAllen). Originally offered by Gould
to the BMNH, they were instead purchased forthe Philadelphia Academy in July 1847. They
then went to Paris for mounting (where their original labels were removed), and finally
reached the Philadelphia Academy in June 1849 (de Schauensee 1951). They were thus
probably in Gould’s possession in the early 1840s, when he was writing his book, and
possibly collected on his behalf when he was in Australia. Charles Coxen, Frederick
Strange and Eli Waller were collecting for Gould between Sydney and Brisbane during the
relevant period (Whittell 1954, Sauer 1982).
There is also a female Red Goshawk specimen from the Clarence River in the
Merseyside Museum, Liverpool (England), donated by T.M. Williams in September 1844 to
the 13th Earl of Derby, whom Gould knew (details per I. McAllen). There is no record of the
June 1991 Page 74collector or collection date, but sea travel between Australia and England took many months
and there is no record of how long it was in Williams’ possession in England. Gould’s
extensive network of contacts meant that he may have known about the specimen in time
for his book. It may even have been a second specimen from the Clarence.
In addition, there was a mounted adult female from “New South Wales” in The
Australian Museum by 1876 (Ramsay 1876; no other details given). Gould visited the
Museum when he was in Australia (see Gould 1865 under Ptilonorhynchus holosericeus
), and may have seen this mount. AM P1863, a mounted adult female, is presumably that
bird, but details are now lacking. P1863 is a serial number in the Palmer Register, the
register of the earliest known Australian Museum material, that is, everything before
Ramsay became the curator (I. McAllan pers. comm.). P1863 may be the bird referred to
by Ramsay, possibly collected during the Gouldian period, but all one can conclude is that
it was collected before 1875, the time of Ramsay’s appointment.
Early specimens from “New South Wales” may have come from Queensland before
1859 (when that State was still part of NSW), but apparently neither Gould’s two nor P1863
are the “Moreton Bay” specimens noted in Bennett (1837), as these are probably the two
now in the Macleay Museum, Sydney (details in prep.). In any case, there are more than
enough specimens to account for the Manning and Clarence records, and Gould’s work was
so meticulous and authoritative that his records are unquestionable.
Region unknown (U)
Kaup (1847) examined a Red Goshawk specimen and named it Astur testaceus in
the belief that it was a new species, i.e. it was not one of the above specimens (Falco radiatus
of Latham, Haliaeetus calei of Vigors & Horsfield, orGould’s Asturradiatus from the Manning
and Clarence Rivers). Kaup gave the locality as “New South Wales” but it is not certain how
he acquired the specimen, nor whether it really came from New South Wales or from what
is now Queensland. Kaup was Director of the Grand -Ducal Museum at Darnstadt (Whittell
1954), presumably where the specimen was (is?) housed. To date, the only information
have been able to obtain on Red Goshawk specimens in German museums concerns one
at Dresden: collected at Cooktown (Queensland) in 1899, i.e. after Kaup’s time (per I.
Upper Western (U)
According to Sharpe (1874), the British Museum (Natural History) received a
mounted specimen from John Gould, obtained on the Darling River at Bourke. If so, Gould
must have acquired it after 1865, via another collector. He only mentioned the coastal
Manning and Clarence Rivers as localities for the Red Goshawk in New South Wales, and
did not mention Bourke or the Darling (Gould 1843, 1865). Red Goshawk is not on his
specimen list for inland New South Wales (Hindwood 1938), and Ramsay (1876) did not list
Bourke as a locality for the species. Ramsay’s tabular list (1878) and revised list (1898)
mention “Interior” [i.e. Darling River to Gulf of Carpentaria], which in this context refers to
J.B. White’s Red Goshawk specimens from the “interior of Queensland” [Mitchell district],
in the BMNH (label details per D. Mead). The only Gould specimen now in the BMNH (reg.
Page 75 Australian Birds Vol.24 No. 4no. 1955.6.N.20.3215) is from “Rockingham Bay” (Queensland; details per D. Mead). Ex-
BMNH or ex -Gould specimens sent to other museums do not have Bourke or Darling River
localities (per D. Amadon, I. McAllan). It is possible that the mount listed by Sharpe was
among two consignments of raptors acquired by the BMNH from Gould in 1872 and 1873
(I. McAllan pers. comm.), and that it was destroyed when bombing damaged the public
galleries in London during World War 2 (D. Mead pers. comm.). Unfortunately, Gurney
(1875) is no help in this regard and to date it has not been possible to determine whether
the BMNH registers shed any light. Sharpe himself (1875), in a later discussion of “new”
Red Goshawk specimens, made no mention of the Bourke specimen. The Bourke record
is thus an unsatisfactory one, but note recent observation on the Barwon River, a tributary
of the Darling, listed below.
Northern Rivers (A)
Specimen from the “Richmond River”, lodged in The Australian Museum (North
1912). It was collected by Ramsay (1867), who was in the area between September and
November 1866 (Whittell 1954). Debus (1982) speculated that the specimen in the
Museum public gallery may be this bird, and Holmes (1987) considered the specimen lost
or destroyed. However, the specimen is still in the Museum, its identity masked by an error
on its new tag and in the computer listing of specimens. AM 0.18250 was, according to its
newtag and the computer print-out, collected at “Junction Camp, Queensland”, but Junction
Camp was in New South Wales near Grafton. The specimen’s old tag, in Ramsay’s
handwriting and signed “EPR”, says “Junction Camp 23.10.66”, and his unpublished
manuscript of birds in the Dobroyde Collection says of this specimen “Grafton 14.9.66”.
Ramsay’s unpublished diary of this excursion says that the specimen was collected on 14
September 1866 at the first camp on his trip north, four miles (6 km) from Grafton, and was
picked up on his return (hence the discrepancy in dates). AM 0.18250 is therefore the
“Richmond River” specimen but it was actually collected closer to the Clarence River, in the
Clarence watershed. It was, indeed, an “adult male” (Ramsay 1867). Ramsay’s specimen
was in pursuit of Rainbow Lorikeets Trichoglossus haematodus, “which it was endeavouring
to catch; its flight [was] remarkably strong and rapid”. It was shot when it flew into his camp.
Although he described the Red Goshawk as “rare”, only having encountered one, he said
“I know of no other districts frequented by so many species of the Hawk -tribe as the brushes
and flats in the neighbourhood of the Richmond and Clarence Rivers”. He recorded 15
identified species (10 collected) and one or two unidentified species in 15 days, some being
“very common”, and listed another three species collected by Macgillivray including the
Square -tailed Kite Lophoictiniaisura and Black -breasted Buzzard Hamirostra melanostemon.
The impression of a rich area populated by the endemic raptor genera stands in stark
contrast to the present situation of extensively cleared areas and degraded rivers populated
mainly by Black -shouldered Kites Elanus notatus, Whistling Kites and Australian Kestrels
Falco cenchroides (pers. obs.; see also Gosper 1986).
Northern Rivers (U)
Broinowski (1891) stated that the Red Goshawk was “found among dense brushes
bordering the coast of New South Wales, especially in the vicinity of the northern rivers”.
June 1991 Page 76This statement was probably derived from Gould (1843, 1865). However, Broinowski also
stated that it “feeds on birds and reptiles, and is very destructive to the poultry of the farmers”.
Gould was forced to state that nothing was known of its habits and economy, therefore
Broinowski must have had sources of information additional to Gould (1843, 1865) and
Ramsay (1867). His comments suggest that the Red Goshawk was known to the settlers
on the coastal rivers, from whom he presumably obtained this information while writing and
illustrating his book in Sydney in the 1880s or while travelling (cf. Mathews 1942). His
statement that the goshawk’s habitat was “New South Wales” also suggests that he was
unaware of specimens, records or other data on it from other States (despite his travels as
far as Cooktown in Queensland, which existed as a separate State since 1859). However,
the two specimens from Moreton Bay (above), if still in The Australian Museum in
Broinowski’s time, were collected when Queensland was still part of New South Wales.
Thus some of his information could have come from what is now south-east Queensland.
Broinowski probably used Australian Museum specimen P1863 (adult female) as a model,
because his plate shows an adult female in plumage resembling specimen P1863 (allowing
for some fading of this specimen over time). P1863 is presumably the “adult female,
mounted” from “New South Wales” listed by Ramsay (1876), but an exact locality cannot
now be ascertained (see above).
Hunter (A)
Observed on the upper Hunter River near Scone by ornithologist H.L. White
(Hollands 1984), which would have been between 1900 and 1927 (cf. Whittell 1954). White
had organised Red Goshawk specimens from interstate for his own collection, so one may
assume that his identification was correct. The source of Hollands’ information was a
personal communication from ornithologist Claude N. Austin who knew the White family;
note also Austin’s own record for the area (below).
Northern Rivers (A)
Two clutches (both C/1) taken from the lower Richmond Valley (Holmes in Debus
1988, Debus & Czechura 1988b): one from “Tucki Swamp” in or near what is now Tuckean
Nature Reserve in September 1911, and one from the nearby Uralba area in October 1917
(historical egg collection of the late Stan Ellis, per G. Holmes; further details in prep.). The
area has been extensively cleared, and is no longer suitable for breeding Red Goshawks
(pers. obs.).
Northern Tableland (R)
Claimed to have been seen at Ben Lomond in January 1962 (not August 1961 as
reported in Debus 1982) by many Gould League observers, but “not listed with absolute
certainty” and no details given (Anon. 1962). The locality and habitat (almost alpine,
extensively cleared woodland) appear unsuitable. The record may be referable to the dark
morph Little Eagle Hieraaetus morphnoides which is common on the Northern Tablelands
(pers. obs.), or to the Swamp Harrier Circus approximans which occurs on lagoons in the
Upper Western (R)
Page 77 Australian Birds Vol.24 No. 4Nests with eggs claimed for Narran Lake in the early 1960s (see Cupper & Cupper
1981, Debus 1982). A hearsay report of an atypically large clutch (C/3) in an atypical locality
and habitat is rejected in the absence of substantiating details. The record may be referable
to the Little Eagle.
Northern Tableland (R)
One bird claimed for the Armidale area in the mid 1960s (see Debus 1982). Recent
experience suggests that non -ornithologists frequently misidentify raptors, therefore this
unsubstantiated report is rejected; the habitat appears unsuitable.
Hunter (A)
One bird on the upper Hunter River east of Scone in January 1968 (Austin in Wheeler
1968, Debus 1982). The observer had prior experience of the Red Goshawk in the Northern
Territory and Queensland. The bird flew and glided slowly past as close as 7 m, then
perched in an open tree where it was observed with binoculars at 100 m, near H.L. White’s
property “Belltrees” (the late C. N. Austin in litt.).
Northern Rivers (A)
One bird at Wooli Lakes, in what is now Yuraygir National Park, July 1968 (Tarburton
in Debus 1982). The description on an unusual record form is adequate (per RAOU Atlas
of Australian Birds). The pale head described suggests that the goshawk was an adult. The
bird was in coastal eucalypt open forest with low scrub, behind old dunes, in the vicinity of
a large fresh -water lake (M.K. Tarburton pers. comm.).
Northern Rivers (A)
One or both of a pair seen regularly at Kyogle from February to August 1969 by J.
Hobbs (in Debus 1982). They were often soaring in circles in the updraughts high over a
forested hill which was surrounded by cleared grazing paddocks and river flats. One was
flushed from a perch and slipped rapidly through the trees. The birds were described as
similar in underwing markings to a mid -dark Brown Falcon Falco berigora but larger, with
longer and more strongly barred tail, more spread wing -tips, and a rufous “wedge” formed
by the underwing coverts and breast (Hobbs’ notes per Atlas of Australian Birds). The birds
were resident until Hobbs left in August, but they have not been seen subsequently despite
searches by other bird -watchers.
Southern Tableland (U)
A possible record of a pair at Canberra in December 1969 by Slater (1970), an author
of bird field guides. However, on the observer’s own advice it seems best to regard this
record as “extremely doubtful” (Slater 1970), because of the sighting conditions and unusual
locality. The purpose of his article was to elicit confirmation from other observers, but none
Central -west Slope (R)
Three birds claimed to have been observed near Narromine in December 1969
(Stephens in Wheeler 1970, Debus 1982). The description is insufficient to exclude similar
June 1991 Page 78species. The observer did not claim a positive identification and subsequently conceded
a possible misidentification (the late F. Stephens in litt.). On this basis and the unusual
number and locality, the record is rejected.
North-west Plain (A)
One bird observed on the Barwon River near Collarenebri in April 1971 (Morris in
Debus 1982) by an author of a raptor field guide (Morris 1976). The bird, possibly a female,
was in riverine trees (F.T. Morris in litt.).
Northern Tableland (A)
One bird observed on the Dorrigo Plateau in April 1974, also by F.T. Morris (in Debus
1982). A female, it sailed directly overhead several times above riverside forest, and
appeared to be resident in the area (F.T. Morris in litt.). The habitat is patchily cleared tall
open forest and warm temperate rainforest.
Central Tableland (R)
Nest and egg claimed for Orange area, mid 1970s (see Debus 1982). Another
hearsay report of a nest in an atypical habitat and locality, it is rejected in the absence of
substantiating details. The record may be referable to the Little Eagle.
Northern Rivers (A)
One bird on the Orara River near Coffs Harbour in May 1976 (G. Holmes in Rogers
1977). ft was first seen below canopy level on the edge of wet sclerophyll forest bordering
a paddock, but gradually gained height and then made a long, slanting glide several
kilometres to the next valley (G. Holmes pers. comm.).
North-west Slope (R)
Two birds reported near Delungra in 1978 (see Debus 1982). Record submitted to
the Atlas of Australian Birds but omitted from Blakers et al. (1984). The description on the
unusual record form is inadequate to exclude similar species, therefore the record is
Northern Tableland (A)
Many observations on a tributary of the upper Clarence River north of Tenterfield
since 1979, with adequate descriptions (Atlas of Australian Birds files, Passmore 1981,
Aiken in Debus 1982); accepted by Blakers et al. (1984). Nine records 1979-1987
apparently involving both sexes, mostly in the breeding season (spring -summer) but also
autumn (N. Aiken, M. Passmore, I. Venables pers. comm.), including two in 1987. The
records suggest a possibly resident pair, although the goshawks were only seen singly. One
was seen chasing Yellow-rumped Thornbills Acanthiza chrysorrhoa, taking a Red -bellied
Black Snake Pseudechis porphyriacus, and causing commotion among nesting Noisy
Friarbirds Philemon corniculatus it was often seen soaring quite high with bursts of flapping
or, after hunting, sailing rapidly down river towards more heavily timbered country (N.
Aiken). A capture of a Noisy Miner Manorina melanocephala was observed (Venables
1989), and a male was observed soaring (I. Venables pers. comm.). There have been no
Page 79 Australian Birds Vo1.24 No. 4sightings since 1987 (N. Aiken pers. comm. September 1990).
Northern Rivers (A)
One bird observed at Grafton in March 1980 by I. McDonald (in Debus 1982). The
description on an unusual record form is adequate (per Atlas of Australian Birds), and was
accepted by Blakers et al. (1984). The description (pale face and throat, yellow eye)
suggests an adult. The bird was gliding slowly at 7-10 m altitude and made several tight
circles before gliding on through an urban/rural interface area.
Northern Rivers (A)
Sightings of 1-2 birds at Ballina in Autumn 1980 by J. Izzard (in Lindsey 1981), who
had prior experience of the species in Queensland. The birds were flying low over a creek
(J. Izzard pers. comm.).
Northern Tableland (A)
One bird observed in January 1981 by R. & C. Cooper (per Atlas of Australian Birds),
but locality is Rocky or Timbarra River east of Glen Innes, not Rocky River west of Uralla
as reported in Lindsey (1982). Probably the same bird was seen by E. Finley (in Debus
1982) in what is now the adjoining Washpool National Park in April 1981. Descriptions on
unusual record forms are adequate, and the records were accepted by Blakers et al. (1984).
On the first occasion the bird flew rapidly, with quick beats and glides, down the length of
a cleared creek valley through dry eucalypt forest and open woodland on steep hillsides. On
the second occasion, it was sailing along a tall eucalypt forest/rainforest interface about 70
m above the trees. It was considered by R. Cooper to be an immature female on the basis
of its size and plumage (ginger underparts), and following reference to literature and
specimens in The Australian Museum. Cooper described its flight as “exceptionally quick…
goshawk -like but much faster than any other goshawk… difficult to believe that a bird this
size (as big as a… Little Eagle…) could fly so fast”. Its flight was “like that of a Feral Pigeon
[Columba livia ]… the bird raised its wings quite high when flapping… but barely brought
them below the horizontal plane [on the downstroke]. It glided with its wings slightly above
the horizontal”.
Northern Rivers (R)
A record for Mt Merino in September 1981 (Izzard in Debus 1982 and Holmes 1987)
was actually on the Queensland side of the border, and is therefore excluded from New
South Wales records.
Northern Rivers (U)
A fleeting glimpse of a bird flying over riverine eucalypt forest on the coast north of
the Clarence River in October 1981, obtained by field biologist A.M. Gilmore, an experienced
observer. It was thought to be a Red Goshawk but insufficient detail was seen for a positive
record (A.M. Gilmore pers. comm.). Although unconfirmed, it is consistent with subsequent
records in the area, including the possibility of breeding in 1981-82 and attempted breeding
in 1988 (see below).
June 1991 Page 80Hunter (A)
One bird observed north of Singleton in December 1981 by D. Richards (in Lindsey
1982), who had prior experience of the species in Queensland. Probably the same bird was
seen by this observer at the same locality in February 1982 (Lindsey 1984). On the second
occasion the hawk was unsuccessfully trying to flush a Dusky Moorhen Gallinulatenebrosa
from bulrushes along a creek. After 3-4 minutes it flew to a perch in a eucalypt, and “its red
underparts stood out particularly” (D. Richards pers. comm.).
Northern Rivers (A)
Approximately 1982, two birds perched at The Risk near Kyogle (A. Rayward per
G. Holmes). The observation was accepted by Holmes (1987) after discussion with the
observer, and is therefore accepted here.
Northern Rivers (A)
Two birds observed at Evans Head in January 1982 by J. Duranti et al., field notes
supplied, record accepted by Lindsey (1984) and Holmes (1987). This record was
interpreted by Debus & Czechura (1988a,b) as a pair in courtship flight. However, following
a reappraisal of the field notes, the receipt of further information from the observer and my
recent experience of adult Red Goshawks, it appears that they may have been two birds of
the same sex, one probably a begging juvenile. Both were large: described as Whistling Kite
size, and therefore probably both females. The calls were not the plaintive yelping or harsh
cackling and squawking between adults (cf. Hollands 1984), but were slow repetitive notes
like those of the Grey Goshawk Accipiter novaehollandiae (J. Duranti pers. comm.). Duranti
agreed that the calls were similar to a tape recording of juvenile calls of the New Guinean
Chestnut -shouldered Goshawk Accipiter buergersi, a close relative of the Red Goshawk.
One of the birds was ventrally rufous in colour, a juvenile/immature character in females
(adult females being whiter ventrally: Cupper & Cupper 1981, Hollands 1984, Debus &
Czechura 1988b, pers. obs.), but the other was observed less closely. The first (rufous) bird
circled low (7 m) over open woodland and heath, calling continuously. When the second
joined it they spiralled upwards and out of sight, both calling until they soared higher (J.
Duranti, field notes). As this observation was at the time of year when fledglings might be
expected, it raises the possibility of breeding in the vicinity. The locality is within 10 km of
the site of later suspected breeding (see below).
Northern Rivers (A)
Approximately 1982, Tweed Valley below Mt Warning, one bird made repeated visits
to afarm to take domestic Guinea Fowl Numida meleagris chicks (D. Davidson pers. comm.).
This information was also supplied by G. Homes (pers. comm.) and P. Mitchell (Bird
Observers Club, unusual sighting reports). The bird was thought to be a male by size, and
was quite rufous. Further details unavailable, but consider this record acceptable after
discussion with Davidson, an experienced observer.
Northern Tableland (A)
One bird observed on Koreelah Creek near Woodenbong in April 1983 by G. Holmes
(in Lindsey 1985), who had prior experience of the species. The bird was gliding at 50-60
Page 81 Australian Birds Vol.24 No. 4m above the ground, then dived quickly into a dense patch of eucalypts (G. Holmes pers.
comm.). A noticeable feature was the deep bill, and it was thought to be a female. The
habitat was remnant dry sclerophyll forest and paddocks, with patches of depauperate dry
rainforest on steep scree slopes. There is extensive tall forest within 10 km of this locality.
Northern Rivers (A)
One bird observed on the Wilson River near Lismore, in February 1984 (Lindsey
1986, Holmes 1987); observer had prior experience of the species. A male (?), it was
perched in the upper branches of a fig Ficus sp. in a remnant patch of rainforest, and was
harassed by Pied Currawongs Strepera graculina. It flew to figs across a clearing, circled
a few times then disappeared downstream (G. Holmes pers. comm.).
Northern Rivers (R)
One bird allegedly flushed from the roadside by vehicles between Ballina and
Broadwater in July 1985 (Mitchell 1985, Cooper 1989), but the limited description (the late
F. Stephens in litt.) applies equally to the Swamp Harrier. Behaviour and habitat (mostly
canefields) also strongly suggest Swamp Harrier. My observations of Swamp Harriers
under similar conditions in the region reveal that the rufous underparts, barred underwings
and tail and long yellow legs could cause confusion with the Red Goshawk. This record is
Northern Rivers (A)
One bird observed over Bom Bom State Forest near Grafton in August 1985 by D.
Geering (in Cooper 1989), an experienced observer familiar with potentially confusing
species. The bird was “obviously a goshawk, distinctly larger than Brown [Accipiterfasciatus
], tail rounded and wings fingered. It was generally very dark, being reddish and heavily
marked, particularly the breast, the underwings being the same colour as the breast. The
flights and tail were heavily marked, the former showing a faint window”. It was circling low
over the treetops of Spotted Gum Eucalyptus maculata open forest for about 15 minutes
(D. Geering pers. comm.). The description suggests an immature female.
Northern Rivers (A)
One bird seen over the Burringbar Range near Murwillumbah in December 1985 by
L. Conole (in Holmes 1987, Cooper 1989), an experienced observer familiar with potentially
confusing species. It was soaring over a forested ridge (L. Conole per G. Holmes). I
consider this record acceptable after discussion with the observer.
Northern Rivers (U)
Several unconfirmed sightings in the New Brighton -Pottsville area in 1985 by A.M.
Gilmore, listed as possible misidentifications by Holmes (1987). Brief views were obtained
from below of a bird flying over tall paperbark forest: believed to be Red Goshawk but
insufficient detail seen to claim a positive sighting (A.M. Gilmore pers. comm.), therefore
treated here as unconfirmed.
Northern Rivers (R)
June 1991 Page 82One bird allegedly at Valla in January -February 1986 (Anon. 1986, Cooper 1990)
was a Square -tailed Kite. The observer intended to publish a retraction (D. Secomb pers.
Northern Rivers (A)
Two birds at Stoker near Mu rwillumbah in early 1986, record accepted by Holmes
(1987) after discussion with the observer (Browne in Holmes 1987; Cooper 1990). Perched
birds were observed for ten minutes (per G. Holmes).
Northern Rivers (A)
One bird over the Blackwall Range near Wardell in October 1986 (Holmes 1987,
Cooper 1990); observer had prior experience of the species. It was flying along a ridge, over
a regenerating rainforest canopy at the top of a scree slope (G. Holmes pers. comm.).
Northern Rivers (R)
A hearsay report of alleged breeding in the Ballina region in 1987 (?), listed in Debus
(1988), is unverifiable (per G. Holmes) and therefore rejected.
Northern Rivers (A)
One bird was observed by D. Paull, an experienced observer, on the upper Bellinger
River above Bellingen in January 1987. The goshawk’s boldly barred primaries and tail,
rufous upperparts and large legs and feet were noted. It was gliding along the river, peering
down, in open vegetation in a partly cleared valley with dense forest on hillsides (D. Paull
pers. comm.). I consider this record acceptable after discussion with the observer.
Hunter (A)
One bird was observed at Freemans Waterholes near Cessnock in February 1987
D. Hobcroft (pers. comm.), who had prior experience of the species in Queensland. A brief
view was obtained of the bird making a
falcon -like stoop, near the forested and partly cleared slopes of the Watagan Mountains. It
lacked a black cap or malar stripe, and had a grey face; pale eye; spotted wing coverts with
dark centres; reddish -chestnut, dark -streaked underparts; and a long, grey tail with barring.
In the stoop, with wings flexed, the tail extended beyond the primaries (D. Hobcroft pers.
comm.). The pale face and eye indicate an adult.
North-west Slope (A)
One bird was observed at Cedar Brush Nature Reserve, on the Liverpool Range
north-west of Scone in October 1987. Thought to be a female on size, it was perched in open
forest near the rainforest edge (the late P.A. Bourke in litt.). Although further details are not
available, I consider this record acceptable. The region was assigned as North-west Slope
in Debus (in press, Figure 1), on the grounds that the Liverpool Range is a boundary
between regions and the range is a westerly spur of the Great Dividing Range in northern
New South Wales. However, Cedar Brush is on the south face of the range and thus the
sighting was in the upper reaches of the Hunter watershed.
Page 83 Australian Birds Vol.24 No. 4Northern Rivers (A)
One bird was observed over Whian Whian State Forest near Mullumbimby in
October or November 1987, by Forestry Commission ranger R. Kooyman, an experienced
observer (in Debus 1988). It was identified as a Red Goshawk after reference to literature.
The bird was flying through the canopy of regrowth eucalypt forest (R. Kooyman pers.
comm.), in an area of eucalypt forest on ridges and subtropical rainforest in gullies. I
consider this record acceptable after discussion with the observer.
Northern Rivers (A)
Two sightings of a single bird on the coast north of the Clarence River in October
1987 by D. Stewart (pers. comm.), an experienced observer who has seen the species in
the Northern Territory. These records were also accepted by G. Holmes after discussion
with the observer. Other reports of 1-2 birds and an allegedly successful nest in this area
in 1987 (Debus 1988, 1989, Karplus 1989) could not be confirmed. On three days in
September and one day in December 1987 at this site, I did not obtain Red Goshawk
sightings and subsequently found out that the nest report was erroneous. However, a pair
was seen in the area in late August and early September 1988 by observers with prior
experience of the species. On one occasion the pair performed a courtship flight (Holmes
1989) and on another occasion they mobbed a soaring Wedge-tailed Eagle Aquila audax
(J. Izzard pers. comm.). saw no Red Goshawks in November -December 1988 and July
1989 despite intensive searches of a week or more. In September 1989 only one bird was
seen, by Parks & Wildlife ranger S. Phillips, an experienced observer and field biologist: a
female was located by its calls as it perched in eucalypt open forest on a ridge. The bird was
giving harsh repetitive squawks, and allowed a sufficiently close approach to see the big
yellow legs (S. Phillips pers. comm.). Phillips, who had extensive prior experience of other
raptors, agreed that the calls were similar to a tape-recording of female Red Goshawk calls.
The area includes some thousands of hectares of mature eucalypt open forest and
woodland, with extensive stands of tall paperbark (Melaleuca) forest and mature eucalypt
forest along an undisturbed river. These records suggest that a pair may have attempted
to breed in the area in 1988, but they could not be found during an intensive nine -day search
in late August 1990. The pair is (or was) isolated by the lack of suitable coastal habitat
between this site and the Queensland border 120 km away. They may have abandoned the
area following a severe wildlf ire which burnt out virtually the entire reserve in October 1989,
causing much tree -crown damage. Few birds were present after the fire, which reduced
available prey (pers. obs.).
Northern Rivers (U)
Two pairs allegedly seen near fluke in January 1988 (Chafer & Morris 1988). The
record was obtained via secondary verbal sources by C.J. Chafer (pers. comm.), and should
have read “two birds probably nesting in the Iluka district”. This was based on repeated
sightings of 1-2 birds in riverine forest (some of these reported in Debus 1988), and suggests
that the birds were present from September 1987 to January 1988 (cf. above sightings).
However, no descriptions were supplied in support of the sightings and the nest claim was
an assumption only.
June 1991 Page 84DISCUSSION
As discussed elsewhere (Debus in press), the pattern of historical and recent
records suggests that the Red Goshawk’s status in New South Wales has changed
considerably since European settlement: breeding resident to rare vagrant in 200 years.
It appears that in the first hundred years at least, it was numerous enough to attract the
attention of settlers and the few active ornithologists, despite the low human population. It
occurred on many of the coastal rivers north of Sydney, and bred on at least some of them.
New South Wales was therefore not marginal to its breeding distribution, contra Debus
The number and distribution of early Red Goshawk specimens from New South
Wales are quite remarkable, and indicate a formerly more numerous bird south to Sydney
in the 1800s and early 1900s. Even without resolving the Bourke question at this stage,
there are sufficient specimens and other records to suggest some pattern -virtually all early
records were from the largest, formerly forested coastal river valleys where the coastal plain
is widest (Richmond, Clarence, Manning, Hunter and Cumberland Plain).
Today, despite the vast increase in observer numbers, effort and ability, there are
few Red Goshawk sightings per year (average two per year since 1968) and there has been
no confirmed breeding in the past 70 years. The apparent increase in sightings since 1970
may reflect an increase in vagrants following habitat clearance (in south-east Queensland
as well as NSW), but it may more likely be a reflection of the growth in ornithology, greater
interest in the species and the greater incentive to report sightings through atlas schemes
and annual bird reports. There were no reported sightings during 1920-1960. However,
many of the 30 or so regional bird lists from within the range of the Red Goshawk in New
South Wales, published in The Emu 1900-1970, resulted from single visits of a few days
to the respective localities – hardly sufficient time to detect a bird like the Red Goshawk.
!have concluded (Debus in press) that the Red Goshawk has declined from a scarce
resident breeding north of the Hunter River, to virtual extinction as a breeding species in New
South Wales, though it may still breed on the coast north of the Clarence River. have
therefore recommended that it be transferred from Schedule 12, Part 2 of the National Parks
and Wildlife Act (vulnerable and rare fauna)to Part 4 (fauna in imminent danger of extinction
in the State). The Red Goshawk is now classified nationally as “vulnerable”, deforestation
having been identified as a major threat (Brouwer & Garnett 1990). According to Brouwer
& Garnett’s criteria, it should be classified as “endangered” in New South Wales, meaning
that its survival [as a breeding species] is unlikely if causal factors continue to operate.
From site inspections during the survey, and an analysis of the situation in south-east
Queensland (Debus & Czechura 1988b), speculate that the Red Goshawk is now virtually
absent from New South Wales because its prime habitat has been cleared or severely
modified. My experience in the Northern Territory suggests that the goshawk prefers open
forest or tall woodland of mature eucalypts with massive limbs and an open canopy
Page 85 Australian Birds Vol.24 No. 4structure, on productive sites (particularly river valleys) rich in birds. Such habitat on fertile
soils in north-east New South Wales has been cleared and fragmented. Most remnants on
fertile soils are intensively managed fortimber as dense, young even -aged stands, whereas
remnants in conservation reserves are generally on low -fertility soils poor in birds (pers.
obs.). It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Red Goshawk has virtually gone, and that
the prognosis is not good without immediate action.
Following Cooper (1989, 1990), urge observers to fully document all sightings of
the Red Goshawk in New South Wales. Existing unconfirmed records and future sightings
await publication with adequate details of identification. It is important to record habitat and
behavioural details, and size and plumage to ascertain the birds’ age and sex. Such co-
operation by observers is of great value, as the Red Goshawk is a difficult bird to find in the
south-east of its range for study purposes. Most of the Red Goshawk nests studied by the
Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union in the Northern Territory in 1987-89 were located
by interested informants (including one by an FOC party); similar co-operation is required
in New South Wales, for ecological studies on the remaining pair(s) while there is still time.
However, the locations of pairs or nests should not be publicised. The appropriate action
is to submit full details in confidence to the Club’s Records Officer, and not divulge the
information to any persons except for the purpose of official research and conservation.
Observers should be alert to egg collectors attempting to locate nests.
Since my earlier paper (Debus 1982), the Red Goshawk’s field characters have been
described and illustrated in photographic books and a review paper, with colour photographs
of birds in flight (Cupper & Cupper 1981, Hollands 1984, Debus & Czechura 1988a). As
noted by Brickhill (1991), an additional field character is the short occipital crest (slightly
projecting crown feathers), and the legs of juveniles may be yellow rather than pale grey.
Perhaps the legs of collected juvenile specimens quickly fade. Further field experience
indicates that Red Goshawks often glide on wings with a slight dihedral rather than bowed.
Age and sex criteria are given by Aumann & Baker-Gabb (1991); it is worth noting that amid
the early confusion, Mathews (1916) got the ventral plumages of adult male, adult female
and “immature” [= juvenile] essentially correct.
An important aspect of raptor field identification is the bird’s shape and flight
behaviour. This is often neglected in field decriptions (with the notable exception of R.
Cooper’s, above), yet the way a raptor holds and flaps its wings is often the best clue to its
identity. It is worth noting that, contrary to Baker-Gabb (1988), the early collectors were well
aware of the Red Goshawk’s speed (e.g. the Watling notes, widely quoted by North 1912,
Mathews 1916, Hindwood 1970 and Slater 1978; also Ramsay 1867, quoted above).
Red Goshawk records and notes were provided by: N. Aiken, the late P.A. Bourke,
A. Colemane, L. Conole, D. Davidson, J. Duranti, D. Geering, D. Hobcroft, G. Holmes, J.
June 1991 Page 86Izzard, R. Kooyman, M. Passmore, D. Paull, S. Phillips, D. Richards, D. Stewart and I.
Venables. I thank them, and the following for responding to requests for information: N.
Ardell, C.J. Chafer, R.M. Cooper, J. Ewin, A.M. Gilmore, D. Milledge, P. Mitchell, D. Secomb
and the late F. Stephens. Dr Stephen Davies (RAOU) provided access to RAOU Atlas data,
Patricia White (RAOU librarian) and Chris Pavey provided literature, and Walter Boles,
David Mead, Dr Dean Amadon and Clem Fisher provided access to or notes on Red
Goshawk specimens in the Australian Museum, British Museum (Natural History), American
Museum of Natural History and Merseyside Museum respectively. Ian McAllan and Joan
Webb provided valuable information and comments, and spent much time tracking down
reference material, that helped unravel the details of the early specimens. thank Mitchell
Library staff for access to the Watling drawings and E.P. Ramsay’s unpublished diaries, and
Ian McAllan for facilitating this and for commenting on a draft of this paper. David Baker-
Gabb, Cindy Hull, Tom Aumann, Chris Chafer and Alan Morris also commented on various
Anon. 1962. Bird list on Mr Trevor Judge’s property at Ben Lomond. Gould League Notes 28, 11-14.
Anon. 1986. Observations. NSW Field Ornithol. Club Newsl. 93, 8.
Aumann, T. & D.J. Baker-Gabb. 1991. A management plan for the Red Goshawk. RAOU Report 75.
Baker-Gabb, D. 1988. Australia’s rarest bird of prey. GEO 10(4), 12-13.
Bartholomew, J. & K.R. Cramp. 1966. The Australasian School Atlas, 4th edn. London: Oxford
University Press.
Bennett, G. 1837. A Catalogue of the Specimens of Natural History and Miscellaneous Curiosities
Deposited in the Australian Museum. Sydney: James Tegg & Co.
Blakers, M., S.J.J.F. Davies & P.N. Reilly. 1984. The Atlas of Australian Birds. Melbourne: Melbourne
University Press.
Brickhill, T. 1991. An observation of fledgling Red Goshawks. Aust. Bird Watcher 14, 32-33.
Broinowski, G.J. 1891. The Birds of Australia, vol. 6. Melbourne: Charles Stuart & Co.
Brouwer, J. & S. Garnett. 1990. Threatened birds of Australia, an annotated list. RAOU Report 68.
Chafer, C. & A.. Morris. 1988. Unusual records – February and March. NSW Field Ornithol. Club Newsl.
106, 5-6.
Cooper, R.M. 1989. New South Wales bird report for 1985. Aust. Birds 22, 1-52.
Cooper, R.M. 1990. 1986 New South Wales bird report. Aust. Birds 23, 68-101.
Cupper, J. & L. Cupper. 1981. Hawks in Focus. Mildura: Jaclin.
Currey, J.E.B. 1966. Reflections on the Colony of New South Wales: George Caley. Melbourne:
Debus, S.J.S. 1982. Range and status of the Red Goshawk in New South Wales. Aust. Birds 16, 41-
Debus, S. 1988. Survey of the Red Goshawk in north-eastern New South Wales. Unpubl. report to
NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service.
Debus, S. 1989. Red Goshawk in New South Wales. Australasian Raptor Assoc. News 10, 4.
Debus, S.J.S. In press. The status of the Red Goshawk Erythrotriorchis radiatus in New South Wales.
In Olsen, P.D. & T. (Eds.), Proc. Australasian Raptor Assoc. 10th Anniv. Conference, Canberra
Debus, S.J.S. & G.V. Czechura. 1988a. Field identification of the Red Goshawk Erythrotriorchis radiatus.
Aust. Bird Watcher 12, 154-159.
Debus, S.J.S. & G.V. Czechura. 1988b. The Red Goshawk Erythrotriorchis radiatus a review. Aust.
Bird Watcher 12, 175-199.
Page 87 Australian Birds Vol. 24 No. 4de Schauensee, R. M. 1957. On some avian types, principally Gould’s, in the collection of the Academy.
Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Phil. 109, 123-146.
Gosper, D.G. 1986. Birds in the Richmond River district, N.S.W.,1973-1983. I. Distribution. Corella
10, 1-16.
Gould, J. 1843. The Birds of Australia, vol. 1. London the author (facsimile, Lansdowne, Melbourne
Gould, J. 1865. Handbook to the Birds of Australia, vol. 1. London: the author (facsimile, Lansdowne,
Melbourne 1972).
Gurney, J. H. 1875. Notes on “A Catalogue of the Accipitres in the British Museum” by R. Bowdler
Sharpe (1874). Ibis 5 (ser. 3), 353-370.
Hindwood, K.A. 1938. John Gould in Australia. Emu 38, 95-118.
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drawings. Proc. Roy. Zool. Soc. NSW 1968-1969, 16-32.
Hindwood, K.A. & McGill, A.R. 1958. The Birds of Sydney. Sydney: Royal Zoological Society of NSW.
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Parks & Wildlife Service.
Holmes, G. 1989. Red Goshawk courtship flight. Australasian Raptor Assoc. News 10, 74.
Karplus, E. 1989. Status of Red Goshawk in NSW. NSW Field Ornithol. Club Newsl. 112, 10.
Kaup, J.J. 1847. Monographien der Genera der Falconidae. Isis (Oken) 40(5), 325-386.
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Lindsey, T.R. 1984. New South Wales bird report for 1982. Aust. Birds 18, 37-69.
Lindsey, T.R. 1985. New South Wales bird report for 1983. Aust. Birds 19, 65-100.
Lindsey, T.R. 1986. New South Wales bird report for 1984. Aust. Birds 20, 97-132.
Mathews, G.M. 1916. The Birds of Australia, vol. 5. London: Witherby.
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June 1991 Page 88Slater, P. 1978. Rare and Vanishing Australian Birds. Adelaide: Rigby.
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23, 360-361.
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Wheeler, R. 1970. Bird notes 1969-70. Bird Observer 468, 4-8.
Whittell, H.M. 1954. The Literature of Australian Birds. Paterson Brokensha,
S.J.S. Debus, Zoology Department, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351
The Crested Hawk or Pacific Baza Aviceda subcristata occurs in Australia and New Guinea
(Blakers, Davies and Reilly 1984). The species has a near- coastal distribution in Australia,
ranging from the Kimberley Region of Western Australia to central New South Wales.
Subspecies have been recognised (eg. Condon 1975), the subspecies in New South Wales
being designated as Aviceda subcristata subcristata.
Over its range, the Crested Hawk is generally regarded as being scarce to
uncommon, particularly in the south of its range (eg. Condon 1975; Roberts 1979; Morris,
McGill and Holmes1981; Slater, Slater and Slater 1988) although it is not considered to be
threatened or endangered (Brouwer and Garnett 1990; Kennedy 1990). At the southern limit
of its range in New South Wales, the species is rare (eg. Hindwood and McGill 1958; Gibson
Page 89 Australian Birds Vol.24 No. 4In the Atlas of Australian Birds, the Crested Hawk is recorded as far south as the
Sydney area (1° grid square 34/150). The most southerly location reported appears to be
Moruya (Morris et al. 1981), although this record is not substantiated by any of the other
literature; the species is not listed in the literature for the birds of this area (E.H.N.S. 1989;
Nix and Brooker 1978; Disney 1979). Condon (1975) reported “stragglers recorded as far
south as Sydney”.
The Crested Hawk is reported as feeding mainly on invertebrates such as stick
insects, praying mantises and grubs, although frogs and lizards, and possibly small
mammals are also taken (eg. Cupper and Cupper 1981; Blakers et aL 1984). Insects are
often taken from the outer foliage of trees.
An observation of the Crested Hawk in the Illawarra district was made by the author
on 27 November 1989. The location was Macquariedale Road, which runs westwards from
the settlement of Appin, south of Campbelltown. Details of the sighting are given below.
Location: Macquariedale Road, Appin (34°10’45″S150°44’50″E)
Time/Date: 1500-1520hrs (summer time) on 27 November 1989.
Observers: Kevin Mills and Jacqueline Jakeman.
Habitat: Remnant woodland on Wianamatta Group soil, consisting of the
following tree species: Eucalyptus tereticornis, E. fibrosa, Melaleuca stypheliodes and Acacia
mearnsii. The understory was grazed and contained few shrubs. An open forest with a
dense understorey occurs in the gorge of the Nepean River, approximately 200 metres to
the west.
Notes: The bird was first observed as it flew through a tree canopy carrying a part of a tree
branch and alighted on a limb of a tree about 30 metres from the observers, It was
immediately recognised by the author as a Crested Hawk, exhibiting a characteristic crest,
a strongly barred chest and yellow eyes, The bird was later independently identified by the
second observer using the drawing in Slater et aL (1988).
The bird remained on the limb eating a very large green caterpillar that was attached
to the tree branch it was carrying. This was probably the larvae of the Emperor Gum Moth
Antheraea eucalypti. The bird flew away after about ten minutes and, after flying into the
canopy of a Forest Red Gum E. tereticomis tree nearby, it emerged with a second branch
with another large green caterpillar attached. Again, the bird stood on a limb about 20 metres
from the observers in clear view and proceeded to eat the caterpillar. After about 20 minutes
the observers left the area and the bird was not relocated on our return about an hour later.
The colouring of the bird suggested that it was a subadult, having more brown on its back
than a mature bird.
Records of the Crested Hawk in the Sydney Region were obtained from all of the
available literature, including the records of the New South Wales Field Ornithologists Club
published in Australian Birds as annual reports and from Mr. A.K. Morris, who kindly
provided records from his files and those of the Cumberland Bird Observers Club. The
records of the Crested Hawk in the vicinity of Sydney and Wollongong, where the species
is at its southern limit of distribution, are summarised in Appendix 1. The locations of all the
sightings of the Crested Hawk in the Sydney Region, as listed in Appendix 1, are shown in
Figure 1.
The records of the Crested Hawk in the Sydney Region indicate that since 1974 there
have been up to six records of the species per year, although in eight of the 17 years there
was only one or no records. There has been a steady increase in the number of birds seen
during the period although the number of sightings each year has remained similar. There
is, however, a distinct cycle in the number of annual records of the species (see Figure 2).
No. of Birds
No. of Sightings
Number of birds
or number of
sighti ngs
74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90
Figure 2: Number of Sightings end Number of Birds by Year,
the Crested Hawk in the Sydney Region.
Black bars indicate periods of lower rainfall.
The records of the Crested Hawk in the Sydney Region appear to follow a five or six
year cyde. According to the records collected, there is an increase in the number of sightings
about every five years, with few or no records in the intervening years.
The periods with a low recording rate for the Crested Hawk appear to correlate with
years of lower average rainfall, as recorded at the Observatory Hill climate station in Sydney.
Page 91 Australian Birds Vol.24 No. 4Figure I: Locations of the sightings of the Crested Hawk in the Sydney Region.
June 1991 Page 92As shown in Figure 2, there were low rainfall years between 1979 and 1982, which was a
major drought, and in 1985 and 1986, when rainfall was just above average. Therea was
a much higher rainfall in the previous and succeeding years. These periods of lower rainfall
correspond to low recording rates for the Crested Hawk in the Sydney Region. Although it
may be more difficult to identify a cause and effect mechanism, during wet periods it is more
likely for the Crested Hawk to be observed in the Sydney Region, at least over the past 17
The Crested Hawk was recorded frequently between 1987 and 1989, corresponding
to a period of very wet years since about 1987. It will be interesting to monitor the records
for the Crested Hawk in the coming years to see if the relationship between the frequency
of records and rainfall is substantiated.
The months in which the Crested Hawk was recorded, for all years, have been
summarized in Figure 3. The results indicate that there is little difference in the number of
sightings in each of the seasons, as the following figures show: summer 9 (23%); autumn
8 (20%); winter 12 (30%); spring 11 (28%). There is, however, a tendency for sightings to
be more frequent in the period from August to November, with 40% of the sightings occurring
in this four month period. This may be because the birds are more mobile prior to breeding
and are more likely to be observed, and the younger birds have left their parents so that
multiple sightings are not made (see Figure 3).
Number of 8_
birds or
sightings 6_ No. of Birds
No. of Sightings
Figure 3: Number of Sightings end Number of Birds by Month,
the Crested Hera in the Sydney Region.
Sightings of more than a single bird (multiple sightings) are more likely between
December and June. These would be the months in which young birds are in the company
Page 93 Australian Birds Vol.24 No. 4of their parents. Multiple sightings of birds have been regularly made since 1983; prior to
this, sightings were almost entirely of single birds (see Appendix). These multiple sightings
have usually been made in the Dural area to the north-west of Sydney. There has been at
least one breeding pair in the Dural area for some years although, unfortunately, there are
no nest records in the Nest Record Scheme (J. Starks, RAOU, Melbourne, pers. comm.,Nov.
The Crested Hawk is an uncommon to rare bird over its range and, in New South Wales,
is listed on Schedule 12 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (as amended) as fauna
which is “vulnerable and rare”. In the south of its range in the Sydney Region, the bird is
scarce, although in most years since 1974 there have been several records. In the last three
years there has been an increase in the number of birds observed but not in the number of
sightings. This situation is the result of the presence of at least one breeding pair in the Dural
area, so that young birds are observed in the late summer and autumn period with several
records of between three to five birds.
The Crested Hawk is probably a straggler to the Sydney Region of New South Wales,
where it is at its southernmost limit of distribution. From 1974 to 1990 there has been a cyclic
pattern in the recording rate of the species in the Sydney Region and this appears to be
correlated with rainfall; there are a few sightings in years of lower rainfall.
Crested Hawks can be observed in the Sydney Region in any month, although there
is a tendency towards more sightings in spring and more birds in late summer and autumn,
following breeding. The most likely location for sightings is to the north-west of Sydney in
the Dural area, where breeding apparently now takes place every year.
The feeding behaviour of the Crested Hawk observed by the author at Appin appears
to be very characteristic of the species as noted by other observers (eg. Readers Digest
1979; Cupper and Cupper 1981; Lord 1956).
During the preparation of this paper, another observation of the Crested Hawk was
made in the southern Sydney Region. This was at the Upper Causeway in Royal National
Park on 3 April 1991 and follows an earlier observation of the species at the same location
on 27 January 1991 (FOC Newsletter No. 124). The bird observed by the author was in a
large eucalypt emerging from a dense canopy of warm temperate rainforest. The bird was
in clear view for the time it was under observation and was about 30 metres from the
Future observations of the species in the Sydney Region, particularly in relation to
its breeding habits, will clarify the status of the species at its southern limit of distribution.
June 1991 Page 94REFERENCES
Blakers, M., Davies S.J.J.F.& P.N. Reilly, (1984) The Atlas of Australian Birds. Melbourne: RAOU.
Brouwer J. & Garnett S. (1990) (eds.) Threatened Birds of Australia, An annotated List. RAOU Report
Number 68, RAOU/ANPWS, Melbourne.
Condon, H.T. (1975) Checklist of the Birds of Australia. Part 1. Non-passerines.Melbourne: RAOU.
Cooper, R.M. (1989) NSW Bird Report for 1985. Aust. Birds 22:1-40.
Cupper, J. & L. Cupper. (1981) Hawks in Focus. Mildura: Jaclin Enterprises.
Disney, H.J.de (1979) RAOU, Pilot Atlas Scheme. Corella Vol. 2, Suppl., July.
Eurobodalla Natural History Society (1989) Nature in Eurobodalla. No.3. Annual Record for 1988.
Eurobodalla Natural History Society, Moruya, November.
Gibson, J.D. (1977) The Birds of the County of Cambden (including the Illawarra District). Aust. Birds
Hindwood, K.A. & A.R. McGill (1958) The Birds of Sydney (County of Cumberland), New South Wales.
Sydney:The Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales.
Illawarra Bird Observers Club (1989) The Birds of the County of Camden (including the Illawarra
District). Wollongong: The Illawarra Bird Observers Club.
Kennedy, M. (1990) (ed.) Australia’s Endangered Species. Brookvale: Simon & Schuster.
Lindsey, T.R. (1979) NSW Bird Report for 1978. Aust. Birds 14:1-22.
Lindsay, T.R. (1984) NSW Bird Report for 1982. Aust. Birds 18:37-69.
Lindsay, T.R. (1985) NSW Bird Report for 1983. Aust. Birds 19:65-100.
Lord, E.A.R. (1956) The Birds of the Murphys Creek District, Southern Queensland. The Emu 56:100-
Morris, A.K. (1975) The Birds of Gosford, Wyong and Newcastle (County of Northumberland). Aust.
Birds 9:37-76.
Morris, A.K., A.R. McGill & G. Holmes (1981) Handlist of Birds in New South Wales. Dubbo: NSWFOC.
National Parks and Wildlife Service (1977) The Birds of the Royal National Park.Sydney: NPWS.
Nix, H.A. & M.G. Brooker (1978) Birds, in Land Use on the South Coast of New South Wales. Vol. 2

  • Biophysical Background Papers. Canberra: CSIRO.
    Readers Digest (1979) Readers Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds. Sydney: Readers Digest.
    Roberts, G.J. (1979) The Birds of South -East Queensland. Brisbane: Queensland Conservation
    Rogers, A.E.F. (1975) NSW Bird Report for 1974. Aust. Birds 9:77-97.
    Rogers, E.A.F. (1977) NSW Bird Report for 1976. Aust. Birds 11:81-104.
    Rogers, E.A.F. & T.R. Linsey (1978) NSW Bird Report for 1977. Aust. Birds 13:1-22.
    Slater, P., Slater P. & R. Slater (1988) The Slater Guide to Australian Birds. Rigby: Dee Why West:
    Rigby Publishers.
    Kevin Mills, The Dept. of Geography, The University of Wollongong, NSW, 2500.
    Page 95 Australian Birds Vol.24 No. 4Appendix 1
    Records of the Crested Hawk in the Sydney Region, New South Wales.
    Location Date Reference
    Cordeaux River (near Wollongong) 1880 Gibson (1977)
    Pittwater (Sydney) Jul.1923 Hindwood and McGill (1958)
    Upper Causeway, Royal National Park 29 Dec.1955 Hindwood & McGill (1958); NPWS (1977)
    Thornleigh (Sydney) 27 Jul.1974 Rogers (1975)
    Murphys Glen (Blue Mountains) 23 Nov.1974 Rogers (1975)
    Thomleigh (Sydney) 24 Nov.1974 Rogers (1975)
    Beecroft (Sydney) (pair) June 1976 Rogers (1977)
    Thomleigh (Sydney) 6 Oct.1976 Rogers (1977)
    Sackville (western Sydney) 16 Oct.1976 Rogers (1977)
    Thornleigh (Sydney) 14 Jan.1977 Rogers and Lindsey (1978)
    Boronia Park, Epping (2) (Sydney) 22 Mar.1977 Rogers and Lindsey (1978)
    Thomleigh (Sydney) 20 Aug.1977 Rogers and Lindsey (1978)
    Lake Parramatta (Sydney) 8 Oct.1977 Rogers and Lindsey (1978)
    Blue Gum Creek, Springwood 8 Oct.1977 Rogers and Lindsey (1978)
    Thornleigh (Sydney) 21 Oct.1977 Rogers and Lindsey (1978)
    Thornleigh (Sydney) 29 Mar.1978 Lindsey (1979)
    West Pennant Hills (Sydney) 3 Apr.1978 Lindsey (1979)
    Thomleigh (Sydney) 31 Aug.1978 Lindsey (1979)
    Bulli Pass (2) (near Wollongong) 27 Dec.1978 Lindsey (1979); I.B.O.C. (1989)
    Appin (near Campbelltown) 24 Aug.1980 I.B.O.C. (1989)
    Oran Park (western Sydney) 9 Jul.1982 Lindsay (1984)
    Oran Park (western Sydney) 19 Jul.1982 Lindsay (1984)
    Castle Hill (western Sydney) 11 Aug.1982 Lindsay (1984)
    Bushells Lagoon (3) (western Sydney) 13 Mar.1983 Lindsay (1985)
    West Ryde (Sydney) 10 Apr.1983 Lindsay (1985)
    Cattai (2) (western Sydney) 11 Jun.1983 Lindsay (1985)
    Dural (2) (western Sydney) 22 Sep.1983 Lindsay (1985)
    Middle Dural (western Sydney) 13 Aug.1985 Cooper (1989)
    St. Ives (Sydney) 29 Jan. 1986 Cooper (1990)
    Kurmond (3) (north-western Sydney) 26 Feb.1987 A. Morris pers. comm.
    Kurmond (north-western Sydney) Jan.1988 A. Morris pers. comm.
    Beecroft (Sydney) 10 Sep.1988 A. Morris pers. comm.
    Cattai SRA (north-western Sydney) 21 Nov.1988 A. Morris pers. comm.
    Galston (3) 11 Dec.1988 A. Morris pers. comm.
    Dural (5) (north-western Sydney) 18 Feb. 1989 A. Morris pers. comm.
    Dural (5) 5 Apr.1989 A. Morris pers. comm.
    Dural (4) (north-western Sydney) 5 May 1989 A. Morris pers. comm.
    Appin (near Campbelltown) 27 Nov.1989 This paper
    Dural (2) (north-western Sydney) 17 Feb.1990 A. Morris pers. comm.
    Dural (3) 19 Mar. 1990 A. Morris pers. comm.
    Dural (5) 3 Jun.1990 A. Morris pers. comet.
    June 1991 Page 96BOOK REVIEW
    BEGINNERS GUIDE TO AUSTRALIAN BIRDS by Rosemary Balmford, 1990. Published
    by Penglun Books Australia, Ringwood, Victoria. 268 pages, line drawings by Rhyllis
    Plant. Price $15.00 at most booksellers.
    had not read the previous book that Rosemary had written on these lines but it gave me
    a lot of pleasureto read this volume, even though my beginner’s days are somewhat distant.
    When read it realised how privileged beginners are now, both in number of experienced
    I I
    mentors and particulary in having available to them this book. Reading through, you come
    upon passages the gist of which is something that took you years to learn by trial and error.
    It is possibly a misnomerto title the book as a “beginners’ guide” as all experienced
    birdwatchers could benefit from reading it because, despite the level of experience, there
    is always something for them to find out about birds and this book covers probably every
    facet of ornithology. The book deals with the selection of optical and camera equipment. The
    chapter on this is very enlightening for a beginner to decide upon what type of binoculars
    or camera to buy. Perhaps the author should have suggested that beginners should not
    indulge in too expensive a set of binoculars at the outset in case they do not go on with the
    pursuit but suppose this is a negative attitude which would be foreign to the whole tenor
    of the book.
    In the identification of groups Rosemary Balmford has very succinctly set out
    methods of classification which must be of tremendous assistance to the new chum in the
    state of confusion that can ensue in the early days of birdwatching. With some species it is
    not unknown for this state of confusion to persist through many years of birdwatching. like
    her chapter on attraction of birds with the warning of not making them too tame and
    consequently likely to suffer predation by both humans and cats. The book even deals with
    the equipment needed for expeditions and holidays and particulary liked her description
    of a four wheel drive as being a vechile which enables you to penetrate further before
    becoming bogged.
    The first part of the book deals in the generalities of birdwatching but in the latter
    part the author goes on to more advanced pursuits of banding and marking, counting,
    projects, classifications and some of the more esoteric aspects of ornithology.
    One of the most pleasing features of the book is tyhe way each chapter is
    introduced with a poem relating to birds by Australian poets. The exception is the chapter
    on expeditions and holidays where a stanza of “Clancy of the Overflow” is most appropriate.
    Naturally the book has some very minor inaccuracies but it would be curlish to detract from
    Page 97 Australian Birds Vol.24 No. 4the book’s excellence by listing these. However, the author would get some argument about
    lyrebirds being found only in mountain forests of the south-east from the residents of Pearl
    Beach on the New South Wales Central Coast whose native gardens are regularly
    devastated by the resident lyrebirds.
    This is a book not only for beginners but one that all of us should read.
    J. Francis.
    AUSTRALIAN WATERBIRDS: A Field Guide, by Richard Kingsford 1991. Published
    by Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst, NSW, printed in Singapore by Global Com. Pty Ltd.
    Sponsored by BP Australia. 128 pages, 90 colour photographs, numerous maps and
    diagrams. $14.95 from booksellers.
    Dr. Kingsford, a research biologist for the NSW NPWS, has produced a compact
    (1cm thick) paperback which would perhaps be more accurately described as a photographic
    guide rather than a field guide to waterbirds.
    The format is clear and attractive with two birds to a page with a single photo of each
    on the facing page. The photos are surrounded by pictorial representations of habitat and
    food and the text is accompanied by a size scale, distribution map, breeding clock and box
    with differences between males and females.
    Its value as a field guide, however, is limited by the single photo of each species and
    although for the most part these are of the highest quality, would defy anyone to identify
    the Black -tailed Godwit from the dark long shot of a group of four. The Bar -tailed Godwit is
    not in the book and is amongst those specifically excluded in Appendix as “Species seldom
    found inland”. Also excluded are vagrants such as the Yellow Bittern and Northern Shovler.
    Appendix II lists organisations and societies, Appendix Ill, scientific and natural history
    journals and Appendix IV is a most useful guide to where waterbirds may be seen in
    Australia, state by state and with distances to the nearest town.
    Apart from the limitations imposed by the single photographic illustration of each
    species, this would be a useful guide for those developing an interest in waterbirds as it gives
    much information as to how and where to look, equipment and interesting conservation
    June 1991 Page 98notes. However, find the grouping of birds irritating in that, for example, there are 14 pages
    between Straw -necked Ibis and Sacred and a further 40 pages to the Glossy. Ducks are in
    three groups with 27 pages between the first two groups and another six pages to the third.
    Eight pages seperate Whiskered Tern from Gull -billed and Caspian, etc, requiring constant
    reference to the index
    The book has little value for long term or experienced bird watchers but could be a
    worthwhile gift for a beginner.
    Barbara Harvey.
    Page 99 Australian Birds Vol.24 No. 4NOTICE TO CONTRIBUTORS
    Contributors are requested to observe the following points when submitting articles and
    notes for publication.
  1. Species, names, and the order in which they occur are to be in accordance with “Handlist
    of Birds in New South Wales”. A.K. Morris, A.R. McGill and G. Holmes 1981 Dubbo:
  2. Articles or notes should be type written if possible and submitted in duplicate. Double
    spacing is required.
  3. Margins of not less :han 25mm width at the left hand side and top, with similar or slightly
    smaller at the right hand side of pages.
  4. No underlinings and no abbreviations except as shown in the examples.
  5. Photographs should be glossy finish and not too small.
  6. The Style Manual, CommonwealthGovernment Printing Office, Canberra (1966) and
    subsequent editions will be the guide for this Journal.
  7. Diagrams should be on plain white paper drawn with india ink. Any lettering is to be
    ‘professional style’ or lightly pencilled.
  8. Dates must be written “1 January 1990” except in tables and figures where they may be
  9. The 24 hour clock will be used, times being written 06:30, 18:30 for 6:30am and 6:30pm
  10. Mr, Mrs, Dr are not to be followed by a full stop.
  11. In text, numbers one to ten are spelt; numbers of five figures or more should be grouped
    in threes and spaced by a thin gap. Commas should not be used as thousands markers.
  12. References to other articles should be shown in the text – ‘…B.W. Finch and M.D. Bruce
    (1974) stated…’ and under heading
    Finch, B.W. and M.D. Bruce 1974 The Status of the Blue Petrel in Australian Waters Aust.
    Birds 9, 32-35
  13. Acknowledgements to other individuals should include Christian names or initials.Volume 24, No.4 June 1991
    Debus S.J.S. An annotated list of NSW records of the Red Goshawk. 72
    Mills K. An analysis of the records of the Crested Hawk in the
    Sydney region and an observation of the species at Appin. 89
    Francis J. Book Review: Beginners Guide to Australian Birds 97
    Harvey B. Book Review: Australian Waterbirds 98
    Registered by Australia Post – Publication No. NBH0790
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