Vol. 25 No. 1-text

Vol. 25 No. 1
Journal of the
Volume 25, Number 1. September 1991
President P. Davie
Vice -President S. Fairbairn
Secretary R. Hill
Treasurer T. Florin
Minutes Secretary H. Biddle
Activities Officer A.O. Richards
Conservation Officer E. Karplus
Journal Editor A.K. Morris
Newsletter Editor T. Karplus
Records Officer R.M. Cooper
Other Committee Members D. Seims
H. Jones
The object of the club is to promote the study and conservation of Australian
birds and the habitats they occupy.
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Volume 25, (1) September 1991
Further casual observations mainly in the Armidale area (NSW) on the behaviour of the Little
Eagle Hieraaetus morphnoides provide additional information to that reported previously
(Debus 1983, 1984a). Ten eagle pairs and their territories, identified by number in Debus
(1984b), were all within a 15 km radius of Armidale city in 1980.
Further observations on captive, known -age birds provide information on plumage
additional to that previously reported (Debus 1989a).
In 1990 I attempted to re -survey 10 Little Eagle breeding territories occupied in the
Armidale district in 1980 (Debus 1984b). was able to check only half of these, but pairs
were present at all five sites (territories 2, 3, 4, 6 and 9): two nests had fledglings or large
young about to fledge, one failed (female disappeared) and the success of the other two
pairs was not determined (Tables 1, 2). The number and location of occupied territories thus
seems to have remained stable over the 10 years, as birds have been observed casually
in the intervening years in these five territories and in some of the others (territories 1, 5 and
8 in the mid 1980s: Table 1). The species has remained common, with no indication of a
marked change in density.
Page 1 Australian Birds Vol.25 No. 1Sketchy data were obtained on the progress of pairs. Only one of these (territory 6)
was affected by habitat change, being on the edge of Armidale city: urban expansion
reached the nest tree. The rest were in the surrounding wooded and rural areas.
Pair abandoned the nest successfully used in 1980, and adult birds were
occasionally sighted 0.5-1 km to the east, in a different gully, in later years.
Pair 2 abandoned their 1980 nest which failed. In the 1986 season the male carried
prey towards a new nest c. 1 km to the south-east. In 1990 the pair had large young near
fledging (brood size undetermined) in a new nest c.1 km east of the original site, in the crown
of a mature creekside Manna Gum Eucalyptus viminalis.
The male in territory 3 was replaced for the second time in 10 years: in 1990 the male
was an exceptionally dark bird, whereas in 1980 the male was pale (himself a new bird in
that year, having replaced a moderately dark bird: Debus 1983, 1984a). This pair has
occupied and nested in a Pinus radiata plantation continuously.
Territory 4 was monitored intermittently by myself and Lynda Bridges for most of the
10 years. Both sexes were pale birds throughout this time, therefore no mate changes were
detected. In 1984-85 they had one fledgling which was still begging in early March. It was
thus dependent for at least two months post -fledging (local fledging being early December
to early January: Debus 1984b and pers. obs.). Each year from 1985 to 1989 the pair used
the same nest on a mistletoe in the top of a mature but sparsely foliaged Manna Gum, on
the northern edge of a 200 ha open forest block bordering pasture. They raised one chick
in most of these years: 1985, 1987 and at least one of the other three years (L. Bridges pers.
comm.), here assigned to 1988 (Table 2). In about 1986 an adult male was found dead
(decomposed) in the forest, cause unknown but possibly shot as it was beside a track
frequented by vandals. In 1989 the nest tree died, but the eagles used the nest (L. Bridges
pers. comm.). In 1990 the tree was completely leafless and the branch and nest had fallen
down. The pair built a new nest c. 1 km east, on a mistletoe 15 m up in a mature (20 m) Manna
Gum, on the south-east side of a knoll in the forest block; the space around the tree was
slightly greater than the average inter -tree distance in the forest. On 30 November there
were two large, almost fledged nestlings (S. Tremont pers. comm.). This is the first record
of a successful brood of two at Armidale, a year when rabbits were exceptionally abundant.
In mid September 1991 the pair was occupying the 1990 nest.
In the 1990 season a second (pale) pair was suspected on the eastern edge of the
forest block containing territory 4. In September 1991 this was confirmed: a pair was
occupying a nest on a mistletoe in the top of a 20 m Yellow Box Eucalyptus melliodora, on
the eastern boundary of the forest, 1.3 km south-east of territory 4. If this was a “new” pair
in a period and locality of high rabbit numbers, the birds’ arrival offset apparent disappearances
in other territories (Table 1), i.e. there was little net change in eagle numbers.
Pair 5 consisted of a light male and a dark female, first seen in 1980. In 1983 they
fledged one young from a nest in Marge Manna Gum on a south-east slope (different nest
September 1991 Page 2from the 1980 one which failed). In 1984 they nested, success unknown, and the dark bird
was not seen in subsequent years (J. Currey pers. comm.). This pair had stayed together
for at least four years, but continued territory occupancy could not be confirmed during
occasional visits in later years.
Pair 6 lost their nest tree in the years after 1981, when urban expansion encroached
on their territory and houses were built virtually where the tree had However, suitable
habitat remained about a kilometre away, and a pair was still present in December 1990.
In 1980 both sexes in territory 8 were pale, but in 1983 the male was dark. A nest
was suspected but not found, and there was no indication that the successful 1980 nest had
been re -used.
Both adults in territory 9 were seen intermittently, sometimes displaying, since 1982
(particularly 1987-89), but their nest area was not found until 1990. They had several nests
in various stages of disrepair in a group of mature creekside Manna Gums. Both were pale
birds over the nine years. In 1990 the male was seen alone several times in the breeding
season, and in December he was perched beside the most recent but unrenovated nest with
no sign of the female or fledgling(s).
For all pairs combined for which success was known, at least eight young were raised
in eight pair years 1983-1990, giving 1.0 young per pair per year. The mid to late 980s were
wetter than the drought around 1977-81 when success was 0.5 young per pair per year
(Debus 1984b). The result in later years may have been biased by the greater likelihood
of successful nests being detected. However, the high success in territory 4 (six young in
five years) may have been general for the district in recent years, culminating in a brood of
two in a “good” rabbit year. The higher success in recent years is similar to the 0.8 and 1.0
young per pair per year recorded for the Little Eagle by Baker-Gabb (1984) and Mallinson
et al. (1990).
For the eight territories (16 birds) revisited over the 10 years, there were three cases
of mate replacement (different morphs); two cases of adult disappearance; and one case
of adult mortality detected. There was thus a turnover of at least 38% of the adult population
in 10 years or a minimum of 4% adult mortality per year but it may have been higher. If major
shifts of nest site are sometimes associated with mate changes in eagles, then mate
replacement may have occurred in territories and 2 also. This would give 50% turnover
in 10 years or 5% annual adult mortality (assuming departure = death). An annual mortality
(m) of 5%, and the formula (2-m)/2m in Newton (1986), give a mean expectancy of further
life of 19.5 years, which may be too high (i.e. mortality was greater than detected). The
formula in Ridpath & Brooker (1986) and a mean Little Eagle mass of 833 g (male 619 g,
female 1046 g: unpubl. data) give an average life span of 16 years, therefore some birds
may have outlived the 10 year study. The oldest Little Eagles banded and recovered were
10 years 3 months and 9 years 9 months (banded as adults: Waterman 1983 and editorial
Page 3 Australian Birds Vol 25 No.
Displays serve to advertise territory occupancy, to deter rivals without the need for
physical fighting, and to attract a mate or maintain the pair bond in readiness for breeding.
In eagles and other raptors, these often involve conspicuous aerial displays (visual and
vocal) and demonstrations of the male’s agility (described previously for the Little Eagle by
Debus 1983).
Breeding Little Eagles adopt a characteristic posture when soaring in display high
over their territory. Either before or after performing undulating advertisement displays,
males typically soar or glide on flat, fully extended wings with the primaries slightly lowered
and turned back, and the tail tightly furled. This resembles the posture of the Golden Eagle
Aquila chrysaetos illustrated in Brown (1976, Figure C, p. 127). The silhouette is subtly but
recognisably different from that of Little Eagles soaring for other reasons (e.g. hunting), and
during such displays they typically give the same whistling call as during undulations. The
posture seems to be a signal that a territory is occupied. Displaying territorial males also
soar high and flap with short, stiff wing -beats while calling. During high undulating displays,
distant males of the pale morph produce a conspicuous flash -pattern when their white
underparts are lit by the sun as they change direction, a feature noted by Lane (1913) who
described other aspects of Little Eagle behaviour.
Territorial defence
Intrasexual territorial encounters involving aggression (pursuit) seem to be rare: one
between two females in 181 hours of observation in one breeding season (Debus 1983), and
one between two males in >300 casual sightings over the ten years following the intensive
observations. In the case involving two males, both birds were in high soaring flight perhaps
100 m apart in the breeding season. One, the presumed territory owner, pursued the other,
presumed intruder, about 50 m behind and over a short distance (perhaps 500 m). The
gliding pursuit was rather leisurely, with afewflaps, and the pursuer called twice with a rarely
heard wailing whistle – a double note kee-ee of one second duration. The intruder glided
out of sight, and the other remained.
Further observations of courtship flights add to previous information. One case will
serve as a typical example. In summer, after her single young had fledged, a female was
soaring high with her primaries turned back and tail furled (in the display posture, as
described). The male dived steeply at her with his wings folded to his tail, and she rolled
and presented her talons. This was repeated, and the pair seemed to touch feet as the
female rolled. No calls were uttered. At the start of breeding activity another pair soared
up together from their nest site with bursts of short, stiff wing -beats. Also at the start of
breeding activity, when claiming an existing stick nest in their territory, adult birds were
September 1991 Page 4Little Eagle gains height over
slowly circling Wedgetail,
unconcerned by it’s presence.
Little Eagle makes several head-on
dives towards Wedgetail, which lowers it’s
talons in anticipation of a strike.

Wedgetail avoids vertical stoop by
Little Eagle, almost stalling, thrusting
it’s talons at the passing attacker.

  • ‘ After several minutes of harrassing
    the Wedgetail made a rapid exit from
    the Little Eagle’s territory.
    Little Eagle territorial defence against Wedgetailed Eagle.
    (Observed Mt. Blackheath, Blue Mountains.)
    Page 5 Australian Birds Vol.25 No.
    1standing conspicuously on nests. Some of these activities probably have an advertisement
    a wit as courtship function.
    There appears to be some competitive interaction between Little Eagles and Wedge-
    tailed Eagles Aquila audax, with the two species possibly holding mutually exclusive
    breeding territories. As previously noted (Debus 1983; Bonnin 1988), Little Eagles often
    attack Wedge-tailed Eagles, sometimes vigorously, and occasionally call at them in a
    manner usually reserved for intruding conspecifics. The Armidale district is a more -or -less
    complete territorial mosaic of Little Eagle pairs, with the exception of the forested Mt Duval
    (<2000 ha) which is occupied by one or two pairs of Wedge-tailed Eagles (two nests of the
    latter c. 2 km apart, at opposite ends of the mountain). Little Eagles occupy the surrounding
    lower, more open country. In another patch of open forest of c. 150 ha, a Wedge-tailed Eagle
    nest was active and fledged one young in 1980 but was subsequently deserted, probably
    related to increasing passive human disturbance (recreation). In later years Little Eagles
    frequented the area, and bred there (T. Cross pers. comm.). Little Eagles occcasionally use
    unoccupied Wedge-tailed Eagle nests (Sedgwick 1989, Mallinson et al. 1990). Conversely,
    in Victoria a pair of Little Eagles abandoned their nest, used the previous year, when a pair
    of Wedge-tailed Eagles nested 300 m away (D. Baker-Gabb pers. comm.). It appears that
    Little Eagles are intolerant of the close proximity of Wedge-tailed Eagles, and are
    subordinate in any competition for nesting territories as might be expected from the size
    difference. Similar mmpetitive interactions between Golden Eagles and Bonelli’s Eagles
    Hieraaetus fasciatus are known, with the larger Golden Eagle dominant in competition for
    nest sites (e.g. Muntaner & CRPR 1985).
    Few additional data were obtained, mainly from territory 4. In 1987 a few pellets
    under the nest contained rabbit remains. In 1988 the female ate an adult Australian Magpie
    Gymnorhina tibicen which she presumably caught (Debus 1989b). On 10 September 1990
    the female eagle attacked an adult Forest Raven Corvus tasmanicus in what looked like
    attempted predation but may have been territorial defence (Debus 1991). The female was
    on eggs by the third week in September 1990; on 6 November she was feeding a downy
    chick at 0900 hrs; and on 13 and 19 November she was brooding the chicks at c. 0800 and
    0730 hrs respectively. Also at about 0730 hrs on 19 November the male eagle was flushed
    from a freshly killed (warm and limp) rabbit kitten at the entrance to its warren. On 5
    December the male was on the nest at 0600 hrs, and at 0950 hrs the female was feeding
    the nestlings and fledging seemed imminent. On 20 December the nest was empty (S.
    Tremont pers. comm.). A pellet below the nest contained rabbit and passerine remains.
    In the 1986 season the male in territory 2 carried a freshly caught rabbit kitten to the
    nest. Elsewhere in the Armidale district, since 1980, I twice observed adult Little Eagles (a
    male and a female) feeding on fresh road -killed rabbits.
    September 1991 Page 6PARENTAL FEEDING RATES
    recalculated parental feeding rates for 1980, a drought year (Debus 1984b), to
    present the data in a way more comparable with those of Dell (1971) and Bollen (1989,
    1991). In 15 hours’ observation (pooled) for pairs 1, 2 and 3 in the incubation period there
    was only one delivery by a male to an incubating female (0.1 deliveries per hour). Early in
    the nestling period (downy chick stage) at the same three nests, each with a single chick,
    in 12 hours’ observation (pooled) there were two prey deliveries (0.2 deliveries per hour).
    The corresponding figure obtained by Dell (1971) at one nest with two downy chicks was
    six deliveries in 10 hours (0.6 per hour). Later in the nestling period at Armidale (single
    nestlings, feathering stage to fledging), pair 3 delivered 13 items in 56 hours and pair 6
    delivered 11 items in 76 hours, giving an average of 0.2 deliveries per hour, mostly large
    items (rabbits). Corresponding figures obtained by Bollen (1989, 1991) for one pair with a
    single nestling in two years were 0.4 and 0.6 deliveries per hour, mostly small items (birds).
    In the post -fledging period at Armidale, pair 3 delivered one item (rabbit) to their fledgling
    in 24 hours’ observation during its first week out of the nest (<0.1 deliveries per hour). These
    results suggest higher feeding rates during the nestling period than incubation or post –
    fledging periods; higher feeding rates at nests with two chicks (perhaps enabling the survival
    of the second chick); higher feeding rates in good than poor seasons; and feeding rates
    varying according to prey size (small items being delivered more frequently than large).
    However, sample sizes are small and confounding effects cannot be separated among the
    different studies. Nevertheless, high feeding rates at Goulburn (NSW) seem to correspond
    with high breeding success at Canberra <100 km away (cf. Bollen 1989, 1991; Mallinson
    et al. 1990), the reverse of the situation at Armidale where there were low feeding rates and
    low breeding success during drought.
    In May and September 1990 re-examined a captive male Little Eagle (pale morph)
    then in its third year, its second -year plumage having been described previously (Debus
    1989a). Compared to its second -year plumage, in May 1990 (post -moult) it was paler on
    the underparts with bolder chest streaks; it had pale median upperwing coverts with no
    rufous spots on the lesser coverts; light brown eyes; and grey -white cere and toes. It was
    adult in appearance, except that even in September 1990 its eyes were not as “red” as those
    of an older male housed with it. Little Eagles thus seem to acquire fully adult plumage after
    two annual moults, although their eye colour may continue to change.
    In 1990 also examined a first -year captive female Little Eagle of the dark morph.
    In May it was essentially as previously described for a small sample of dark juveniles (Debus
    1989a), i.e. dark rufous (rich tawny) on the underparts; some black streaks on the forehead
    and crest; narrow chest streaks; dark fawn median upperwing coverts (but lacking the rufous
    spots on the lesser coverts often present in juveniles); brown eyes; and cream cere and feet.
    In September it was unchanged, with no moult.
    In June 1991 I obtained a captive juvenile male of the pale morph. It was essentially
    as previously described for pale juveniles (see Debus 1989a), except that the pale tips to
    Page 7 Australian Birds Vol.25 No. 1secondary coverts, secondaries and inner primaries were narrower and less distinct than
    in many juveniles. It had brown eyes, and cream cere and feet. Its pale rufous belly and
    undertail coverts seemed to fade somewhat over three months towards the end of its first
    year, pre -moult. Nevertheless, it was richer brown and rufous than a pale adult housed with
    The white tips (translucent trailing edges) to the secondaries and tail were identified
    as tentative age characters in the Little Eagle (Debus 1989a). Further field observations
    show that adults in fresh plumage may have pale tips on new flight and tail feathers. In the
    field, any resulting translucent trailing edges to wings and tail are narrower than in most
    juveniles, and the pale tips to the secondary coverts are narrower and do not form the
    prominent pale line present in many juveniles.
    As previously noted, age characters in the Little Eagle are variable and a matter of
    degree. The limited information available is presented as a basis upon which to begin a
    better understanding of the species.
    thank Lynda Bridges, June Currey and Steve Tremont for their information on some
    of the Little Eagle pairs and nests; Bruce Kubbere and Featherdale Wildlife Park staff
    (Sydney) for permission and access to study captive birds; Peter Debus, Sue Debus, John
    Fields, Stuart Green. Kay Holdsworth, Ursula Munro, Ruth Tremont and Zoology staff for
    facilitating the care of captive birds at Armidale; NPWS for providing a permit; and Rod
    Kavanagh and referees for comments on a draft.
    Baker-Gabb, D.J. 1984. The breeding ecology of twelve species of diurnal raptor in north-
    western Victoria, Australia. Aust. Wild!. Res. 11, 145-160.
    Bollen, C. 1989. Notes on Little Eagles breeding on the Southern Tablelands of New South
    Wales. Aust. Bird Watcher 13, 65-66.
    Bollen, C. 1991. Further notes on Little Eagles on the Southern Tablelands of New South
    Wales. Aust. Bird Watcher 14, 110-111.
    Bonnin, M. 1988. Little Eagle attacks Wedge-tailed Eagle. S. Aust. Omithol, 30, 135.
    Brown, L.H. 1976. Eagles of the World. Newton Abbott: David & Charles.
    Debus, S.J.S. 1983. Behaviour and vocalisations of nesting Little Eagles. Aust. Bird
    Watcher 10, 73-78.
    Debus, S.J.S. 1984a. Further notes on nesting Little Eagles. Aust. Bird Watcherl0, 196-
    Debus, S.J.S. 1984b. Biology of the Little Eagle on the Northern Tablelands of New South
    Wales. Emu 84, 87-92.
    Debus, S.J.S. 1989a. Plumages and moult of the Little Eagle Hieraaetus morphnoides.
    Aust. Bird Watcher 13, 103-113.
    September 1991 Page 8Debus, S. 1989b. Little Eagles hunting. Australasian Raptor Assoc. News 10, 11.
    Debus, S. 1991. Little Eagle attacks Forest Raven. Australasian Raptor Assoc. News 12,
    Dell, J. 1971. A Little Eagle breeding in the Darling Range. West. Aust. Nat.11, 186-187.
    Lane, C.G. 1913. Creature -life in Australian Wilds. London: Drane.
    Mallinson, D., P. Olsen & J. Olsen. 1990. A note on the breeding of the Little Eagle
    Hieraaetus mofphnoides and other raptors in the Mt Mugga area, ACT. Core/la 14,
    Muntaner, J. & CRPR. 1985. The status of diurnal birds of prey in Catalonia, northeastern
    Spain. In I. Newton & R.D. Chancellor (Eds), Conservation Studies on Raptors, pp.
    25-44. Cambridge: International Council for Bird Preservation.
    Newton, I. 1986. The Sparrowhawk. Calton: Poyser.
    Ridpath, M.G. & M.G. Brooker. 1986. The breeding of the Wedge-tailed Eagle Aquila audax
    in relation to its food supply in arid Western Australia. Ibis 128, 177-194.
    Sedgwick, E. 1989. A note on eagles. Australasian Raptor Assoc. News 10, 52.
    Waterman, M. 1983. Little Eagle banding report. Australasian Raptor Assoc. News 4(4):
    S.J.S. Debus, Zoology Department, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351
    Page 9 Australian Birds Vol.25 No. 1Table
    Territory occupancy by Little Eagles according to colour morph (P = pale, D = dark) of each
    sex (M = male, F = female) at Armidale, 1980-1990. Territories numbered according to
    Debus (1984b). X = bird died or disappeared.
    Territory Year
    80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90
    Table 2
    Reproductive success of six Little Eagle territories at Armidale, 1983-1990. Territories
    numbered according to Debus (1984b).
    Year Territory
    2 3 4 5 6 9
    1983 1
    1984 1
    1985 1
    1987 1
    1988 1
    1990 1+ 2 0
    This paper discusses the results of a 33 week study of a population of Little Tern Sterna
    albifrons, at Windang N.S.W. during the 1989-90 Austral summer. Arrival, increase,
    stability, subsequent decline and departure are discussed. Percentage of non -breeding
    individuals, details of foraging technique, feeding zones and disturbance of the population
    are also presented. Comparisons with a previous six year study and limited data from 1954
    to 1963 is made which corroborates observed seasonal fluctuations at this site.
    The Little Tern Sterna albifrons, is generally regarded both as a summer breeding
    visitor and a non -breeding visitor to the east coast of Australia. Together with an autumn
    breeding population in the Gulf of Carpentaria, the subspecif ic taxonomy of these populations
    is not fully understood (Pringle, 1987; McAllen and Bruce, 1988; Smith, 1990). Harrison
    (1983) describes S.a.sinensis as the Asian breeding sub -species migrating south to
    Australia in summer and S.a.placens as the Australian breeding sub -species. In the
    Illawarra region of New South Wales, the Little Tern is regarded as a summer visitor, now
    only occasionally breeding at locations where it has historically been recorded as breeding
    regularly (Gibson, 1989; Chafer, 1989; Smith, 1990). The largest current regional population
    is at Windang, the entrance to Lake Illawarra, approximately 100 kilometres south of Sydney
    (Wood, 1985; Chafer, 1989).
    During a previous study (Chafer, 1989) it was found that individuals generally begin
    arriving at Windang in late August and early September, increasing to a plateau in January,
    February and March followed by a decline with all birds having departed by mid May. This
    paper reports on a more comprehensive weekly study of the site during the 1989-1990
    Austral summer. These data compare favourably with a limited data set from 1954/55 to
    The Windang population was monitored on a weekly basis from the time of the first
    observed arrival on 17 September, 1989 (week 1) until the last observation on 3 May, 1990
    (week 33).
    Page 11 Australian Birds Vol 25 No. 1Censusing was generally carried out at their main high tide roosting site, an
    elongated sand spit on the north side of the entrance channel to Lake Illawarra. When not
    at this site they could be noted fishing out to sea, in the Lake proper and on occasions,
    roosting on exposed mud flats at the western end of the entrance channel (Chafer, 1991).
    During each census birds in non -breeding and breeding plumage were recorded with details
    of a moult change in late February also noted. While feeding their general behaviour, and
    where possible, the prey type was noted. Censusing was conducted independently by each
    author at personally suitable times during each week which generally resulted in more than
    one count available. In this case the counts with the highest number of individuals was
    recorded as the weekly population. Human disturbance of roosting terns was also recorded.
    Individual censusing results were highly variable ranging from zero to the weekly
    maximum birds being noted on the same day. The number of birds counted roosting tended
    to relate to the feeding activity, as within a minute all or some of the roosting birds could
    depart and be later noted feeding. Mass roosting at the Lake entrance is generally confined
    to high tide, periods of strong winds that cause the water surface to chop and approximately
    15 to 30 minutes before sunset. Often during periods of roosting, birds will bathe in the
    channel shoals, particularly on an ebb tide.
    During the 33 week study period (Fig. 1) the population numbers increased gradually
    over the first six weeks (mid September to the end of October), followed by a rapid increase
    over the two week period of 29 October to 11 November (week 8 & 9). During the next 17
    week period to week 24 the population was relatively stable, (mean 226, range 125 to 362,
    SD 58.8). The highest count of 362 was recorded on 22 February (week 23), shortly after
    which the population declined until the last three individuals were recorded on 3 May (week
    33). This change in population followed closely the trend obtained from a previous study
    (Chafer, 1989) as shown in Fig. 3.
    One pair in breeding plumage were present between 8 October and 27 January and
    although no breeding was recorded, pre -nuptial displays of fish offering and tandem flights
    were observed during November and early December. Four birds in breeding plumage were
    noted during week 8 but two only were recorded in the following weeks (Fig. 2).
    Two immature birds were observed being fed by moulting adults in mid to late
    February, similar observations having been made during the previous two summers.
    All the other birds noted during the population increase period were in non -breeding
    plumage. This remained the case until the first week in February when several birds were
    noted to be moulting into breeding plumage (Fig. 2). The number of birds observed in full
    September 1991 Page 12-
    I 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33
    Fig 1: Maximum weekly number of Little Tern in all plumages
    recorded at Windang NSW from 17 September 1989 to

5 March 1990.


3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33
Fig 2: Maximum weekly number of Little Tern in breeding plumage
recorded at Windang NSW from 17 September 1989 to
5 March 1990.
Page 13 Australian Birds Vol.25 No.
360 –
300 –
250 –
200 -I
150 –
100 –
SO –
J A 0 A
F.g 3: Average monthly maximum and average numbers of Little Tern
recorded at Windang NSW each Aiistral summer from 1982/83 to
1989/90 adapted from Chafer 1989.
1982/83 1984/85 1988/87 1988/89 1990/91
Fig 4: Maximum number of Little Tern recorded at Windang NSW over
each Austral summer from 1982/83 to 1990/91.
September 1991 Page 14or partial breeding plumage increased to 45 in mid March (week 25) at which point the total
population declined rapidly. The number of birds in breeding plumage over this 7 week
period (weeks 24 to 30) were relatively stable, (mean 41.7, range 40 to 45, SD 2.1).
The maximum population recorded during the nine Austral Summers for the period
of 1982/83 to 1990/91 has been extracted from a previous study (Chafer, 1989) as well as
additional data for 1990/91 and is shown in Fig. 4. The 1982/83 count may be underestimated
as the number of visits to the area were less than for following years and is not used in
calculations. The mean of 295, standard deviation (SD) 38, allows an expected range of the
maximum population to be the mean + or – 3x (SD), i.e. 181 to 409 (Spiegel, 1972).
Fishing was conducted primarily in three locations; off shore and to the prevailing
leeward side of the channel entrance to the sea, in the estuary channel itself and in the
eastern half of Lake Illawarra, from Karroo Bay in the south to Griffins Bay in the north
(Chafer, 1991).
Off shore the terns generally fish out beyond the breaker line to a distance of
approximately 500 metres from the shore. Fishing at sea is often conducted during periods
of light winds with the birds using the winds to hover. On sighting prey, birds would dive 5
to 10 metres vertically, stall momentarily and then continue with a shallow dive into the
water. Once a catch is made, the individual may be occasionally chased by other Little
Terns, Silver Gulls Larus novaehollandiae or Kelp Gulls Larus dominicanus.
In the estuary channel, fishing is mainly conducted on the sea end of the channel
along the waters edge during periods of tidal ebb and flow. Here the birds hover between
3 and 6 metres above the water where small fish and crustaceans appear to be taken.
Within the Lake fishing is conducted in a similar mannertothat off shore. Occasionally
birds swoop steeply without a stall and appear to either just dip their bills into or close to the
water surface around areas of floating vegetation as if catching insects. Estimates of catch
success rate could not be ascertained due to distance from shore.
Disturbance of the population is high and consists of both intentional human and
animal interference as well as activities of humans oblivious of the presence of roosting
birds. Human pressure is highest during fine days, especially during the January school
holiday period when there is a considerable influx of tourists into several nearby caravan
parks and picnic areas. Animal disturbance is generally in the early morning and late
afternoon while dogs are being exercised. Very little vehicular activity is permitted in the
area, although professional fishermen are allowed to drive over what was the nesting
grounds to fish the channel for prawns, but as nesting has not been recorded for years this
is now negligible.
Page 15 Australian Birds Vol.25 No. 1DISCUSSION
The results of the 33 week study agree broadly with results obtained from a previous
six year study at this site (Chafer, 1989) and the records of the late J.D. Gibson (now in our
possession). Results indicated that 99% of the Windang population of Little Tern are
migrating non -breeders. The endemic breeding sub -species is poorly represented with a
maximum of two breeding pairs in the estuary which is similar to that of the historical data
collected by Gibson. Seasonal fluctuation of the overall population were similar to that
obtained previously (Fig. 3).
Smith (1990) states that both the breeding and non -breeding populations in N.S.W.
have declined in the last decade. The following data has been extracted from the records
of the late J.D. Gibson and is used for comparative purposes against the 1982/83 to 1990/
91 data presented: –
18 October 1954 Quite a few All non -breeding
7 November 1954 50
21 November 1954 Many All non -breeding
20 February 1955 100 (c)
23 February 1955 200 (c)
14 March 1955 20
3 April 1955 2
24 September 1955 2
18 February 1956 200 3 or 4 in breeding plumage
7 October 1956 100 (c)
5 January 1957 100 2 in breeding plumage
24 January 1957 80 58 in partial or full breeding plumage
23 March 1957 Fair complement
3 October 1959 100
3 February 1963 300 Less than 12 in some breeding plumage
The numbers quoted appear to be estimates rather than counts as they are generally
multiples of hundreds and appear to be the result of infrequent visits to the area. Even so
the maximum numbers counted of 200 and 300 are within the expected population range
of 181 to 409 as previously calculated and suggests that the Windang population has
remained relatively stable through the 36 year period.
Local breeding has not been recorded since the early 1960s (personal observations
and L.E. Smith pers. comm.) although dependent young have been noted in the estuary
September 1991 Page 16over the last 3 years. Breeding at other historical colonies in the area has not been recorded
since one pair nested at Coniston Beach in 1985 (R. Almond pers. comm.). It is apparent
that a number of colonies from Bellambi in the north to Shoalhaven in the south have ceased
to exist (Chafer, 1989; Smith, 1990), while 80 kilometres to the north a population of about
200 in Botany Bay with less than 10 breeding pairs is under pressure from development
(Larkins 1983; Morris, 1989; Eagan, 1991). A similar habitat 80 kilometres to the south, at
the considerably larger Shoalhaven/Crookhaven estuary and the adjacent Lake
Woolumboola, the species is only recorded infrequently although a small breeding colony
previously existed in the area (Chafer, 1989). The implications of this are not clear, although
it appears the ecological requirements of the Little Tern are poorly understood and further
study into this aspect is required.
While previous studies on this species have provided useful information on breeding
populations (Vincent, 1983; Larkins, 1984; Clancy, 1987; Smith, 1990), very little has been
documented on the visiting non -breeding populations. The precise sub-speciat ion of these
populations needs to be identified (Smith, 1990). A specimen of Saunders Tern, S.asaundersi
was collected from Wollongong in 1903 (Condon, 1975) and it has been observed that some
departing breeding plumage birds, (April), appear to lack white shafts in the outer primaries
and have brownish legs as described for S.a.saundersi. This is contra to Pringle (1987) and
Smith (1990) who regard S.a.sinenisis as the departing sub species. These observations
obviously need further confirmation. During the past 8 years of observations most of the
Windang population at any one time is in apparent non -breeding plumage throughout the
Austral summer. During this period sections of the population moult out of and into breeding
plumage, indicating that the phylogenic relationship of Little Tern subspeciation in Australia
may be in need of review.
Chafer C.J. 1989. A survey of Shorebirds in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven Regions of New
South Wales, Report to N.P.W.S. Nowra.
Chafer C.J. 1991. Waterbird Dynamics of Lake Illawarra and its Peripheral Wetlands N.S.W.
Aust. Birds (in press).
Clancy G.P. 1987. The breeding status of the Little Tern Sterna albilrons on the New South
Wales north coast. Corella 11, 59-64.
Condon H.T. 1975. Checklist of the Birds of Australia Part 1., Non -Passerines. Melbourne:
Eagan K. 1991. Silver Gull Predation of Little Tern Colony Botany Bay 1990/91. NSW Wader
Study Group Newsl, Jan. 1991, pp. 6-7.
Gibson J.D. 1989. The Birds of the County of Cambden (including the Illawarra Region),
Illawarra Bird Observers Club: Wollongong.
Page 17 Australian Birds Vol.25 No.
1Harrison P. 1983. Seabirds, an identification guide.. Kent, England: Croome Helm Ltd.
Larkins D. 1984. Little Tern breeding colony on artifical site at Port Botany, New South
Wales. CoreIla 8, 1-10.
McAllen I.A.W. and Bruce M.D. 1988. The Birds of NSW: A Working List. Turramurra, NSW:
Biocon Research Group.
Morris K.A. 1990. The Birds of Botany Bay National Park NSW. Aust. Birds 23, 7-21.
Pringle J.D. 1987. The Shorebirds of Australia, National Photographic Index of Australian
Wildlife. Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
Smith P. 1990. The Biology and Management of the Little Tern (Sterna albifrons) in NSW.
Sydney: National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Spiegel M.R. 1972. Theory and Problems of Statistics. New York, USA: McGraw/Hill.
Vincent J. 1983. The breeding status of Little Tern Sterna albifrons, East Gippsland Victoria
1977-1980. Aust. Bird Watcher 10, 35-60.
Wood K.A. 1985. A survey of the waterfowl and waders of Lake Illawarra N.S.W. Aust. Birds
19, 17-38.
C.J. Chafer 69 Lake Heights Road, Lake Heights, 2502
C.C.P. Brandis 10 Chariton Street, Mt. Warrigal, 2528
Following our original discovery on 2 December 1990 of Powerful Owls Ninox strenua using
day roosts in Pennant Hills Park, my wife and I continued to visit the area occasionally. The
day roost area is a small rainforest grove close to a creek. Tree species are predominantly
Coachwood Ceratopetalum apetalum and Crabapple Schizomeria ovata which provide
most of the roost perches. The surrounding habitat is dry sclerophyll forest and woodland
typical of Sydney sandstone areas with Turpentine Syncarpia glomulifera, Blackbutt
Eucalylptus pilularis, Smooth -barked Apple Angophora costata and Christmas Bush
Ceratopetalum gummiferum among others. The birds in question are a mature pair plus a
juvenile which achieved adult plumage about late January 1991. Since late December 1990
the birds have been under close observation by R.P. Kavanagh (Forestry Commission,
September 1991 Page 18Research Division) who is currently researching forest owls. In support of this program both
my wife and have assisted with site visits, pellet collection and general observations. Two
such observations are here detailed.
On 8 March 1990 R. Turner advised me that the female was roosting with a
particularly large Ring -tail Possum Pseudocheirus peregrinus in her grasp. Arriving late in
the roost area about 1820hrs with the light fading fast, I located the bird but couldn’t discern
any prey in the poor light. After returning to my vehicle for a torch, I was halfway back when
heard typical female calls. Approaching the roost area twice heard a faint answering call
from further downstream along the creek – too faint to identify as male. I also thought the
female might have changed her perch as her calls were apparently coming from slightly
upstream of the earlier perch. Entering the roost area the female calls continued and then
she flew past me, through the densely shaded grove and out into open eucalypt woodland
higher up the slope. followed the calls through a tangle of undergrowth and was able to
relocate her silhouetted against the night sky on an open branch, still calling. shone my
torch at her and couldn’t see any prey. Moving a short distance, I tried shining my torch at
the shady perch where had originally seen her, and was very suprised to find a bird still
sitting there! Two birds! After juggling with binoculars and torch, I finally confirmed that the
bird on the original perch still clutched the Ring -tail Possum remains.
It wastoo dark for me to recognise either bird but the calling bird was still giving typical
female calls. About 1850hrs the “female” caller stopped typical calling and shortly flew in to
a closer perch and commenced another call I had not previously heard – at the time I thought
it was like a horse whinnying, but very low pitched and about one second duration, repeated
about every five seconds. “She” then changed perch again and came closer, still whinnying.
The bird with the Ring -tail Possum remained silent but started to pick at the carcass. Next
the “female” flew to the other bird and perched alongside, immediately provoking a
seemingly aggressive reaction from the possessor of prey who gave a series of shrill piping
notes and pushed its face towards the “female”. The “female” continued whinnying calls and
mostly sat motionless beside the bird with the prey. From about 1900hrs I kept the torch on
them continuously for half an hour; the torch was not too bright but I could see most of what
was happening as it got darker and my night vision adjusted. Twice the “female” seemed
to have made a slight move toward the other’s prey and each time this provoked the same
shrill piping calls and seemingly threatening head movements from the other. After a while,
the bird with the prey settled down to eat, seizing the prey in the bill and tearing it upwards
by straightening the body. could hear snapping noises during the process. The “female”
continued to sit alongside making short whinnying calls. At 1930hrs both birds flew off –
possibly there was another squabble over the prey, but in the flurry I did not even see which
bird moved first.
However, could still hear whinnying calls some distance away and was able to
Page 19 Australian Birds Vol.25 No. 1relocate the “female” sitting on an open perch. Because “she” seemed to be still “begging”,
thought the other bird and the prey must still be near. After about 20 minutes “she” finally
stopped calling and although stood underneath “her” for a further 20 minutes nothing
happened and finally left.
Throughout this episode, had the strong impression that was witnessing an
unsuccessful begging performance. The question remains – which bird was which? I have
in my notes initially referred to the bird which was clearly giving typical female calls as the
female, having originally assumed it was the same female with prey identified in daylight by
R. Turner. When confronted with two birds it became obvious that they could not both be
the mature female; possibly the bird giving typical female calls was in fact the juvenile, sex
unknown? (After this entered this bird as “female” in my notes.) This possibility seems to
fit the behaviour of a juvenile which at this time of year should be becoming independent of
parental feeding. There is also a possibility that the birds were in fact the adult pair engaging
in pre -nuptial food sharing – except that there appeared to be no willingness to share food
during this observation.
The second observation was made about a week later, on 16 March 1991. My wife
and visited the roost site at about 1745hrs primarily to listen to the typical calls after dark
but also to check the roosts in use and any prey held, before it got dark. We found the male
and female roosting together quite close to the creek and then withdrew from the area,
quite obvious and walking well away before later quietly returning as
darkness fell and waiting about 100 metres from the roost.
At 1840hrs we heard the low “whinnying” calls had previously associated with
possible begging behaviour. By 1850hrs the calls sounded louder and higher up in the trees,
it has a very nasal quality. Standing quietly and screened from where we thought the birds
were, we heard the whinnying calls quicken and then there was a flurry above our heads
immediately in front of us. We imagined an owl had pounced on some prey as we tried to
catch the moving silhouette against the sky. When switched on the torch we discovered
two owls facing us and apparently about to copulate! The male had mounted the female with
wings spread for balance – after a momentary stare at our light they continued their
copulation, one (or both?) birds giving shrill piping calls similar to the previous “aggressive”
calls heard during the assumed “begging” incident a week earlier. The performance lasted
about half a minute and then the male abruptly flew downstream. The female sat and
preened for ten minutes, staring at us when we switched on the torch, although mostly we
just watched her dark silhouette through binoculars. The bare branch was about ten metres
above ground and several metres in front of us. Then she too flew downstream. No typical
calls were heard that evening.
Since these events have had the opportunity of consulting Fleay (1968). He is
September 1991 Page 20obviously describing the same call I likened to a very low and short horse’s whinny when
he writes of “rumbling gutteral calls somewhat like the low bleating of a sheep”. tie
apparently regards them as general conversational calls. The shrill piping calls heard both
as a probable aggressive response to begging and also similar calls during copulation are
also described by Fleay during his observations of a copulation as “soft and somewhat
rabbit -like squealing”. His observations in Victoria are that courting takes place in late A,oril
to early May and that birds in northeast NSW may be three weeks earlier. Schorido and
Mason (1980) also give April as the commencement of courting. This observation is at least
two weeks earlier.
My thanks to A.K. Morris and R.P. Kavanagh for assistance and suggestions in
presenting my original rough notes.
Fleay D. 1968. Night watchmen of Bush and Plain. Jacaranda: Brisbane.
Schodde R. & Mason I.J. 1980. Nocturnal Birds of Australia. Landsdowne: Melbourne.
C. “Sandy” Sansom, 15 Aeolus Ave, Ryde, NSW, 2112.
On my first trip to the Northern Territory on 1st July 1987, camped the first night at a
bushland site 20km south of Dumara Road -house, just off the Stuart Highway. The location
was between Newcastle Waters and Daly Waters, at 16053’S,133025’E. The following
morning at daybreak a pair of Painted Honeyeaters Grantiella pieta was observed for a
period of 10 minutes perched on a dead twig at the top of an acacia bush. All the typical
features of a Painted Honeyeater were noted, viz. pink bill, white underparts, black head and
back, yellow in wing and tail, and their typical whistle call.
am familiar with Painted Honeyeaters having observed them at various locations,
but regularly at Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve near Mudgee, New South Wales. No
detailed notes were taken at the time because a quick check of my Slater et al (1986) Field
Guide to Australian Birds, which was carrying, showed that this observation was within, but
on the edge of, their north-west range. pointed out the birds to other people who were with
me, but none were familiar with the species.
had thought no more of the observation until, when reading the newly published
Page 21 Australian Birds Vol.25 No. 1book W. Longmore (1991) Honeyeaters and Their Allies of Australia, it was noted that he
recorded only two observations for Northern Territory (one in 1913, the other in July 1978,
at Little River). Longmore stated that Painted Honeyeaters breed in eastern Australia, but
migrate northwards to Queensland and (probably) the Northern Territory for winter.
However, in the same article is a photograph of a Painted Honeyeater taken at Booraloola,
N.T. in 1978, photographed by J.A.E. Estbergs – making three records? Consequently a
check of M. Blakers et a. (1984) The Atlas of Australian Birds, shows that Painted
Honeyeaters were recorded at four locations north of 18° latitude in Northern Territory
during the period 1978-82. Possibly the “Little River” record is one of these four locations.
There is an inference that at two of the four locations the bird was recorded on more than
one occasion. My observation, therefore, is consistent with other published records for the
Painted Honeyeater north of 18° latitude in that it was in winter but from the limited material
available it would appear that it has not previously been recorded in the Dunmara district.
Alan K. Morris, 1 Wombat St, Berkeley Vale, 2259, NSW.
Mike and Sue Pridmore, Breakfast Creek, Kandos (32039’S,150000’E) are known to many
FOC members as a result of recent visits to that area. The Pridmores live in a mudbrick
cottage surrounded by tall trees. For floor coverings they have Superb Fairy -wrens Malurus
cyaneus, White-browed Scrub -wrens Sericornis frontalis and Rock Warblers Origma
solitaria. The latter species share the butter dish at meal times with Sue and Mike.
Some time ago one of the Yellow Box Eucalyptus meliodora trees near the house
shed a limb which fell on the roof and then slid off onto the verandah. Mike did not bother
moving it because his resident Ringtail and Brush -tail Possums used it as an easy access
to the roof. As the fruits of the Yellow Box dried off they shed seed and Mike and Sue noticed
that the Rock Warbler spent a lot of time eating these seeds. One Rock Warbler was noticed
on several occasions to pick an individual fruit and vigorously twirl it in its beak to dislodge
the seed which was then eaten. This action continued until such time as the fruit ceased to
yeild seeds. The bird then moved to another f ruit and repeasted the process. This event took
place in August 1990, after a fall of snow. The snow would have made searching the forest
floor for seeds and insects more difficult than usual. am sure that this observation gives
an insight into a little known feeding habit of the Rock Warbler.
W. Yates, 12 Russel St, Kandos, NSW, 2848.
Having had a house in Pearl Beach 33o32’S,151015’E in the tree area, we were up to date
with all the Australian wildlife, mostly Laughing Kookaburra Daceb novaeguinea, Pied
Currawong Strepera graculina, Australian Magpie Gymnorhina tibicen and the Noisy Miners
Manorina melanocephala, an occasional Grey Butcherbird Cracticus torquatus and small
However, in December 1990 we became aware of what we thought was an eagle for
just a few days, then it left but we now know that it was a Channel -billed Cuckoo Scythrops
novaehollandiae, presumably the female. We did not get a close look. Some two weeks later
we found that one of the Pied Currawongs had hatched three chicks and were quite
confounded that they did not look like Currawongs. However, never having seen their chicks
before we were waiting for them to turn dark. We knew that Australian Magpies were always
lighter than their elders.
We first thought that the Currawongs were raising three Laughing Kookaburra chicks
but on investigation and advice from a long-standing neighbour we realised that they were
Channel -billed Cuckoos. They were identical with the drawings in the two books we referred
The three young finally learned to fly and still had their feathery legs. They were
insatiable and called for their mother Currawong all the time. We became very sorry for the
one Currawong who was feeding them so that we even bought beef off -cuts for them (about
50g a day) as our off -cuts were not enough.
The poor Currawong parent was very frazzled and was chased everywhere by the
offspring. About a month afterwards we realised that there were four chicks – one very much
behind the others in learning and also feeding. We realised it was a late hatching but we
presumed from the same nest. The nest was a large one high in a Rough -barked Apple
Angophora floribunda.
No young Currawongs hatched in the same nest and we presumed that the Cuckoo
chicks had thrown out the eggs or the young chicks or that the parent Cuckoo had removed
and egg each time one was deposited by her. It appeared that the Currawong was convinced
they were her chicks.
In early March three of the Cuckoos, after having perfected their flying and we had
noticed they were starting to feed for themselves (although only when the Currawong was
Page 23 Australian Birds Vol.25 No. 1absent or too exhausted to help them), left and we presumed migrated. The last chick then
became more friendly and we were allowed to take food for it very near without it flying away.
One day that chick stayed on the deck all day in the same place, puffing up its wings and
eating what we fed it. Next morning, 16 March 1991, it was gone.
Inez & Colin Wood, 26 Cornelian Rd, Pearl Beach, 2256.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Multiple nesting by Channel -billed Cuckoos is not unknown, see M.G. &
C.L. Brooker, 1989, Cuckoo Hosts in Australia. Aust. Zool. Reviews 2.
The first Australian and New South Wales record of the Hudsonian Godwit Limosa
haemastica was for a bird seen at Kooragang Island Nature Reserve, the Hunter River
Estuary near Newcastle 32°12’S, 151°26’E, commencing 26th December 1982, when it
was seen over a number of days by seven observers (T.R. Lindsey 1984 Aust. Birds 18,51).
This bird remained until February 1983 with subsequent sightings in May, June and
December 1983. A further 18 people were recorded as having seen this bird (T.R. Lindsey
1985 Aust. Birds 19,85). In both the NSW Annual Bird Reports for 1982 and 1983, it was
recorded that details of the observation were in preparation. The report was subsequently
accepted by B. Lane (1987 Shorebirds in Australia) as being the only Australian record.
Nine years have passed without any published description of the Hudsonian Godwit
at Kooragang Island, although the observation has achieved widespread acceptance. Four
of the earlier observers viz. A.R. McGill, R. Wheeler, R. Bigg and J.N. Hobbs, who could be
expected to write up the observation, have now died. While approaches have been made
to a number of the other observers recorded in the two aforementioned NSW Annual Bird
Reports, to write up the observation, each has declined. So, until someone comes forward
with a better description and photographs, I have been able to prevail upon Judith Russill
and Athol Colemane to provide some information on the important observation.
They record in litt on 9th April 1991, that they were at least the “100th person to have
seen this bird!” Their first sighting was on 1st January 1983, when the bird was found
roosting on the Stockton sandspit, the northern side of the Hunter River and opposite
Kooragang Island, about 1km from the Nature Reserve. This bird was watched from a
distance of 50m with binoculars. The Hudsonian Godwit was with, and looked similar to,
September 1991 Page 24nearby Bar -tailed Godwits L. lapponica, as both have slightly upturned bills and the sizes
were much the same. The Hudsonian raised its wings several times when the black
auxiliaries and the black under -wing coverts could be readilly seen. When the godwits were
put to flight, the Hudsonian flew with some Black -tailed Godwits L. limosa and thus enabled
the flight patterns of both species to be compared. The Hudsonian led the group much of
the time and the narrower band of white was noticeable on the tail, compared to the broader
white tail band of a Black -tailed Godwit, while there was less white observed on the wing
bar and on the rump of the Hudsonian, compared to the Black -tailed Godwit.
During 1984 a Hudsonian Godwit was recorded at Kooragang Island, Stockton
sandspit on 21st January, 7th April and 11th November 1984 (T.R. Lindsey 1986 Aust. Birds
21,119) and again on 5th January and 7th April 1985 (R.M. Cooper 1989 Aust. Birds 22,21).
Whether or not it has been the same bird each time will never be known. It is conceivable
that the same bird was present continually over the two and half years or alternatively was
present 29th December 1982 to 7 April 1985, staying its first winter in Australia, but then
returning to the Northern Hemisphere after April 1984, and coming back to Australia in the
following spring. This would be similar to the pattern of the other Godwits in Australia for the
first year birds.
wish to thank Judith Russill and Athol Colemane for their assistance in the
preparation of this note. It is hoped that when the NSW Rarities Committee comes into
operation, that observations of such importance as this one, will not be overlooked but rather
reviewed and published in the appropriate manner.
Alan K. Morris, 1 Wombat St, Berkeley Vale, NSW, 2259.
by The National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife. Published by Collins, Angus and
Robertson Publisher, Australia. 390 colour photographs, 450pp. Cost $85.00.
Before opening this book was impressed by the jacket design depicting one of our
spectacular birds, the male Scarlet Honeyeater, also the title, Honeyeaters and Their Allies
in Australia, a group of birds which recollect has been totally documented only twice before.
The two reviews refer to were written by G.R. Gannon, Distribution of the Australian
Honeyeaters, The Emu 62;145-66 and Brigadier H.R. Officer, Australian Honeyeaters,
1964, Bird Observers Club. Gannon figured distribution maps and two photographs, White –
eared Honeyeater and the Brown Honeyeater. Officer’s illustrations by Peg Maltby,
although stiff in comparison to todays standards, never the less provided good diagnostic –
character paintings.
Page 25 Australian Birds Vol.25 No. 1After Gannon and Officer, an additional species, the Eungella Honeyeater Meliphaga
hindwoodi, was discovered in 1978 in central -eastern Queensland by N.W. Longmore and
W.E. Boles and was described by them in 1983, The Emu 83;59-65 as a new species which
they named after Longmore’s mentor, the late K.A. Hindwood. Apparently J.S. Robertson
was biased in 1961 when he thought the species was a Brindled Honeyeater.
The addition of allied species namely, Sittellas, Treecreepers, Sunbirds,
Flowerpeckers and White -eyes (Silvereyes) makes additional interesting reading and
valuable field information.
The format is reminiscent of Nests and Eggs of Australian Birds (A.J. North, 1901-
1906) with useful information regarding each species, both honeyeaters and their allies,
without the seemingly gory collecting activities of North’s, a necessary requirement in
North’s day. These collections are today an important unit of Natural History Museums for
the study of ornithology. The large collections of study specimens in Australian Museums,
acquired many years before and after North includes an almost complete range of
Considering the high standard of photography which has been shown in all of the
Photographic Index books, this current edition is no exception which magnifies the amazing
talent of bird photographers in Australia and the magnitude of the collection in The Index for
selection and reproduction, excelled in this book.
The photographs aid identification of problem field observations concerning birds
and their eggs. The illustrations of all the honeyeaters’ eggs is a first for a book featuring a
large specific group.
The advantages of colour illustrations over North’s black and white photographs
provides the reader with a more accurate representation of the bird, its nest and eggs and
in many cases, and aesthetic photograph combining attracrive native plants, one of many
examples being the Noisy Friarbird perched on top of a Waratah on page 77. This is not a
critisism of black and white photography; there were innumerable superb photographs
taken before the advent of colour. Imagine some of our favourite black and white shots by
experienced photographers if they were in colour. Many of the early black and white
photographers were converted to colour and magnificiently displayed their expertise as is
seen in this book. Norman Chaffer is a shining example.
It seems, by writing reviews, the writer is obligated to be critical and the belief is, not
any book is 100% perfect. What can one say about this attractive book? My concern, written
with a degree of reluctance which is not necessarially a criticism, but in wonderment as on
September 1991 Page 26page 40, it reads “The genus Meliphaga and several closely related groups form two
distinct clusters of species. One typified by Lewin’s Honeyeater is mainly associated with
rainforests and feeds on fruit and nectar. The other, oftem regarded as a separate genus
Lichenostomus, of which the familiar White -plumed Honeyeater is a typical example, has
many species widespread in southern and inland Australia”… Etc. It is unusual that 10
species in the Handlist of Birds in NSW, (Morris et al., 1981) and Field Guide to the Birds
of Australia, (Simpson & Day, 1984) are listed in the genus Lichenostomus whereas Birds
of Australia, (Macdonald, 1973) and Field Guide to Australian Birds, (P. Slater et al., 1974)
include them in the Meliphaga genus. The Queensland connection?
Since Officer and Gannon there have been 13 generic name changes, two species
changes and one vernacular change. These systematists have to get together and come
up with some uniformity to ease the confusion. However, this is no reflection on Longmore
and does not detract from the appeal of a delightful publication as are all of the Photographic
Index Books.
Two birds from a total of 68 species, the Brown -backed and Bar -breasted Honeyeaters
have the appearance of honeyeaters but seem to have been left behind or raced ahead in
evolution. They both build covered nests which is contrary, with a few exceptions, to the
open cup -shaped structures of all other honeyeaters. One would expect them to have
evolved from a genera of birds which build covered hanging nests or has not yet developed
the simpler open cup type nest and the habit of communal nesting is another factor. We
realise some species of honeyeater nest in loose colonies, the Noisy Miner family being an
example but in many cases, this could be an ecological factor. The Yellow -bellied Sunbird,
although not a honeyeater but sucks nectar, also builds a suspended covered nest.
Gannon’s distribution is generally consistent with Longmore’s with slight extensions
of range in most species. Gannon’s Noisy Miner extends to the south-west corner of
Queensland but this appears to be an error of identification with the Yellow -throated Miner
which has a wide range across the continent. Gannon has the Bar -breasted Honeyeater
with a more south east -coast range than Longmore and Longmore has the Banded, Painted
and White -fronted Honeyeaters with a wider distribution than Gannon.
ft must be remembered many of these areas were not investigated during Gannon’s
day and there are more interested observers travelling around the continent in search of
birds and gathering new information for The Atlas of Australian Birds (M. Blakers et al. 1984)
and their personal pleasure.
The text for the Painted Honeyeater refers to only two records in the Northern
Territory (1913 and July 1978, Little River) but one of the photographs depicts a bird at
Page 27 Australian Birds Vol.25 No.
1Booroloola, N.T. in August 1978! (three records). “The Atlas” has at least five sites in N.T.
where the birds were observed on more than one occasion.
In summary, this book is an informative and impressive publication. The photographs
are superb, the information instructively adequate. The cost of $85 is consistent with the
inflationary climate of printing costs for such a publication.
I highly recommend this book for use by everybody interested in the study of our
fascinating birdlife.
About the author: Wayne Longmore has had many years experience in ornithology
with the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Australian Museum
Ornithological Department and the Queensland Museum Department of Ornithology.
I like to think that the late K.A. Hindwood and myself with our association with Wayne,
instilled in him his early inclination, by contributing to his interest in bird observing when we
met him occasionally near his hometown as a schoolboy in the Richmond (Sydney) area.
Wayne would hide his pushbike in the bush and join us in our excursions in the Windsor
district in search of birds. Keith Hindwood would be as am, very pleased with Wayne’s
success in his profession.
E.S. Hoskin
September 1991 Page 28NOTICE 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 than 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 25, No.1 September 1991
    Debus S.J.S.
    Further Notes on Territory, Breeding and Plumage of the
    Little Eagle 1
    Chafer C.J. & C.C.P. Brandis
    Seasonal Fluctuation of Little Tern Sterna albifrons at
    Windang NSW during the 1989-90 Austral Summer 11
    Sanson C. “Sandy”
    Observations of Powerful Owls at Pennant Hills 18
    Morris Alan K.
    Painted Honeyeaters in the Northern Territory 21
    Yates Bill
    Rock Warblers Feeding on Yellow -Box Seeds 22
    Wood Inez & Colin
    Channel -Billed Cuckoo and Multiple Broods 23
    Morris A.K.
    Hudsonian Godwit: First Australian & NSW Record 24
    Hoskin E.S.
    Book Review: Honeyeaters and Their Allies in Australia 25
    Registered by Australia Post – Publication No. NBH0790
    Printed by Drummoyne Printing, 56 Thompson Street, Drummoyne. 811888