Vol. 18 No. 1-text

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Journal of the
Vol. 18, No. October, 1983

ISSN 0311-8150

Registered by Australia Post Publication No. NBH0790THE N.S.W. FIELD ORNITHOLOGISTS CLUB
The object of the Club is to promote the study and conservation of Australian
birds and the habitats they occupy.
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Manuscripts should be sent to the Editor at
Dept of Ornithology, Australian Museum,
6-8 College Street, Sydney 2000.NU&
Vol. 18, No. October, 1983
The literature of Australian ornithology is replete with area -lists of species, some of little
value to the science. Most amateurs, myself included, concentrated on the ‘unusual’; but rarely

on what birds did ‘usually’. A single vagrant often receives several paragraphs but twenty years

of residence by a common species is often dismissed in a single line usually under the
designation of ‘common’. If we wait long enough a Papuan Hornbill will accidentally reach Cape
York and an albatross will be blown to the coast off Port Moresby, but neither occurrence,
however exciting to those that observe them, will be of much biological importance. What we

need to know, from long-term resident observers, is the status of those species that really make

up the avifauna the breeding residents and regular visitants.
I resided at Maroubra, a coastal suburb of Sydney, between Botany Bay and Port Jackson,
and kept notes on birds from 1940 until leaving the area in 1951. However, subsequent
biennial family visits enabled me to note changes in the avifauna over the years. Maroubra, now
heavily built over, is commonly thought to be former heath -lands. However, sufficient evidence,
from old photographs, historical accounts and old tree stumps, exists to show that the hills
were heavily forested, chiefly by Angophora costata, with a heathy understorey. The apparent
‘heathland’ status was the outcome of the area being Sydney town’s closest, easily -accessible
source of fuel (firewood). The flat areas were probably covered in swamp, Eucalyptus2 AUSTRALIAN BIRDS (18) 1
botryoides and Melaleuca quinquenervia. The headlands were probably always covered in
heath, where the last remnant now occurs, at Long Bay Rifle Range. Extensive wetlands were
filled in during the period 1936-1948, only one small pond remaining, near Matraville, close to
Anzac Parade.
In 1 940 the area was mostly built upon, but extensive patches of heath occurred, mainly at
Randwick and Long Bay Rifle Ranges. The local citizens could hardly have been regarded as
garden -minded. Everyone knew ‘that you couldn’t grow gardens in sand’, nor can you, if you
keep planting the plants of one’s ancestral England. Everyone knew ‘that trees won’t grow in
Maroubra’ nor will they if they are not well -tended in their earliest years in such sandy soil.
Since then, Randwick Rifle Range has gone and the heath at Long Bay is a pitiful remnant,
continuously swept by fire and invading grasses. High-rise building has flourished with vast
expanses of concrete and car -parks. Against this, affluence and rising interest in native plants
have encouraged home gardeners to plant trees and shrubs. Public parks have been planted
and are showing reasonable canopies of trees. In particular, Federal funds in the early 1970’s
induced the local council to undertake a massive planting programme, and, more to the point,
look after it once it was planted. Maroubra is still a barren suburb, but compared with the 1940’s
it is now positively verdant.
Although my list stands at 120 species, most are ‘one-time’ only chance vagrants. Such
common ‘bush birds’ as Fan -tailed Cuckoos, Cacomantis pyrrhophanus, Grey Fantails
Rhipidura fu/iginosa and Red WattlebirdsAnthochaera carunculata, each appear on my list as a
single occurrence. doubt if 25 native species bred in the suburb during my time there.
Therefore, intend to present information only on those species which are/were resident or
occurred in substantial numbers.
Ha/iaeetus leucogaster White -bellied Sea -eagle
Occurred at least monthly during the 1940’s; have not seen this species for many years.
Possibly the destruction of nesting habitat by industrial development on the nearby Kurnell
Peninsula has been responsible for the species’ demise.
Centropus phasianinus Pheasant Coucal
Last seen in 1943 but heard at Long Bay Rifle Range as late as 1950. Destruction of habitat
was no doubt the cause.
A/auda arvensis Skylark
Once very abundant on wastelands to the west of Maroubra but disappeared in the 1 950’s
along with building of houses in that area.
Stipiturus malachurus Southern Emu -wren
A great survivor; the first species to re -occupy burnt -out heaths and the last to survive in
tiny patches of heath on isolated suburban blocks. recall the late K. A. Hindwood telling me
that it persisted in Centennial Park until well into this century. A colony survived in a patch of
heath, of only one hectare or less, near the Maroubra ocean baths until the 1 960’s, when the
spot was bulldozed for a car -park. The patch would have been cut-off from other heathlands, byOctober, 1983 3
extensive building, since about 1930. Last seen, on Long Bay Range in 1971, but because
have not really searched for it feel that it may still be present in the area behind the stop -butts
of the Range.
Hylacola pyrrhopygia Chestnut-rumped Heath -wren
First seen in 941 at the old Randwick Rifle Range. The cocked tail and bright rufous rump
made it unmistakeable. A pair was seen at Long Bay Range in 1943, and in 1944 a nest was
found which later realised was of this species. Firing of the heath, and reduction of habitat no
doubt extirpated it.
Phylidoniris rnelanops Tawny -crowned Honeyeater
Originally very common but a visit in 1968 revealed only a few pairs at Long Bay Range.
The habitat, at that stage, would probably have supported only two or three pairs. By 1971 none
were present, in spite of a diligent search for them. This abrupt dive to local extinction
illustrates the ‘island’ effect, where isolated populations become too small to sustain
themselves indefinitely. The classic example of this is Barro Colorado Island in Panama, when
after the isolation of the island (originally a mountain) by the rising waters of Gatun Lake, those
species of birds with small populations tended to eventually die out (Willis 1974). Thus, the
frequent sighting of a bird species, in a local area, is no guarantee of its future existence, unless
the population is large enough for viability.
Emb/ema pu/che/la Beautiful Firetail
Only seen in 1942, at Long Bay Range, in the last large area of Banksia ericifolia swamp.
Either the species had gone previously unnoticed, or it has the capacity to move between
isolated areas of suitable habitat.
The extraction of sand for industrial purposes left a huge area of bare sand on the present
site of Coral Sea and Heffron Parks during the 1940’s. This sand was used by two species, plus a
species of wader, probably the Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea, roosting during high tide
at Botany Bay, some four kilometres distant.
Charadrius alexandrinus Red -capped Plover
Nested at least twice, 941 and 1946 on the sand -wastes, although no surface water of
any kind existed there. Up to twelve birds were seen, throughout these years. The habitat
disappeared in 1947.
Sterna alb/frons Little Tern
Nested twice, with a single pair each time, in 1 942 and again in 1943. Young were reared
despite the nearest available source of food being at least three kilometres distant.
Cucu/us pa//idus Pallid Cuckoo
In 1946 large numbers of this species occurred all over the suburb throughout the whole of
late spring and December. No evidence of breeding was obtained but behaviour suggested that
it had taken place. never recorded this species on any other occasion.
Cinclorhamphus cruralis Brown Songlark
In 1957 large numbers frequented the fields of Long Bay Rifle Range and from their
behaviour were probably breeding. This was at a period of serious drought inland and many
other inland species were recorded at Sydney around that period.
Lichenostomus chrysops Yellow -faced Honeyeater
In April -May 1946 large numbers frequented Maroubra, then suddenly left. These were no
doubt part of the north -bound migratory population of this species. otherwise never recorded
Streptopelia chinensis Spotted Dove
am certain that this species is much less abundant than it was in the 1940’s. My guess is
that numbers are down by two-thirds or more. Destruction of nest -sites in former patches of
heath, and competition from Currawongs and Galahs may be contributory reasons.
Malurus cyaneus Superb Fairy -wren
My notes record an abundance in 1 954 noticeably greater than in previous years. The part
of Maroubra Junction where lived, and later visited, was built on about 1938-39, so perhaps
the maturing of such gardens as existed accounted for the abundance. Now dramatically
reduced and all but extinct in house gardens where it was formerly abundant. Household
insecticides may be the cause and also the reduction in the dog population, following more
stringent municipal by-laws, may have led to an increased, or less inhibited, population of
domestic cats.
Zosterops lateralis Silvereye
Much less abundant than before, when it was the commonest native bird in both
heathlands and house gardens. Possibly the Red -whiskered Bubbul Pycnonotus jocosus has
proved too competitive, but suggest that the retreat of patches of nearby heathlands removed
a large reservoir of silvereyes that used to enter house gardens.
Acridotheres tristis Common Myna
Has fallen away tremendously in numbers. believe that Silver Gulls and Currawongs are
occupying the scavenging role of this species, particularly in parklands.
Grallina cyano/euca Magpie -lark
Almost gone from the area whereas in the 1940’s one could see it in about every fourth or
fifth street. The disappearance of wetlands and possible pollution of water -snails (a major item
of diet) may be the reasons. As a school boy at Sydney High School, Moore Park, I recall seeing,
in winter, hundreds of Magpie -larks streaming to roosts in the Moreton Bay Fig trees, many
coming from the direction of Maroubra and the Lachlan Swamps.
Larus novaehollandiae Silver Gull
Incredible as it may sound to present-day cricket spectators, there was hardly a Silver Gull
to be seen on a Sydney park or playing field in the 1 940’s. (While not an habitue of sportingOctober, 1983 5
fields think can say that never saw it at such places up to the time left in 1951.) Certainly
twice noted seeing them at Maroubra Junction (ca. two kilometres inland) suggesting that such
occasions must have been rare. The explosive population increase of this species over the last
30 years has led to it becoming an urban bird in direct scavenging competition with mynas,
doves and feral pigeons, who appear to be losing the battle. Maroubra is no exception to this
Cacatua roseicapilla Galah
Seen twice, as overhead transients in 1940 and 1944, but by 1983 a small flock had
established itself as resident in the parks and playing fields.
Coracina novaeho//andiae Black -faced Cuckoo -shrike
Only a very rare vagrant in the 1940’s but by 1983 constantly present for which the
increased cover of trees is no doubt the cause.
Specotheres viridis Figbird
Present in 1983. A possible reason for its presence is that the local council no longer
prunes back the Hill’s Figs Ficus hillii, which are now able to provide more cover and, more
importantly, to set fruits. As Hindwood and McGill (1958) point out, it became resident in
Sydney in about 1946.
Gymnorhina tibicen Australian Magpie
Never seen until 1983 but a few pairs now established in parks where playing fields are
regularly watered. In January 19 -8 3 I noted a pair, apparently resident, in the gardens of St.
Vincent’s Hospital, Darlinghurst a tiny patch of habitat inside the city.
Strepera graculina Pied Currawong
Not seen until 1983, when a small population observed. This is in keeping with its
transition to an urban bird in Sydney over the last 30 years or so.
Corvus coronoides Australian Raven
In the 1940’s seen perhaps once monthly, always merely as an overhead transient, but
now occurs daily as a resident species, in small numbers, feeding on refuse in parks. had
recorded previously nesting on telegraph poles near the abandoned gun emplacements on
Malabar Headland, to which there is no public access.
This paper would have been more useful had some quantified evidence been available, to
transform unsupported opinion into scientific evidence. However, hope that three points are
made. One is that bird communities are dynamic, and change there will always be. Secondly,
the ‘villains’ of the bird world are not necessarily exotic species and that native species, too,
may attain pest status and drive out others in their turn. Thirdly, let us not place too much
reliance on the frailties of human memory. Just one census each month, over say, 30 years, may
have told us if the demise of the Jacky Winter, considered by Chisholm (1934) as Sydney’s
typical urban bird, correlated with the arrival of the Currawong. urge all those interested to
involve themselves in long-term counts of birds, of common, and introduced, species. For6 AUSTRALIAN BIRDS (18) 1
Maroubra, my guess for the future is that as eucalypts mature, more species, in particular,
honeyeaters and pardalotes, will colonize.
Chisholm, A.H. 1934. Bird wonders of Australia. Sydney, Angus and Robertson.
Hindwood, K. A., and A. R. McGill 1958. The birds of Sydney. Sydney, RZS of NSW.
Willis, E. O. 1974. Populations and local extinctions of birds on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Ecol.
Monogr. 44: 153-169.
The Square -tailed Kite Lophoictinia isura is regarded as an irregular visitor to south-
eastern Australia, and most standard references do not show it as occurring in the far south of
New South Wales (eg, Readers’ Digest 1976, but see Morris et al 1981). In the course of field-
work for the Department of Terrestrial Vertebrate Ecology at the Australian Museum, Sydney, I
saw this species several times in and near Bondi State Forest (37° 07’S, 149° 08’E) near
Bombala in southern New South Wales. In late 1981, a nesting pair was located on one of the
study areas (Woodlot 2) at Bondi State Forest.
Observations on the kites and their nest were made with 1 2×50 and 8×50 binoculars and a
telescope, mostly from the ground upslope from the nest site, at a point almost level with the
nest. On several occasions, climbed trees upslope to about four metres off the ground, which
enabled a good view of the nest platform. I watched the nest at irregular intervals over a period
of two months, from 8 November 1981 to January 1982. The ground below the nest was
covered with plastic sheeting, and was checked regularly for remains of prey.
The nest was in a patch of open forest dominated by Narrow -leaved Peppermint
Eucalyptus radiata, Mountain Gum E. dalrympleana, Snow Gum E. pauciflora and Manna Gum
E. viminalis. During the same period I also saw Square -tailed Kites at Coolangubra State Forest
(in tall open forest dominated by Brown Barrel E. fastigata, Manna Gum, and Messmate E.
ob/iqua), Nadgee Nature Reserve (in regenerating coastal woodland following the 1980
wildfire), and at Mount Tennyson Flora Reserve (in tall open forest dominated by Monkey Gum
E. cypel/ocarpa). Also, in April 1983, I saw single kites on several occasions at Bellbird in East
Gippsland, victoria; all were over coastal open forest dominated by the stringybarks E.
globoides, E. obliqua, E. sieberi and E. baxteri.October, 1983 7
The nest consisted of a platform of large sticks placed in the fork of a Narrow -leaved
Peppermint E. radiata, 15 metres above the forest floor and five metres below the top of the
canopy. The platform was built on the nest of a Brown GoshawkAccipiter fasciatus which had
successfully bred in the summer of 1980-81. The nest was near completion when I first visited
the site on 8 November. Both birds brought large sticks of unidentified eucalypts, some of
which were green and thick with foliage, to the nest site. did not observe how the kites
managed to break off the sticks.
The incubation period was not determined since incubation had apparently began before
the first visit to the site, even though the kites were still adding material to the nest platform.
The incubating bird spent most of its time motionless in an alert state, but occasionally seized
dead birds that had been left on the nest platform, and ate part of the carcass. Often for periods
of 30 minutes or more, one bird sat on the nest and the other perched in a eucalypt adjacent to
the nest tree, both without moving.
Both adults incubated, since several exchanges of duty were observed. On these
occasions the non -brooding individual flew in with a bird in its talons and landed on the nest
platform. It then ate the prey, tearing off pieces, while the incubating bird took no part. The
feeding bird then flew to a nearby perch and either cleaned its bill, preened or just sat, for about
three to ten minutes. During this time the incubating bird flew off without any sign of display.
The remaining bird then flew to the nest, and with a shuffling motion crouched down into a
sitting position where it remained for a varying amount of time (which was not measured). The
birds seemed to scare easily, and left the nest upon any human activity within 30 metres of the
nest tree.
do not know when hatching occurred, but two chicks were first seen on 7 December.

They were covered in snowy white down, the eyes and bill were dark, and the cere was yellow. By

January the nestlings were more developed, calling loudly, and very active continually
flapping their wings and moving about the nest platform. At this stage the downy white
appearance had been lost and the birds had well developed feathers in the wings. They were
chocolate brown on the back with darker flecks and patches, and chocolate brown on the upper
Both adults apparently fed the nestlings. Usually one adult at a time flew on to the nest
with a small bird in its talons, or appeared to pick up a carcass from the nest floor. On alighting
on the nest, the adult tore up the carcass and fed the fleshy parts to the chicks, and then ate the
remains. After feeding the chicks, the adult gathered them under it by a settling motion. The
adults spent long periods brooding the chicks when they were small.8 AUSTRALIAN BIRDS (18) 1
From my observations it appeared that the young birds were an important part of the kite’s
diet. Few carcasses brought to the nest could be identified with any certainty. The only definite
identifications were of a nest of a White-naped Honeyeater Melithreptus lunatus, and a
fledgeling Rufous Whistler Pachycephala rufiventris, both found below the nest site. Several

rabbit remains (age undetermined) were also found under the nest, as were many insect

remains principally crickets (family Gryllidae) and beetles (including the families Carabidae,
Curculionidae, Elateridae and Tenebrionidae). Incubating birds were also seen to snap at
No direct observations were made of the techniques used by the kites to capture prey.
They showed great agility in flying through the foliage of trees, and did not soar to great heights,
but were usually seen flying low over the canopy or over surrounding grazing country. The kites
were not seen to scavenge on numerous dead macropods, wombats and rabbits on adjoining
A number of birds persistently harassed the nesting kites, especially Grey Currawongs
Strepera versicolor and Dusky Woodswallows Artamus cyanopterus, both of which were
breeding in the vicinity. Similarly, a pair of Brown Goshawks which was nesting less than 100
metres away were involved in occasional aggressive encounters with the kites. A typical
interaction occurred as follows: the female goshawk swooped and made a passing contact on
an approaching kite. The latter uttered a warning call and the goshawk retreated by flying to an
adjacent tree, where it called loudly for one or two minutes before leaving the area.
would like to thank Mr Jack Caldwell for permission to work on his property, and the
Forestry Commission of New South Wales for the use of their facilities at the Bondi State Forest
work -camp. The study was supported by a grant from Harris- Daishowa Pty Ltd to the Australian
Museum. would also like to thank Mr S.J. Debus for his critical comments and encouragement.
Morris, McGill Er Holmes. 1981. Handlist of birds in New South Wales. NSWFOC: Sydney.
Readers Digest. 1976. Complete book of Australian birds. Readers Digest Services Pty Ltd: Sydney.
Martin Schulz, 37 Halifax Street, Middle Brighton, Vic. 3186.October 1983 9
Kushlan (1978) described 34 feeding behaviours for herons, three of which he defines

(p. 251) as forms of diving: (1) Plunging dives head first from air, (2) Diving dives head first

from perch, (3) Feet -first diving alights on water feet first. Recher et al (in press) listed the

occurrence of the various feeding behaviours among Australian herons and added the

behavioural category Scanning “. .. a behaviour in which a foraging heron will pause in an
upright posture and fully extend its neck to the vertical, appearing to look for prey”. Although
Mangrove Herons Butorides striatus (including B. virescens, e.g. Kushlan 1978) have been
observed Feet -first Diving (Hawbecker 1949; Hindwood, 1933) and Diving (Barker, 1901;
Brooks, 1923; Brown, 949), was unable to find any unambiguous records for the behaviour of
1 I
This note reports on an observation of Scanning behaviour followed by Plunging by a
Mangrove Heron. On 21 May 1982, made timed foraging observations on Mangrove Herons at
Patonga Creek, approximately two kilometres from the Hawkesbury estuary. I watched a
Mangrove Heron fishing from oyster racks for several hours, during which time the bird caught
several fish. At approximately 13:00 hrs the bird was standing on a stake about 15 cm above the
water. My tape-recorded comments on the bird’s subsequent behaviour are as follows: “… it
stuck its neck way up into the air before it flew, straight up, stretched itself way up- may have
been looking for fish. My impression was that it was just flying away, but then it flew four or five
feet and into the water … it dove into the water head -first and apparently missed its prey, then
flew back up to a post about three feet above the water”. The bird’s bill was held parallel to the
water during Scanning, and the flight and attack followed immediately. This immediacy of the
prey attack is consistent with the hypothesis that the scanning behaviour was involved in prey
search, perhaps reducing glare.
Barker, S.H. 1901. Does the Green Heron fish in deep water? Bird -Lore 3: 141.
Brooks, W.S. 1923. An interesting adaptation. Auk 40: 121-122.
Brown, A.G. 1949. Notes on some birds of the Whitsunday Group, Queensland. Emu 49: 44-49.
Hawbecker, A.C. 1949. Green Heron feeds on goldfish. Auk 66: 78-79.
Hindwood, K.A. 1933. The Green -backed Mangrove -heron, Part I. Emu 33: 27-43.
Kushlan, J.A. 1978. Feeding ecology of wading birds. in, Wading Birds. New York: National Audubon
Recher, H.F., R.T. Holmes, W.E. Davis, and S. Morton (in press). Foraging behaviour of Australian
herons. Wading Birds.
William E. Davis, Jr. College of Basic Studies, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts
02215, USA.10 AUSTRALIAN BIRDS (18) 1
Anthochaera chrysoptera
Bird calls have many functions including courtship, group contact, begging for food, as
alarms and in threat behaviours (see reviews by Armstrong 1965 and Hinde 1969). Many
species also use calls or songs of a specific nature to advertise the occupation of a territory
(Krebs 1977). A number of Australian honeyeaters (Meliphagidae) are recorded as being
territorial in defending breeding sites (Recher 1971), food resources (Ford 1981) or sometimes
both (Paton 1979). Usually this defence is noted by the obvious chases that occur between
owners and intruders; however, little attention has been drawn to the role that calling may take
in maintaining exclusive use of some resource.
Little Wattlebirds Anthochaera chrysoptera and New Holland Honeyeaters Phylidonyris
novaeho//andiae were studied in the Royal National park near sydney, NSW from 28 February
to 22 August 1980. The study area was a combination of dry sclerophyll forest dominated by
Eucalyptus haemastoma and E. g/oboidea, and heath composed primarily of various species of
Banksia, Hakea and Casuarina. Each month 40 birds of each species were observed (New
Holland Honeyeaters 6990 seconds and Little WattlebirdT(= 7602 seconds of observation
per month), with details being kept of where the birds were feeding, the percentage of time
spent calling and the number of chases that occurred.
In each of the first four months the percentage of time spent calling by the Little
Wattlebirds was significantly greater than that of the New Holland Honeyeaters (Figure 1;
Analysis of Variance: F5,456 = 5.59, p<0.01, Student Newman Keuls test p<0.05 in all four cases). There were no significant differences in the following two months. No distinction was made between the different types of calls given by the honeyeaters. The majority of the wattlebird vocalisations were the repetitive “yekop” and harsh barking calls. The New Holland Honeyeater calls were predominately a high pitched “tu” and bursts of chattering. A comparison of the calling (Figure 1) and the chasing results (Table 1) for the wattlebirds revealed a correlation that although positive was not significant (r = 0.41, n = 6, p>0.4). A
correlation between New Holland Honeyeater calling and chasing activity was even less
significant (r= 0.17, n = 6, p>0.5). However if one compares the level of calling and chasing
involving only conspecifics, the correlation for wattlebirds becomes more positive (r = 0.61,
n = 6, p>0.1) while that for New Holland Honeyeaters becomes less so (r= 0.05, n = 6, p>0.5).October, 1983 11
Number of chases by New Holland Honeyeaters and Little Wattlebirds
(number of chases of conspecifics in brackets).
species month
Feb -Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug
Little 3 (0) 12 ( 3) 2 ( 2) 12 ( 5) 6 ( 2) 18 ( 4)
New Holland 9 (5) 20 (19) 21 (15) 28 (17) 18 (13) 22 (11)
Although these results are statistically inconclusive, what suggests more than just a
coincidental relationship between Little Wattlebird calling and aggression is that the peaks of
both behaviours coincide with those times when the wattlebirds were shifting attention from
one nectar source onto a new one. In April the change -over was from eucalypts and Banksia
serrrata to B. marginata; in June it was from B. marginata to B. ericifolia, and in August the birds
were found mostly in five flowering Erythrina trees.
Little Wattlebirds are known to establish feeding territories in areas of abundant nectar
(Reader’s Digest 1976; Paton 1979). During their initial period of occupation of a new nectar
source it appears that the birds become more aggressive and more vocal. The increased calling
would serve to inform other honeyeaters that new territories are being established and should
be avoided. The calls would be aimed particularly at other wattlebirds as these, having almost
identical food requirements, would be a territory owner’s main competitors. Territorial birds
once settled would theoretically only need to expend energy in displacing smaller intruders e.g.
Eastern Spinebills,Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris, and in maintaining a certain level of calling to
advertise occupation to other Little Wattlebirds.
New Holland Honeyeaters have also been observed defending territories (Recher 1971;
Paton 1979; pers. obs.), but among them calling seems to play a different role. Although
aggressive in nearly all months, the percentage of time spent in calling followed a more
seasonal pattern. As the main breeding period approached (July -September, Recher 1977)
there was an increase in the amount of calling. Therefore much of the New Holland
vocalisations may be involved in the establishment of nest site territories and/or in the
attraction of mates.12 AUSTRALIAN BIRDS (18) 1
F -M M J J A
Figure 1. Changes in percentage of time spent calling by New Holland Honeyeaters and Little
The limited data presented here suggest that for Little Wattlebirds at least, calling plays a
definite role in the defence of nectar resources by advertising the aggressive intent of the caller.
In energetic terms, calling is a favourable strategy, being a more economical means, compared
to chasing, of holding a territory.
Armstrong, E.A. 1965. A study of Bird Song. London: Oxford University Press.
Ford, H.A. 1981. Territorial behaviour in an Australian nectar -feeding bird. Aust. J. Ecol. 6: 131-134.
Hinde, R.A. 1969. Bird Vocalizations. London: Cambridge University Press.
Krebs, J.R. 1977. Song and territory in the Great Tit Parus major. In Evolutionary Ecology (Ed. B.
Stonehouse Et C. Perrins). London: MacMillan Press Ltd.
Paton, D.C. 1979. The behaviour and feeding ecology of the New Holland Honeyeater Phylidonyris
novaehollandiae in Victoria. unpubl. Ph.D. thesis, Monash University.
Reader’s Digest. 1976. The complete book of Australian birds. Sydney: Reader’s Digest Services
Pty. Ltd.
Recher, H.F. 1971. Sharing of habitat by three congeneric honeyeaters. Emu 71: 147-152.

  1. Ecology of co -existing White-cheeked and New Holland Honeyeaters. Emu 77:
    D.C. McFarland, Department of Zoology, University of New England, Armidale NSW 2351.October, 1983 13
    From 23 March to 14 June 1982, I observed a pair of Masked Owls Tyto novaeho//andiae
    at Gloucester Tops, approximately 30 km south-west of Gloucester in the New South Wales
    mid -north coast hinterland.
    The pair resided in an area of wet sclerophyll (tall open) forest dominated by Brown Barrel
    Eucalyptus fastigata and Messmate E. obliqua, with a medium -dense understorey. Within the
    owls’ territory was a large stand of cool temperate (or beech) rainforest consisting mostly of
    Negrohead Beech Nothofagus moorei. The area was at about 1 300 m asl, and nearby were
    extensive areas of sub -alpine woodland in which Snow Gum E. pauciflora was prevalent. The
    owls nested in a large hollow located about five metres above the ground in a Ribbon Gum
    E. viminalis.
    visited the territory twelve times during this period in the company of various other
    observers. Observations always began at dusk and the birds were kept under observation for
    periods of from two to eight hours. A Masked Owl was first seen in this locality by Simon Ferrier
    in July 1981.
    Up until 8 May, only a single bird was seen or heard. The nesting tree was not discovered at
    that time, and the bird was evidently roosting in a number of different localities, none of which
    was within 80 m of the nesting tree. The bird would be first heard calling in the distance about
    30 minutes after sunset, and would fly into the vicinity of the nesting tree soon afterwards.
    The owl typically called at half-hour intervals from a number of nearby vantage points in
    both the eucalyptus and nothofagus forests. The call is loud, and perhaps better described as a
    scream, combining the raspy screech of the Barn Owl Tyto a/ba with the more musical and high-
    pitched notes of the Sooty Owl T. tenebricosa. Hyem (1979) describes the principal call as a
    “drawn out, harsh squawk”. I sometimes succeeded in attracting the owl close by with a rather
    poor imitation of the call.
    On 8 May, two Masked Owls were seen together. The single bird flew in as was its usual
    habit, and was quickly joined by a much larger and paler -coloured bird. The latter was seen to
    enter the nesting hollow. From its size assumed it was the female. It was seen at the hollow on
    a number of subsequent occasions and evidently roosted there.
    When both birds were together, a large variety of call -notes were heard. One such call was
    a series of chattering “cak” notes, while other calls varied considerably in pitch and frequency.
    There were occasions when neither bird would call for several hours, and other times both birds
    could be heard calling regularly and frequently. Strong moonlight appeared to greatly inhibit
    calling.14 AUSTRALIAN BIRDS (18) 1
    The female was far more cautious and shy than her mate. When first discovered she was
    probably incubating eggs, as a fully fledged young bird was located on 14 June. The fledgeling
    was roosting high in the nest -tree and frequently emitted the high-pitched rasping calls typical
    of juvenile Tyto owls. Rasping calls had been heard from within the hollow on previous
    occasions, although this could have been either the young or the female bird.
    On one occasion, the male owl was seen to deliver a dead Bush -rat Rattus fuscipes to the
    chick. The rat was held by its head in the chick’s bill for over an hour when observations ceased.
    A search for pellets below the nest -hole was unsuccessful.
    Hyem (loc. cit.) states that the species leaves the heavy timber to feed in cleared or
    partially -cleared areas. However, in the case of the birds studied, the nearest cleared land to
    the nesting tree was some 15 km away. As the owls were heard at all times of the night at
    regular intervals, it is probable that the birds hunted entirely in surrounding forest. In this area,
    R. fuscipes would probably have constituted a major portion of their diet.
    The two adults under observation differed greatly in appearance. The upperparts of the
    (presumed) male were very dark grey with paler edges to the secondaries. The colour was as
    dark as that of a Sooty Owl. The facial disc was broad and dark, and the entire breast and upper
    belly were golden -buff with darker flecks, while the lower belly was white with similar flecks. In
    contrast, the female had no buff on the underparts which were wholly white with darker flecks.
    The upperparts were a rich buffy-brown with dark grey blotching. The juvenile was
    intermediate, showing dark upperparts like the male and pale underparts like the female.
    Further personal observations were not possible after 14 June. Other observers failed to
    find any trace of the birds on 20 September (C.J. Corben, pers. comm.), but a bird was heard on
    2 October (A.P. McBride, pers. comm.). At that time, Masked Owls had been present at the
    locality for at least 15 months.
    The only other owl recorded in the vicinity was a Powerful Owl Ninox strenua heard on one
    occasion. A pair of Sooty Owls held a territory approximately six kilometres south of where the
    Masked Owls resided.
    The Masked Owl is considered uncommon in New South Wales (Morris, McGill Et Holmes,
    1981) and rare in the nearby Upper Manning River district (Hyem loc. cit.). During eight months
    residence near Gloucester, the only other Masked Owl recorded was a single bird heard
    approximately 1.5 km south of this locality. It is possible that this bird was one of the pair under
    Hyem, E.L. 1979. Observations on owls in the Upper Manning district, N.S.W. Corella 3: 17-25.
    Morris, A.K., A.R. McGill Er G. Holmes. 1981. Handlist of birds in New South Wales. Sydney:
    Greg J. Roberts, 21 Kensington Avenue, Seven Hills, Old 4170.October. 1983 1 5
    On 18 November 1982 large flocks of White-browed Woodswallows Artamus
    superciliosus were present in the Hawkesbury district, NSW. At nearby Wilberforce Park,
    Wilberforce, where many Silky Oaks Grevillea robusta were blooming, there was constant
    coming and going of these woodswallows. The birds were actively feeding among the
    abundant florescence, but could not determine whether the food was nectar, pollen or insects.
    On 21 November many White-browed Woodswallows had arrived at Hoxton Park near
    Liverpool, NSW where only a few had been the previous week. The birds were so widespread
    that numbers could not be estimated. Here also there was constant activity of the birds at Silky
    Oaks. A vantage point 4m from the base of a 6m flowering tree allowed detailed observation of
    the behaviour of a male White-browed Woodswallow. This bird visited the flower spikes from
    above and dipped its bill deep into the flower, very rapidly moving from one to another. Its chin
    and throat feathers were heavily dusted with pollen.
    A female White -winged Triller La/age sueurii also feeding in this tree was chased away by
    woodswallows. There was not time to observe this bird’s behaviour closely apart from noting
    that the source of food was at the flower spikes. Ford, Paton and Forde (1979) record trillers and
    woodswallows taking nectar.
    The lower flowers of this tree were examined at close hand and the higher levels through
    binoculars. No insects were seen in the tree or on the trunk. The flowers were at different stages
    of development and many held nectar. noted that as the woodswallows probed the nectaries
    the length of the bill made it necessary to reach down over the anthers, and the chin and the
    throat were thus dusted with pollen.
    By 26 November most of the woodswallows had left the area. There was little blossom on
    the Silky Oaks but a female White-browed Woodswallow was seen dusted with pollen on the
    chin and throat. There are no orchards in this district and no other native trees were in blossom
    in the locality. Duranta repens was flowering in the garden but woodswallows were not
    attracted to this tree, although trillers had been known to visit and sing from it in previous years.
    White-browed Woodswallows have brush tongues and are known to feed on nectar at
    times (Chisholm 1971; Pizzey 1980); Lowe Et Lowe (1972) were familiar with this behaviour in
    their citrus orchard and thought it commonplace. Paton and Ford (1 977) showed that the birds
    visit flowers regularly, probing the flowers “in such a way as to brush against anthers and
    stigmas and carry pollen so as to deposit it on receptive stigmas in several species of native
    plants in South Australia”.
    It is interesting that Florence Sulman (1914) in describing Grevillea robusta, noted that in
    this species the nectar is not produced until the pollen is ripe. Further, McLuckie and McKee
    (1954) and Carolin (1961) mention that in many species of the family Proteaceae pollen is16 AUSTRALIAN BIRDS (18) 1
    produced before the stigma of the same flower is receptive, preventing self-pollination at this
    stage. They do not specifically refer to Silky Oaks.
    White-browed Woodswallows and White -winged Trillers would appear to be effective as
    pollinators of Grevillea robusta in the manner described by Sulman: “The colour and abundance
    of honey attract the birds who visit the spike from above, and brush over the surface of the
    flowers which are in different stages of development.
    am indebted to Ian McAllen, my companion in making the observations at Wilberforce,
    and to Dr David Paton who generously gave time to dicuss birds as pollinators and to provide
    some references.
    Carolin, R. 1961. Pollination of the Proteaceae. Aust. Nat. Hist. 13: 371-374.
    Chisholm, A.H. 1971. Various bird notes. Aust. Bird Watcher 4: 41-43.
    Ford, H.A., D.C. Paton and N. Forde. 1979. Birds as pollinators of Australian plants. N.Z. J. Botany 7:
    Lowe, V.T. and T.G. Lowe. 1972. Wood -swallows in mid -northern Victoria. Aust. Bird Watcher 4:
    McLuckie, J. and H.D. McKee. 1954. Australian and New Zealand Botany. Sydney: Horowitz.
    Paton, D. and H.A. Ford. 1977. Pollination by birds of native plants in South Australia. Emu 77: 73-85.
    Pizzey, G. 1980. A Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Sydney: Collins.
    Sulman, F. 1914. Wild Flowers of N.S.W. Sydney: Angus and Robertson.
    Dariel Larkins, 225 Kissing Point Road, Turramurra NSW 2074.NOTICE TO CONTRIBUTORS
    Contributors are requested to observe the following points when submitting articles and notes
    for publication.
  2. Species, names, and the order in which they occur are to be in accordance with” Handlist
    of Birds in New South Wales”. AK. Morris, AR. McGill and G. Holmes 1981 Dubbo:
  3. Articles or notes should be typewritten if possible and submitted in duplicate. Double
    spacing is required.
  4. Margins of not less than 25mm width at the left hand side and top, with similar or slightly
    smaller at the right hand side of pages.
  5. No underlinings and no abbreviations except as shown in the examples.
  6. Photographs should be glossy finish and not too small.
  7. The Style Manual, Commonwealth Government Printing Office, Canberra (1966) and
    subsequent editions will be the guide for this Journal.
  8. Diagrams should be on plain white paper drawn with india ink. Any lettering is to be
    ‘professional style’ or lightly pencilled.
  9. Dates must be written “1 January 975” except in tables and figures where they may be
  10. The 24-hour clock will be used, times being written 06:30, 18:30 for 6.30 a.m. and
    6.30 p.m. respectively.
  11. Mr, Mrs, Dr are not followed by a full stop.
    1 1 . 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.Vol. 18 No. October, 1983
    Bell, H.L. Forty years of change in the avifauna of a Sydney suburb 1
    Shultz, Martin Nesting of the Square -tailed Kite in south-eastern New South
    Wales 6
    Davis, W.E., Jr. Observations of foraging behaviour of a Mangrove Heron 9
    McFarland, D.C. Calling and resource defence by Little Wattlebirds Anthochaera
    chrysoptera 10
    Roberts, Greg J. Observations of Masked Owls in the Gloucester area, New South
    Wales 13
    Larkins, D. White-browed Woodswallows and White -winged Trillers as nectar

feeders and polinators 15

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