Vol. 16 No. 4-text

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Journal of the
Vol. 16 No. 4 June, 1982

ISSN 0311-8150

Registered by Australia Post Publication No. NBH0790THE N.S.W. FIELD ORNITHOLOGISTS CLUB
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Vol. 16 No. 4 June, 1982
From 1972-74 a study was made of the Grey Butcherbird Cracticus torquatus at South
Turramurra NSW (Larkins 1979, 1980). It was originally intended to use colour bands to ident-
ify the individuals of the pair holding the study territory, but one bird had a tuft of disarranged
flank feathers which quickly identified it, particularly when the bird appeared in silhouette.
This bird could often be recognized without the need for binoculars and its behaviour during
courtship established it as the male bird. In listening to the pair calling it was realised that some
of the calls could be written down in musical notation. This was done quickly in the field and
the transcribed musical notes of the butcherbirds’ contact calls showed that male and female
uttered individual motifs that allowed the birds to be recognized by their sex even when they
were out of sight. Hooker and Hooker (1969) used the same method to study antiphonal
singing in Tropical Bou-bou Shrikes Laniarius aethiopicus.
This paper is an attempt to describe and comment on the vocalisations of the study pair.
There are difficulties in trying to define what is song and what are calls. In this paper
Thorpe’s definition (1961) has been taken as a guideline: “Song is primarily under the control
of sex hormones and is in general concerned with the reproductive cycle … It is thus a form of
sexual display. Call notes . . . are concerned with the co-ordination of the behaviour of other
members of the species. “Some sounds have been classed as calls because of their very quiet
nature, although as they appear during breeding they are probably under the control of

  1. SONG
    The first indication of breeding was the increased intensity of the pair bond. This was
    evident when the male and female birds began to share a perching tree at night (fig. 1). Each
    morning about first light the Turramurra pair offered specific calls from their night roosts as54 AUSTRALIAN BIRDS (16) 4
    first sound for the day, and it was observed that while at the winter solstice they were not
    sharing a night perch, they came to roost in the same tree early in July. In 1973 breeding song
    was first heard on 25 July, eleven days after the birds came to share a roosting tree at night.
    There was a brief interval between the first specific call for the day and the notes of
    breeding song. This is partly explained by the male having to make his way from the night
    perch to the singing tree (fig 1). The singing tree grew in a backyard, across a road from the rest
    of the territory (Larkins 1979), far removed from the roosting tree on the east side of the
    The breeding song has a tonal quality superior to all other butcherbird sounds. It was very
    difficult to be sure the singer was only the male bird. This was because these early morning
    observations were made between first light and sunrise in the forest, and the bird had to be
    tracked when it left the roosting tree and moved through the trees to take up its perch in the
    rather inconveniently placed singing tree in a backyard. It was possible to approach the singing
    tree by walking down a right-of-way. This approach was supervised by several householders’
    dogs which were very alert so it was decided to watch for the return of the singer by waiting
    in the clear space at the edge of the road. When it was possible to identify the birds by male/
    female calls, it was found to be the male bird that returned from the singing tree to rejoin the
    female waiting in the bush.
    Breeding song is produced very softy at first. Each morning it becomes louder, consisting
    of two principal phrases, used alternately and repeated many times. Day by day the period of
    singing lengthens, and the intensity of the sound increases until the song lasts for about twenty
    minutes. Then the sound gradually diminishes in quality and volume until cessation early in
    Sometimes from near the singing tree it was possible to hear the breeding song uttered by
    the butcherbird in the adjoining territory, and the singers would almost certainly hear one
    another. Once, after the male in the study territory had rejoined the female from his singing
    tree, I was able to locate them immediately in the tree fork where they later built a nest. This
    led to the conclusion that in addition to being a form of sexual display and an advertisement of
    territory, breeding song may stimulate the female to choose a nest site, perhaps while the song
    is being uttered. The lack of light so early in the morning made it impossible to establish this
    Autumn “breeding song”, sung during the day from a high tree (not the singing tree),
    and produced at low volume, has been noted in the study territory and elsewhere. Possibly this
    has led to the claim that butcherbirds call best in the autumn. Nice (1943) quotes Tinbergen
    (1939) in stating “with some species at least, autumn singing is regularly accompained by
    testis development. This development nearly always regresses before full maturity is reached,
    but some individuals actually begin a new reproductive cycle”. This may explain an observat-
    ion of out of season breeding by Grey Butcherbirds in North (1906).
    The territory is held all the year, being fiercely defended in the breeding season when
    advertising song is produced. In the 1972 season, when it was positively established the birds
    were a new pair (Larkins 1979) the territorial boundaries were advertised by both birds and this
    made it possible to map the territory and calculate its area at 4.5 ha. It was notable that this
    boundary advertising did not take place to the same extent in 1973-74, when it was looked for
    as an indication that breeding was underway. In fact, the sharing of the roosting tree was a
    more reliable indication that breeding had commenced than the evidence of territorial posting.
    The territorial boundaries are advertised by both the male and female singing their in-
    dividual motifs alternately from a high tree. The production of the phrases proceeding so quick-
    ly that it is easy to mistake the total sound as having been produced by one bird. This alternat-
    ion of sound between the pair is sometimes referred to as “antiphonal” singing or “duetting”.
    Thorpe (1972) surveys the literature on duetting and antiphonal song, notes there are 32 orJune, 1982 55
    more families in which it is known to occur. He classifies four types of duet singing, and of
    these the study pair of Grey Butcherbirds practise that known as “antiphonal” where the
    phrases of each bird alternate and do not overlap or occur in unison.
    The advertising or antiphonal singing of Grey Butcherbirds is made up of contact calls
    sung very loudly and may include, or commence with, the specific call sung by either bird.
    Advertising is mostly offered when both birds are perched at the top of a high tree. One bird
    may initiate singing when the partner has food in its beak. The instinct to join in the singing
    causes the second bird to respond to the first phrase by singing “with its mouth full”. Examples
    of phrases used in combination as advertising or antiphonal singing at Turramurra are tabled
    (fig. 2). Those without a knowledge of musical notation should follow the patterns of the notes
    to recognize differences between the calls.
    The motifs of individual birds vary very slightly from one territory to another. E. Wre-
    ford Chandler (1971) has described this, and Cobb, then Government Pathologist in the NSW
    Department of Agriculture, says (1897): “Witness the comic responsive duet of the Australian
    Butcherbird and his wife. Says he, ‘What do you drink when you go on a d ru nk ?’ ‘Water, water,’
    invariably responds his wife, with an ironical and very comical upward inflection. ‘Oi’ll tell
    yer father,’ says he in a rich brogue, upon which she calls for ‘Quarter, quarter.”‘
    The imagination would have to be stretched to interpret the Turramurra birds’ vocalisat-
    ions in such a way! In fact, because of variation in dialect, a knowledge of the male/female
    songs in one territory does not mean that male and female will be immediately recognized by
    their song motifs in every location. A study of the sound patterns used by each pair of birds is
    necessary for this.
    This term is used here to describe both “whisper song” and “sub -song”.
    There is considerable literature on this subject and the various definitions and explanat-
    ions for the phenomenon are rather confusing. Briefly, quiet singing refers to songs that are
    sung at less than normal volume, when the singer is relaxed.
    Quiet songs are sung by both adult and immature Grey Butcherbirds, but there is a dis-
    tinction between the phrases offered by adult and immature birds. Adult birds at Turramurra
    sang quiet songs from low branches after the young had left the nest, or after failed nests were
    not followed by new clutches. Both male and female adults sang these quiet notes, heard at
    intervals from the end of one breeding season until the beginning of the nest, but more often
    in late summer and early autumn. In quiet singing adult birds alternated Grey Butcherbird
    calls with imitations of the calls of other birds in the territory. Although they included Crimson
    Rosellas Platycercus elegans and Eastern Rosellas P. eximius, Sulphur -crested Cockatoos
    Cacatua galerita and Galahs C. roseicapilla were left out. Very occasionally a species not in the
    study area was imitated. This can perhaps be explained by the calls of these birds sometimes
    carrying from neighbouring bush very clearly on cold mornings, or by the butcherbirds having
    heard the calls during periods of juvenile wandering.
    By the middle of March the adult male of the study pair included motifs from the
    breeding song in his quiet singing. These were sung more loudly than the rest of the notes but
    not as loudly as the same song at the height of breeding. Very rarely a few notes burst out at
    breeding song volume. This only happened for about two weeks either side of the autumn
    Immature birds observed in quiet song did not imitate other birds. These were young
    birds still unskilled when calling at normal volume, their notes having poorer tonal quality than
    adult sounds. Once an immature bird in quiet song introduced part of a breeding song.
    Grey Butcherbirds are relaxed in quiet singing. The adult birds were noticed to prefer a
    low sheltered branch, the feathers were ungroomed (fluffed), and this supports Chisolm’sAUSTRALIAN BIRDS (16) 4
    FIGURE 1.
    Key. 6. Re -nest 1972

Boundary of territory 3. Singing tree each year 7. Nest 1973

  1. Roosting tree 1972 4. Autumn singing tree each year 8. Nest 1974
  2. Roosting tree 1973-4 5. Original nest 1972 Hatched areas are residentialJune, 1982
    view (1946) that a bird may be gaining some pleasure from its own singing. Certainly Harts-
    horne (1958) thought “Avian singing in this fashion has some analogy to a human musical
    performances, in which the performer amuses himself”, and he later comments on our dread of
    anthropomorphism, although, “we believe . . . that man is a further development of tendancies
    found also in lower orders”.
  3. CAL LS
    This is the first sound for the day, uttered from the night perch. The study birds also
    used the specific call with a slight variation, adding some gusto to the song, and sometimes
    included it as one of the advertising motifs. The specific call is too complex to transcribe into
    musical notation, but this is the call by which we can immediately recognize the Grey Butcher –
    bird, irrespective of regional variations in dialects. It is often the last call of the day.
    These are the same song patterns used in combination to make up advertising song, but
    the notes are sung with less volume and tempo when used as contact calls. The cryptic nature of
    Grey Butcherbirds and the dry sclerophyll habitat they prefer, with its underlayer of shrubs,
    results in the need for the species to communicate with calls to say, “Here I am” and “Where are
    you?” The contact call seems to have no other function than this.
    While the range of contact calls introduced as advertising is limited to a few phrases,
    contact calls also include a range of more conversational phrases which are not easy to repro-
    duce as musical notation.
    These are loud harsh sounds delivered by either bird to both mammalian and avian
    intruders that venture to close to the nest. Sulphur -crested Cockatoos, Laughing Kookaburra
    Dacelo novaeguineae and Australian Ravens Corvus coronoides are driven off by attack calls
    and aggressive flights and beak claps. During incubation and early nestling mature humans
    approaching the nest are intimidated by aerial attacks with harsh calls and beak clapping. The
    intensity of the attack wanes after several fly-pasts, or after a direct hit.
    i. Overhead alarms.
    Although the study birds reacted with spirited Advertising Song to neighbouring
    Grey Butcherbirds that came close to the territorial boundaries along Kissing Pt. Rd. (fig. 1),
    no alarms to overhead predators were noted. Other species in the territory, in particular Noisy
    Miners Manorina melanocephala reacted most urgently to Peregrine Falcons Fa/co peregrinus
    which are seen from time to time along the Lane Cove River Valley. The butcherbirds reacted
    to these alarms by turning their heads to a lateral position to better view the Peregrines. Once
    the male, feeding in an open position, looked at a Peregrine in this way and then silently flew
    to shelter in a thick bush. Another time, the female, brooding, put her head into the lateral
    position to inspect a Peregrine overhead, but stayed on the nest. She also looked at aircraft on
    the approach to Sydney Airport in the same way.
    ii. Ground alarms.
    Ground alarms or “Querks” signal a cat or a goanna, or may indicate a possum o. an
    owl in a tree hollow. They may be very persistent and annoying.
    During nest building there was little sound production late in the day, but some low,
    almost inaudible warbles, with preening, shaking of plumage and beak wiping, were noticed
    immediately before the birds’ inspection of the roost. Both male and female made these soft
    calls. This behaviour was noted during nest building only in 1972 when the,newly formed pair
    chose a low night perch near the nest site. The behaviour could occur in seasons when a high
    night perch is used, but it is not easy to see in failing light and was only recorded near the low
    night roost in the first behaviour of the pair varied from that of the first year and the male
    butcherbird did not pay so much attention to his mate after 1972 when the pair was first
    formed. Some aspects of this will be discussed in a later paper.58 AUSTRALIAN BIRDS (16) 4
    Figure 2
    Examples of advertising song and contact calls between a pair of Grey Butcherbirds, Turra-
    murra NSW.
  4. Advertising led by female using specific call.
  5. A common advertising exchange led by male.
  6. Contact calls as female leaves nest to wedge a mouse skull that the pair have stored in a tree.
  7. Male to female who is brooding.
    During courtship display the female adopts a supplicating attitude, standing on the
    ground with wings raised but slight drooped and quivering. She may beg softly to be fed by the
    male, or the begging calls may be loud and intense, the sound then being similar to the food
    begging calls of young birds. Food begging calls are also made by the female during brooding,
    when she is fed on the nest by the male.
    These were noted only in 1972 on the day nest building was completed. After the
    first specific calls for the day, the pair flew down from the night perch into the understory of
    fern, pea bush and wattle. Subdued chuckling sounds were heard but the nature of the under –
    story prevented any observation of behaviour. This behaviour did not appear to relate to co-
    pulation which took place after intensive courtship displays of food begging and aerial chases.June, 1982 59
    Adults bringing food to very young nestlings may croon very softly to the young. As
    nestlings mature their own food begging calls are audible to the observer and are similar to
    those of young Australian Magpies Gymnorhina tibicen.
    Although North (1906), Keast (1965) and Pizzey (1981) make a slight distinction bet-
    ween the plumage of adult male and female Grey Butcherbirds, the sexes are difficult to seper-
    ate by plumage in the field. A close knowledge of the sounds produced by a pair of birds,
    facilitates the study of the species. There are variations in dialect and a knowledge of calls in
    each territory is therefore needed to distinguish the sexes aurally.
    There was evidence that territorial positing, or advertising, by a newly established pair
    There was evidence that territorial posting, or advertising, by a newly established pair
    was more intense in the first year; in 1973-4 some aspects of behaviour varied from the first
    observations of the newly paired birds in 1972, and these will be discussed in a later paper.
    A number of people kindly assisted during the three years of this study, and these have
    been acknowledged in my initial paper. In addition, Prof. W.H. Thorpe of Cambridge University
    wrote to me at long length on the subject of antiphonal singing, and generously sent a list of
    references including that N.A. Cobb (1897). For this I was very grateful.
    Wreford-Chandler, E. 1971 Grey Butcherbird Dialects. Bird Observer 472,7.
    Chisholm, A.H. 1946 Letter to Editor. Emu 45, 253-255.
    Cobb, N.A. 1897 The Sheep Fluke. Agriculture Gazette of NSW, p453.
    Hartshorne, C. 1958 Bird Song and Music. Ibis 110, 421-445.
    Hooker T. & B.J. Hooker 1969 Duetting. In Bird Vocalisation, Ed. R.A. Hinde.
    (Essays presented to W.H. Thorpe). Cambridge University Press.
    Keast, A. 1965 Some Bush Birds of Australia. Brisbane Jacaranda Press.
    L -a -rk ins, D. 1979 Shading and Sunning in the Grey Butcherbird. Aust. Birds 13, 43-46.
    1980 Shading and evidence for other involuntary behaviour in Grey Butcherbirds Aust Birds 14,
    Nice, M.M. 1943 Studies in the Life History of the Song Sarrow II; The Behaviour of the Song Sparrow and
    other Passerines. Trans. Linn. Soc., N.Y. 6, 1-329.
    North, A.J. 1906 Nests and Eggs of birds found breeding in Australia and Tasmania 2, 2-12. Sydney Aust-
    ralian Museum.
    Pizzey. G, 1981 A Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Sydney Collins.
    R- o -b inson, A. 1946 Leiter to the Editor. Emu 45, 335-336.
    1949 Biological Significanes of Bird Song. Emu 48, 291-314.
    Tinbergen, N. 1939 The Behaviour of the Snow Bunting in spring. Trans. Linn. Soc., N.Y. 5, 1-95.
    T -h -or pe, W.H. 1961 Bird -Song. Monograph in Experimental Biology No. 12. Cambridge.
    1972 Duetting and Antiphonal Song in Birds. Behaviour (Suppl) 18, 1-7.60 AUSTRALIAN BIRDS (16) 4
    S.J.S. DEBUS
    Recorded fluctuations in numbers of birds at a given locality can provide evidence of
    movement into or out of the area. This is true of raptors, which lend themselves well to this
    sort of investigation. The following analysis is based mainly on the personal records of other
    Cumberland Bird Observers Club members and a few of my own. The area covered is roughly
    the County of Cumberland, comprising mainly the Sydney urban area and hinterland and the
    Hawkesbury Swamps. The period covered is 1968-1980, and the data obtained are tallies of
    sightings. Such counts can also indicate the relative abundance of species, allowing for
    difference in habits and conspicuousness.
    Observers simply noted the date, locality and number of birds seen during bird watching
    activities or in casual observation. The total number of sightings for each species in each season
    was obtained, by pooling the seasonal figures for each year. One record is taken as one
    individual seen on one day. A systematic approach amenable to statistical analysis was not
    possible because of the nature of the data. The figures are necessarily rough and illustrate trends
    Table I shows the seasonal tallies for the more frequently seen species (those with few
    records have been omitted). There may be inherent bias in the results. It is common knowledge
    among local bird watchers that autumn and winter is the best time to see raptors, therefore
    observers may be looking especially for raptors at this time. However bird watching effort is
    probably fairly constant through the year.
    The results suggest a marked influx into the area during the cooler months, and departure
    in spring, of the Black -shouldered Kite, Whistling Kite, Swamp Harrier, Brown Goshawk, Little
    Eagle, Australian Kestrel and Brown Falcon. For many of these, the number of sightings varies
    by a factor of two or three (or more) over the seasons. Sea -Eagle numbers appear fairly con-
    stant, suggesting that this species is resident. Figures for the remaining species are inconclusive,
    but most suggest a minor increase during the non -breeding months. The Collared Sparrowhawk
    appears to leave the area for the winter, following a peak in numbers in autumn (possible
    passage at this time?). The results also suggest that the most abundant raptor species in the
    Sydney area are (in order) Black -shouldered Kite, Kestrel, Brown Goshawk and Brown Falcon.
    The value of such analyses is greatly increased if the data are gathered in a systematic
    way. It is desirable for the number of sightings to be correlated with a standard measure of
    recording effort, e.g. observation time or distance travelled. A standard approach deserving wide
    adoption is that suggested by Baker-Gabb (1981 Aust. Raptor Assoc. News 2 (1), 78): measur-
    ed route (e.g. about 50 km) should be travelled regularly (say once a month) at a speed of not
    more than 50 km per hour, and all raptors (or other species) seen are recorded, noting age and
    sex where possible. Travel should begin by 08:00, and be undertaken on calm, rain -free days.
    Results can be expressed as km per bird, thus enabling direct comparison between seasons,
    years and different localities. If pursued for years, such regular surveys may also reveal long-
    term trends in population levels. This is becoming increasingly important as raptor populations
    face various threats to their existence.June,1982
    TABLE I.
    Number of raptor observations in the Sydney region 1968-1980, by season.
    Species Summer Autumn Winter Spring
    Black -shouldered Kite
    Elan us notatus 156 302 496 234
    Whistling Kite
    Haliastur sphenurus 27 87 68 19
    White -bellied Sea -Eagle
    Haliaeetus leucogaster 40 40 51 47
    Swamp Harrier
    Circus approximans 14 28 36 12
    Collared Sparrowhawk
    Accipiter cirrhocephalus 14 16 4 6
    Brown Goshawk
    A. fasciatus 44 123 107 42
    Grey Goshawk
    A. novaehollandiae 2 3 8 2
    Wedge-tailed Eagle
    Aquial audax 10 10 9 7
    Little Eagle
    Hieraaetus morphnoides 20 23 25 12
    Australian Kestrel
    Falco cenchroides 125 155 345 131
    Brown Falcon
    F. berigora 28 82 174 36
    Australian Hobby
    F. longipennis 50 50 37 29
    Peregrine Falcon
    F. peregrinus 11 13 16 9
    I am most grateful to Athol Colemane for supplying his voluminous records and those of
    others. This paper would not have been written but for his desire to make use of the data.
    Thanks are also due to the many other CBOC members who submitted their records. Ms S.
    Spence typed the manuscript.
    STEPHEN J.S. DEBUS, P.O. Box 1015, Armidale. N.S. W. 2350AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 116) 4
    The Olive -backed Oriole Oriolus sagittatus is generally recognised as a mimic of other
    bird’s calls (Frith 1976, Chisholm 1948). Despsite this, the performance of an adult bird at
    Iluka on 3 August 1980 was rather astounding. It imitated 13 calls that were easily identified as
    well as two or three that could not be definitely identified. The call of the White -eared Monach
    Monarcha leucotis was thought to be one of the latter. The Oriole interspersed its mimickry
    with bursts of its own call. The bird calls imitated were those of the following: Yellow -tailed
    Black -Cockatoo Ca/yptorhynchus funereus (which does not occur at Iluka), Grey Butcherbird
    Cracticus torquatus, Noisy Miner Manorina melanocephala, Eastern Rosella Platycercus eximius
    (two calling at once!), Scaly -breasted Lorikeet Trichog/ossus choro/epidotus, Lewin’s Honey-
    eater Meliphaga lewinii, Grey Shrike -thrush Colluricincla harmonica, White-cheeked Honeyeater
    Phylidonyrii nigra, Figbird Spheotheres viridis, Little Wattlebird Anthochaera chrysoptera,
    Rufous Whistler Pachycepha/a rufiventris, Eastern Whipbird Psophodes olivaceus, and Black –
    faced Cuckoo -shrike Coracina novaehollandiae.
    From May 1979 to June 1981 individual Orioles were observed at South Grafton where
    they were heard to imitate up to four other species of birds at any one time. The calls mimick-
    ed were those of the Black -faced Cuckooshrike, Blue -faced Honeyeater Entomyzon cyanotis
    (a favourite), Noisy Miner, Rufous Whistler, Whistling Kite Haliastur sphenurus, Grey Butcher –
    bird, Australian King Parrot Alisterus scapu/aris, White -throated Honeyeater Melithreptus
    albogularis and Pied Butcherbird Cracticus nigrogularis.
    Alec Chisholm (1946) asked about the Oriole “Is mimickry constant among birds of this
    species? The indications are that it is not, for several observers who know the species well have
    failed to detect imitations in its calls. Sound evidence regarding the Oriole’s mimetic ability,
    however, has been given by a number of ornithologists, notably P.A. Gilbert, who records hav-
    ing heard an individual bird in springtime using the notes of nine forest -dwelling species, in-
    cluding the migratory Koel Cuckoo. E.A.R. Lord’s remark on the species is that he has heard
    it render 27 separate calls (other than its own), all being used in a ‘running whisper -song’. Ellis
    McNamara, too, has a high opinion of the Oriole’s skill as a springtime mimic. He tells me that
    he regards it as ranking next to the Lyrebird and Heath -Wren among the mockers of his
    The Spangled Drongo Dicrurus hottentottus is not mentioned by Frith (1976) or Slater
    (1974) as a mimic however Chisholm (1948) includes the species as an occasional mimic. On
    21 April 1978 a Spangled Drongo landed on a television antenna at South Grafton and began to
    mimic the Blue -faced Honeyeater. At Iluka on 29 July 1979 a Drongo was mimicking the Noisy
    Miner, Blue -faced Honeyeater and Little Wattlebird. On 5 August 1980 a Drongo at Grafton
    was heard to imitate the calls of the Pied Butcherbird and Australian Magpie Gymnorhina
    tibicen. They were mimicked so effectively that it was thought that a Pied Butcherbird was
    actually present until a closer inspection revealed that the calls were coming from the Drongo.
    Alec Chisholm (1946) states “I have heard a Drongo imitate cleverly the cry of a Goshawk, and
    a resident of tropical Queensland actually has credited the bird with using the call of a Butcher –
    bird in order to cause a Magpie -lark to drop the food it was carrying.”June, 1982
    I would like to acknowledge the assistance of A.R. McGill and A.K. Morris who provided
    the references to earlier mimickry by these species.
    Frith H.J. (ED.) 1976. Readers Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds. Surry Hills N.S.W.: Readers Digest
    Services Pty. Ltd.
    Chisholm (1946) Nature’s Linguists. Melbourne: Brown, Prior, Anderson Pty. Ltd.
    Chisholm (1948) Bird Wonders of Australia. Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
    Slater P. (1974) A Field Guide to Australian Birds -Passerines. Adelaide: Rigby Ltd.
    GREG. P. CLANCY, 79 Breimba Street, Grafton. N.S.W. 2460.64 AUSTRALIAN BIRDS (16) 4
    At 0915 hours on 21 March 1981 a large raptor was observed soaring over the eastern
    edge of the Iluka township situated near to the mouth of the Clarence River. At first glance the
    bird appeared to be about the size of a White -bellied Sea Eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster, but
    would have been slightly smaller. It glided in a westerly direction which allowed its shape and
    colour to be seen more clearly. The short squared tail, the broad -fingered wings, the prominent
    black streaking on the breast and the most obvious character, the broad white “bullseyes” in
    the wings were all apparent. It was identified as a Black -breasted Kite Hamirostra melanoster-
    non. Its general colour was noticeably darker than the illustration in P. Slater (1970 Field
    Guide to Australian Birds, 1. Non -Passerines) of the light phase Buzzard but was nowhere near
    as dark as the dark phase. As it glided westward it held its wings in a flat position but as it
    turned and flew north-east, into the wind, the wings were held in a shallow “V” shape.
    One of the observers (J.H.Y.) has had extensive experience with the species in Queensland
    and both observers are very familiar with all the other large kite and eagles. At the time of the
    observation much of New South Wales was in the grip of a severe drought which may have
    accounted for the presence of this Kite well east of its usual range.
    GREG. P. CLANCY, 79 Breimba Street, Grafton. N.S.W. 2460.
    JOHN H. YOUNG, c/- Glen Haven, RA48 443A Walcha 2354.
    On 16 January 1982 when camped alone at Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve, 34km north-
    east of Mudgee on the Wollar Road, a small flock of Spine -tailed Swifts Hirundapus caudacutus
    was observed. There were about 20+ birds present at dusk, and as the sky grew darker, the birds
    flew lower and lower, concentrating on a group of trees around the edge of a roadway and clear-
    ing. Gradually the number of birds dwindled until only one could be seen. At last light (20:29
    hours), one bird flew low over the ground, passing over me at a height of two metres above my
    head. The bird swept up vertically and landed one metre from the top of a Rough -barked Appie
    Angophora floribunda sapling.
    The Swift landed on the outer leaves with enough force to rock the limb and clung
    vertically to the leaves as if it was roosting until 20:33 hours when it took off and flew across
    the clearing to other trees. I did not see the bird land a second time. No more swifts were ob-
    served flying after that time although darkness did not set in until 20:50 hours. This is the
    second occasion that I have observed Spine -tailed Swifts landing on a tree. The first occasion
    was near Macksville on 5 January 1980, see T. Quested (1980 Aust. Birds, 15,52) when one
    was observed to land in a tree and feed.
    T. QUESTED, 44/23 Taranto Road, Marsfield, N.S.W. 2122.June, 1982 65
    During the morning (08:00 hr) 12 July 1980, two Crimson Rosellas Platycereus elegans
    were observed in a patch of dry sclerophyll forest near Waterfall in the Royal National Park
    Sydney. Both rosellas were removing leaves from a bloodwood Eucalyptus gummifera by
    grasping a leaf with one foot and biting through the leaf stem just above the petiole. Still hold-
    ing the leaf with the foot, each bird would draw the leaf along between the mandibules licking
    the moisture from the leaf surfaces. When finished the leaves were dropped to the ground. Each
    parrot “processed” about four to five leaves per minute for approximately eight and a half
    minutes before being startled and flying off.
    This behaviour has two obvious advantages: 1. It reduces the risk of predation since there is
    less need to land on the ground to drink from surface water. 2. There is an overall reduction in
    energy expenditure. Having both food (e.g. gum nuts) and water (dew) available in the same
    patch means there is no need to search for water sources. The dry winter and the absence of
    surface water from the ridge area could have been an added incentive for the rosellas to utilise
    this alternative water supply.

D.C. McFARLAND, Zoology Department, University of New England, Armidale N.S.W. 2351.

On 4 July 1980 a sub -adult Chestnut -breasted Mannikin Lonchura castaneothorax was
found freshly killed on the road at Lower Southgate, north of Grafton. It was partly squashed
and its crop, which was full of grass seeds, had been exposed. A number of seeds were collected
and forwarded to the Department of Agriculture’s Seeds laboratory in Sydney via Mr. J. Betts
the District Agronomist.
The seeds were identified as ‘Caryopses of Gramineae possibly Panicum species.’
On 4 January 1981 an immature Forest Kingfisher Halcyon macleayii was observed perch-
ed on electricity wires at South Grafton. It was seen to drop two small objects from its bill
and after it had flown away a search of the ground was made. Two small regurgitated pellets
were located which contained insect remains.
The pellets were collected and forwarded to A.B. (Tony) Rose of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase Nat
ional Park for examination. He found the pellets to contain the following items.

  1. the remains of a weevil, probably Curculionidae-Aterpinae; fairly close to the Diamond
    Beetle Chryso/opus spp but not that species;
  2. other beetle remains appeared to be Scarabaeidae-Dynastinae Heteronychus aratora ‘Black
    Beetle’, an introduced pest of corn and grass.
  3. a small piece of the leg of a grasshopper (Orthoptera);
  4. the head of a small bug (Hemiptera);
  5. jaws, bone and scales of a very small skink (Reptilia-Scincidae).
    GREG. P. CLANCY, 79 Breimba Street. Grafton N.S.W. 2460.66 AUSTRALIAN BIRDS (16) 4
    On 4 October 1981 at 18.20 hours (Eastern Standard Time) at Windang, New South
    Wales, a group of 50 Silver Gulls Larus novaehol/andiae and two Kelp Gulls L. dominicanus
    were observed aerial feeding on moths.
    The moths were swarming in thousands from Windang Island (Islet) (30 degrees 33’S,
    150 degrees 53’E) towards the mainland, the sandspit of which is uncovered at mid to low tide.
    At the time of observation the tide was low.
    The mixed flock of gulls were feeding on the moths at a height of between two metres to
    50 metres in a very active manner and were seen to catch moths on the wing and eat them. A
    small number of moths was collected for identification, some from the ground on the Islet and
    others on the wing. The moths were variable in colour but not in form, and were identified by
    Miss Debbie Kent of the Australian Museum as Bogong Moths Agrotis infusa.
    Both Silver and Kelp Gulls are recorded in the literature as being omnivorous and take
    insect items when available. Identification of food items are not commonly given. J.D. Gibson
    (1979 Core//a 3, 103-104) recorded the aerial feeding of Silver Gulls on insects but did not
    identify the species. A.M. Lea and J.T. Grey (1935 Emu 34, 275-292) recorded Silver Gull,
    “crammed with numerous maggots, apparently of March flies, water beetles Nectosoma penicill-
    atum, many small water betties Philhydrus
    These observations demonstrate that both the Silver Gull and the Kelp Gull are opportun-
    istic feeders and records the species of the insect food taken.
    A.J. LEISHMAN, 7 Belford Street, Inglebum, N.S.W. 2656.June, 1982 67
    BILL ODDIE’S LITTLE BLACK BIRD BOOK by Bill Oddie, 1980, Eyre Methuen Ltd., 11
    New Fetter Lane, London. Pp. 148, B & W photographs 9, numerous full and half sketches.
    215 x 135 mm. $4.95 sterling, but paid A$12.55 by direct purchase from publisher.
    I have been a fan of Bill Oddie from way back, having watched “The Goodies”, at 6pm on ABC
    Television each week night, with my children for many years, I also happen to be an avid reader of the
    journal, “British Birds” and have been aware of an observer named W.E. Oddie being mentioned several times
    in the annual reports on Rare Birds in Great Britain and Ireland and other articles. It subsequently came as a
    complete surprise to me that my television hero and the noted observer, were one and the same person.
    therefore quickly reached for my cheque book on reading in the English bird journals that Bill Oddie had
    written a book on birdwatching and birdwatchers.
    It is- noted that the -b rief summary used to describe this book for library classification states “Bird
    Watching Great Britian Anecdotes, facetiae, satire etc”. and the book is all of this! In red across the
    black cover of the book is the statement, “The Truth about Bird -watching”, but whether the book gives one
    the truth or whether the contents are indeed the satire mentioned in the library summary, is for you to judge.
    The entertainment starts with the cover, where there is a picture of Bill Oddie, a tea cosy (well it looks
    like one anyhow) on his head, covered with the all too familiar badges of the bird watching societies. A
    strange bird (?) is perched on the top and there is a surprised look on Bill’s ruddy, hirsute fa-c e, while he
    fiercely clutches his binoculars and appears to be saying “Look, a b Pied -eyed Peaper first record
    for Great Britain and Ireland, and a lifer for me!” The cover sets the pace for the rest of the book.
    One of the “truths” in the book is all about the characteristics of the real birdwatcher. Not the fat
    portly old man with big binoculars, nor the little old lady with scarf and wellingtons that are usually portray-
    ed in cartoons and by the media, as birdwatchers, but the mean, calculating, competitive, selfish, dishonest,
    boorish, pedantic, unsentimental, arrogant and envious “twitchers” (who incidentally prefer to be called a
    “birder” rather than the derogative but possibly more accurate term “twitcher”). A number of chapters are
    devoted to discribing “twitchers” and “birders” their equipment, their method of communication, and their
    “glossary of terms.” Those people who live in the Australian Capital cities, will be familiar with the “birders”
    who locate and report upon unusual and rare birds, and who are the first people out to see a rare bird report-
    ed by someone else. Our local “birders” are very aptly described by Bill Oddie, giving us an opportunity to
    laugh at ourselves.
    It is easy to relate to, and be entertained by, Bill Oddies’ description of how the news is passed around
    about a rare bird. How the “birders”, having heard the news, plan their weekends to see the maximum num-
    ber of rare species in the two day break, by the shortest possible route! The author’s agonising over whether
    he can in all honesty claim a dead Sooty Shearwater washed up on a Norfolk beach as a “lifer” and the
    attempts he went to, to keep a Great Reedwarbler alive (alas it died) so that he could have another- “lifer”,
    are no doubt paralleled in our lives (My only Buller’s Sheatwater is a dead one on Wanda Beach a true
    “birder” cannot tick that species yet!).
    The pre -occupation that birders have with lists is dealt with in a very real way -local lists, District
    lists, State lists, National lists and World lists, all have “lifer” classifications and all are relevant to us as bird
    watchers. One can judge one’s “birder” status by comparing your lists with those discussed in the book. Bill
    Forms” for the Australian Bird Atlas Prject. Alas the “truth” is out about cover-ups and the Atlas reviewers
    of URRF’s are being much more careful of late.
    The photographs and sketches are all by the author. Black and White photographs of “twitchers” (the
    baddies) and “birders” (the goodies) dominate the photography section. They include one of 300
    “twitchers” looking at a Forster’s Tern at Falmouth (poor bird!) and a series of three showing Bill Oddie ii
    are mainly “notebook illustrations” demonstrating that Bill Oddie is not as “incompetent” in this field as the
    dust jacket claims. The illustrations add to the entertainment and the satire.
    Bill Oddie wrote his own “foreword” for the book because H.R.H. Prince Phillip or Prince Charles or
    anyone else famous, with a supposed interested in birdwatching, are claimed by the publishers to have re-
    fused to have anything to do with it. Touche!
    This is the first time that a frivolous, entertaining and highly delightful bird book has been reviewed
    in the hallowed pages (!) of “Australian Birds”, and hopefully it will not be the last. In the words of Bill
    Oddie, it is a “lifer”. I recommend the book to all birdwatchers because the satirical and funny stories, are
    not only entertaining, but also provide the opportunity to reflect upon the honesty and responsibility of
    one’s own birdwatching activities.
    stone, illustrated by Martin Thompson, 1979. Perth: Frank Daniels for the Western Australian
    Museum. Pp 211, col. p11.38, b & w p11.2. $19.95.
    Ornithologists and bird watchers in Western Australian have long been fortunate in having available
    one of the standards of Australian ornithology, Serventy and Whittell’s “Birds of Western Australia”. Now
    with the publication of their own field guide, it would appear that our colleagues in the west are continuing
    to show us the way. The new work is attractively presented and the decision to grace the cover with a mag-
    nificent photograph of a Lesser Noddy represents a shrewd bit of marketing. It is particularly pleasing to note
    that like the earlier volume the new guide is an entirely Western Australian production.
    The layout is simple. A brief introduction and 40 plates are followed by a -d escriptive section covering
    475 species, a glossary and an index of English names. One could cry yet- a gain “when will we ever get an
    Australia!, field guide with illustrations facing the species descriptions?” however, in the present offering
    the species are at least sensibly grouped and easily referenced. An important aspect is the additional coverage
    of the Kimberly Division, omitted by Serventy and Whittell, and the attention to subspecific variations
    occurring in that region.
    I found the plates pleasing to my rather critical eye and to a high standard of accuracy. I liked the
    presentation of the birds against a background wash with the colours varying from plate to plate and found
    the slightly subdued preferable and more lifelike than some of the more garnish offerings of late. It is un-
    fortunate that on many plates up to one third of the available space has been wasted because of excessive top
    and bottom margins and that a few of the plates are a little washed out, e.g. plate 20 where the greens are all
    too pale. The book’s only real shortcoming lies in the complete lack of flight pictures of waders, birds of
    prey, albatrosses and petrels. This omission is the harder to comprehend since the ducks are shown in flight
    from both above and below.
    The species descriptions average about six lines with plumage details including female, immature and
    geographical variations where appropriate and notes on behaviour and song where diagnostic. They also in-
    clude a useful summary of the range of each species and in many instances an indication of preferred habitat.
    Neither the taxonomy nor the common names follow any previous standard although a number of
    the RAOU recommendations have been followed. For example in the cockatoos the Corellas have been lump-
    ed into one species, the Pink Cockatoo reverts to Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo and we are offered Baudin’s
    and Carnaby’s Cockatoos for the two forms of the White-tailed Black- Cockatoo. One notes with dismay that
    Dendrocygna arcuata has scored yet another name, the Chestnut Whistling Duck though in fairness one must
    add that such innovations are well covered by cross-referencing in the excellent index of English names.
    In summary I believe this volume will serve its purpose as a field guide capably. It is relatively heavy
    because of the quality of the paper and appears to be sturdily bound. It’s durability in the field particularly
    in view of the soft cover remains to be tested. With its attractive illustrations and accurately presented
    information it should do much to further interest in ornithology among the general bird watching public;
    serious field workers will find it invaluable.
    Contributors are requested to observe the following poi its when submitting articles and notes
    for publication.
  6. Species, names, and the order in which they occur are to be in accordance with “HanCiist
    of Birds in New South Wales”. A.K.Morris, A.R.McGill and G. Holmes 1981 Dubuc:
  7. Articles or notes should be typewritten if possible and submittea in duplicate. Dot..ole
    spacing is required.
  8. Margins of not less than 25mm width at the left hand side and top, with similar of sligntly
    smaller at the right hand side of pages.
  9. No underlinings and no abbreviations except as shown in the examples.
  10. Photographs should be glossy finish and not too small.
  11. The Style Manual, Commonwealth Government Printing Office, Canberra (1966) and
    subsequent editions will be the guide for this Journal.
  12. Diagrams should be on plain white paper drawn with india ink. Any lettering is to be
    ‘professional style’ or lightly pencilled.
  13. Dates must be written “1 January 1975” except in tables and figures where they may be
  14. The 24-hour clock will be used, times being written 06:30, 18:30 for 6.30 a.m. aria
    6.30 p.m. respectively.
  15. Mr, Mrs, Dr are not followed by a full stop.
  16. 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.
  17. References to other articles should be shown in the text-‘.. B.W. Finch arid M.D. Bruce
    (1974) stated…’ aria under headingVol. 16 No. 4 June, 1982
    Larkins, D. Vocal Behaviour in the Grey Butcherbird at Turramurra,
    New South Wales 53
    Debus, S.J.S. Seasonal changes in Raptor numbers near Sydney, New South Wales . . 60
    Clancy, G.P. Some records of the Olive -backed Oriole and Spangled Drongo
    mimicking the calls of other birds 62
    Clancy, G.P. & A Black -breasted Kite at Iluka, New South Wales 64
    J.H. Young
    Quested, T. Spine -tailed Swift landing in a tree 64

McFarland, D.C. Dew drinking by Crimson Rosella 65

Clancy, G.P. Chestnut -breasted Mannikin and Forest Kingsfisher Food Records 65
Leishman, A.J. Gulls feeding on months 66
Book Reviews: Oddie’s Little Bird Book 67

Field Guide to the Birds of Western Australia 68

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