Vol. 9 No. 2-text

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Journal of the

Volume 9 No. 2 December 1974

Registered for Posting as a Periodical, Category B Price $1.00.THE N.S.W. FIELD ORNITHOLOGISTS CLUB
PATRON A.H. Chisholm, O.B.E.
R. Cooke
Dr. R. Mason
The object of the Club is to promote the study and conservation of Australian birds and their
Annual subscription rates to the Club are
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All members receive a quarterly newsletter and a copy of the quarterly journal, Australian Birds.
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address is:
18 Russell St., Oatley, 2223.
Manuscripts should be sent to the Editor at
20 Harrison St., Old Toongabbie, 2146.Volume 9, No. 2 December, 1974
At about 1600 on Saturday, 11 May 1974, a Western Sandpiper Calidris mauri was ident-
ified at Ticehurst Swamp, 10 km north-east of Ivanhoe in western New South Wales. One was seen
in Tasmania in 1969 (Thomas, 1970) but this is the first recorded observation for the Australian
mainland. Ticehurst Swamp is a large area of canegrass about 3 km in diameter with a wide fringe
of open water in which there are many small islets of grass and various types of herbage, with a few
box trees on the larger islands. At the water’s edge the grass is very short or muddied.
After spending 3 hours of the afternoon of 11 May at the swamp I was driving along the
Ivanhoe-Cobar Road which follows a causeway across the western end of the swamp. I stopped to
count a party of Black -fronted Dotterels Charadrius melanops on an open grassy stretch and
immediately saw among them an obvious stint. The most obvious feature of this bird was the
brightness of its upperparts, an almost brilliant chestnut -red. With glasses (7 x 50) the bill could be
seen to be black. Observation continued for one hour. The sun, of course, was lowering and the
light although bright was subject to shadow. The dotterels, 21 in all, were restless, flying at any
close approach and the stint always flew with them so that I never got closer than 30 m to it. Best

views were obtained when the party settled on the hard surface of the road and the stint stood

briefly against a small puddle its bill and legs silhouetted against the water and illuminated by
light reflecting from it.22. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 9 (2)
The head, nape and upper neck were a grey -brown, the head at times appearing marked,
possibly streaked, darker. There was slight light or whitish superciliary stripe before, over and
behind the eye where it was the most conspicuous. With the head held high this stripe was
apparent but when feeding became less obvious. A mark passed from the bill to the eye and
behind the eye. At times this appeared slightly reddish behind the eye. The chin and throat
were whitish but a grey -brown, possibly tinged buffish, wash extended across the upper breast.
This was the same width across the whole breast and although it merged or shaded into the
white of the remaining lower parts it formed a well defined band. The scapulars and all wing
coverts, and possibly some of the secondaries, were a warm chestnut -brown, startling in its
bright beauty, individual feathers being dark, almost black centred, with prominent chestnut –
brown edges and some white. Primaries and secondaries were darker being greyish to brown,
but in looking at the wings one was distracted by the overall redness and found it difficult to
concentrate on the other parts. The grey -brown of the nape and neck seemed to extend down
into the mantle as a wedge between the wings contrasting greatly with the chestnut and at
times this was accentuated by twin white lines extending down each side of the mantle. This
promptly reminded me of the Little Stint Calidris minuta which has similar markings; but
in that species they form a V whereas in the one before me they were almost parallel and did
not meet. Baird (1966) has described these for the Semi -palmated Sandpiper Calidris
pusilla. At times the grey -brown of the head and nape appeared tinged reddish but could
not make up my mind whether this was actual fact or a reflection from the real redness of
the remaining upperparts.
The bill was definitely black, a shiny black, the whole of its length. This was noticeable
because of the long length of it, much longer than a Little Stint or a Red -necked Stint Cali-
dris ru ficollis. It was tapered with a definite but slight decurve at the tip. This point was
looked for closely as I knew it was diagnostic and it was seen repeatedly and it was actual
fact, not an occasional illusion. In stressing the length I do not imply a bill like the Curlew
Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea but it was probably about the length of the bird’s head
or a little longer. My impression at the time was that it was long in relation to that of other
stints. The legs were black in all lights. In the excellent conditions on the road they lacked
the shine of the bill but nevertheless could only be described as black. They appeared long
and in fact gave the bird about the same height as the Black -fronted Dotterels.
In flight, which unfortunately was only seen clearly a few times owing to confusion
with the mass of dotterels, there was a definite and clearly seen white wing bar. The chest-
nut contrasted with the darker primaries and somewhere on the wing was also a contrasting
grey but flights were so short I never located it exactly. The rump was dark with a white
stripe to each side. The tail was also dark and once as it settled with tail spread wide the outer
feathers were seen to be paler, a light brown or very dirty white. Actually there was no
white, my original notes being dirty, or pale brown.December, 1974 23.
The bird fed hungrily and rapidly, picking at the mud just above water -mark or on the
ooze between islets. I did not see it probing. Its movements were hurried. In stance it lacked
the horizontal, head down posture of the Red -necked Stint, it seemed to be a more upright
bird. Whether this was due to the long bill not necessitating so much bending or the loogish
legs was hard to analyse but it certainly had an unmistakeable “jizz” about it. Twice, when
alarmed, it raised its neck and head high as have seen the Long -toed Stint and Pectoral
Sandpiper do.
No call was heard but if made it would have been lost in the calls of the dotterels.
The bird was about the size of the Black -fronted Dotterels, possibly just a fraction
smaller although this impression may have been gained from its more stint shape, not round-
ed like a plover. Certainly it stood about as high as the dotterels. It was apparently a little
larger than a Red -necked Stint.
Only four stints have black legs. There was no resemblance to any plumage of the
Red -necked Stint. The bill of the Little Stint is short and stubby and although it is twenty
years since I have seen this bird in its various plumages there was no responding chord in my
memory. This leaves only the Western and Semi -palmated Sandpipers, two very similar birds
which, in fact, would probably be considered conspecific if their breeding areas did not
overlap in Alaska. Nisbet (1963) summarises the differences between the two very clearly
and his remarks leave no doubt in my mind that the bird saw was the Western Sandpiper.
Nisbet stresses that the scapulars and back of the brightest pusilla are never brighter

than buffy and Thomas (loc. cit.) claims that only mauri has reddish -brown margins to the

feathers of the mantle, scapulars and wing -coverts. Nisbet in quoting a description “black
bill, slightly decurv -e d at the tip, was slender and rather long for a stint and just about as
long as the head” says “could not possibly apply to pusilla and is typical of — short –
billed mauri”. Nisbet also says that the upright stance and relatively long legs ale useful
subsidiary field -characters of mauri.
There seems a little discrepancy in that my bird showed no contrasting markings on
the head or body, except perhaps a suggestion of reddishness. This may have been due to
summer plumage not yet asserting itself on the body feathers although being very obvious
on the wings. Slater (1970) describes the bird as grey above with variable amounts of rust
mainly on the scapulars and adds that the head is pale in some. Thomas (loc. cit.) also app-
arently saw little distinctive about the plumage of these parts confining himself to saying
“head: pale in contrast to the rest of the upperparts”. He also had red and black mottling
on the crown but I only noted the black (or dark).
On the rich chestnut colouring of the wings, the length and shape of the bill, the
length of the legs and the upright appearance, the bird must be the Western Sandpiper
mauri and not the Semi -palmated pusilla.24. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 9 (2)
Its presence in Australia in mid -May is rather late (it was gone next day) but the extreme
Arctic breeders do not nest until mid -June. At first thoughts its presence at Ivanhoe some 800 km
from either eastern or southern coastline is surprising but Nisbet (1959) in discussing wader mig-
ration in North America describes the Western Sandpiper as “western arctic species whose main
migration route is through the centre of the continent -“. It therefore is not a stranger to non –
coastal areas. Incidentally, the Semi -palmated Sandpiper is described as an “Arctic or subarctic
species of eastern or central Canada which migrates down the Atlantic coast”.
Baird, J. 1966 “Semi -palmated Sandpiper in Kent and the Problem of
(in Buck, anors.) Identification: Brit. Birds 59: 546.
Nisbet, I.C.T. 1959 “Wader Migration in North America’:
Brit. Birds 52: 206-207.
1963 “Western Sandpiper on Fair Isle, Shetland 1956”.
Brit. Birds 56: 55-57.
Slater, P. 1970 A Field Guide to Australian Birds. Rigby, Adelaide.
Thomas, D. G. 1970 “Western Sandpiper in Tasmania”. Emu 70: 88-90.
J. N. HOBBS, Columbus St., Ivanhoe 2878.
The Australian Dotterel Peltoliyas australis is a wide -spread endemic wader that
normally frequents the arid interior of the continent. Maclean (1973 Emu 73:61) gives the
distribution for New South Wales as generally west of the Darling River in an area equidistant
between the 250 mm annual isohyet and the periphery of the semi -desert and vegetational
types of seasonal grassland. It is therefore extraordinary to find one of these birds at a golf
course by the sea at Long Reef, Sydney. On Sunday 5 January 1969 at 1600 hours accomp-
anied by the late K. A. Hindwood we had under observation for a period of 30 minutes anDecember, 1974 25.
apparent immature Australian Dotterel. This bird was photographed as it fed quietly along the
edge of the south-eastern fairway at Long Reef Golf Course. At all times it was no more than
30 m distance from us and we observed it through 8x and 10x binoculars. The bird was still in
the area when we left.
The Dotterel showed a preference for the short grass between the edge of the fairway and
the rough, where it appeared to be feeding on insects. The description of the bird under observ-
ation is as follows:-
Slighly smaller than Eastern Golden Plover Phi viciiis dorninica; otherwise bearing resem-
blance to that bird by reason of sandy -brown coloration, upright stance and slender figure. It
did not make any call at all whilst under observation. The bird was quiet and tame, inclined to
run away rather than fly. The most distinctive feature of its plumage was a faint blackish line
running across the sides of the chest and converging at the front of the abdomen forming a faint
“V” on the bird’s chest when viewed front -on. The eye was large and dark and there was a vert-
ical faint blackish line through the eye region and over the crown. The bill was greyish and
plover -like. Head -bobbing was obvious and it also crouched once in the grass.
Through Mr. E. S. Hoskin I was able to re-examine the notes taken by Mr. Hindwood at
the time. My thanks are extended to Mr. Hoskin for assistance in the preparation of this note.
MR. D. SAWYER, 11 Perrey St., Collaroy Plateau. N.S.W. 2098
The Willie Wagtail Rizipiciura leucoplirys is an adaptive species common in the Inverell
district of northern New South Wales. In spring -summer 1973-4 casual observations were made
of what was considered a normally coloured breeding pair, I was therefore startled to find (after
six weeks) that in one adult the black of chin and throat extended on to chest and abdomen.
Only the undertail coverts were white.
This pair was noticed on 29 October 1973 feeding young in a nest built on a small dry
branch of a yellow -box Eucalyptus rneliodora 3 m from the ground. One parent of normal
colour tried diversionary tactics, flitting close by, then away; the other sat tight. After a storm
on 6 November the nest with three dead fledglings was on the ground, the broken branch nearby.26. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 9 (2)
A second nest was built 2.5 m from the ground on a slender dead branch of privet. One
bird was sitting with a white -fronted bird on guard. Three chicks hatched and were brought to
the house 250 m away and there fed frequently by the normally coloured adult.
On 10 December one bird was sitting again in the same nest; the adult with fledglings
kept watch. On 18 January 1974 one young fledgling was out of the nest and closely guarded
by a noisily churring “black” adult. On 21 January this melanistic bird was looking after this
young one whilst the normal adult rearing the older fledglings was ever ready to circumvent
The black -fronted bird was seen many times by myself and other observers with the
naked eye. One splended view was obtained at 08:40 (4 m; sun over shoulder; 8 x 30 field
glasses) when the bird obligingly sat on an overhead wire for two minutes. In this light, chest
and flanks were shiny black, abdomen dark charcoal. It seems that only the black -fronted
wagtail brooded the three clutches – at least in the daytime – thus escaping detection.
MRS. MERLE BALDWIN, Gilgai, via Inverell. N.S.W. 2360
The late K. A. Hindwood (1967) wrote on “Birds and Ants” and he noted that Keast (1944)
recorded birds eating winged termites (Isoptera). On 20th December, 1972 at Wahroonga there
was a flight of termites coming up from a gully at dusk, four Red Wattle -birds Anthochaera
carunculata were perched to advantage and hawked these insects, returning to the perch to swa-
llow them. They must have caught a gizzard full by dark! Termites have not shown up as a food
item of birds to any extent in gut contents analysed, although aviary birds eat them avidly, how-
ever ants (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) are commonly found in gizzards.
In Table 1 is a list of birds that I have recorded with ants in their gizzards. Many contained
unidentifiable insect remains some of which could have been ants, but have not been included.
Where the word “ants” occurs it will mean more than one wingless worker, but not the main
contents, unless stated. Occurrence is the total number of gizzards examined containing food.
The genera of ants previously recorded by other workers in the stomach contents of these birds
is also indicated, however the summary excludes those mentioned in Rose (1973a & 1973b).December, 1974 27.
Hindwood mentions Noisy Friarbirds Philemon corniculatus and Noisy Miners Manor –
Ma melanacephala eating winged sugar Camponotus and meat ants Iridotnyrmex. From
stomach content analysis of road killed specimens, it has been noted that these honeyeaters eat

other types of ants as well, including winged bull ants Myrrnecia species. Apart from honey

eaters eating sugar ants, an Owlet -nightjar Aegotheles cristatus was found to have eaten 15
sugar ants along with two other insects.
In addition, 63 out of 263 pellets disgorged by Pied Currawong Strepera graculina and
taken in all months of the year, contained ants. 23 of these were bull ants, seven being the most
in one pellet which consisted of insects only, regurgitated immediately before the bird fed on
figs. One third of the pellets containing ants were found to include only one ant, however ants
were found in pellets of all food eaten. Two of the food trees where pellets were regularly picked
up, are isolated in a park and definitely no bull ants were found on or around the trees, yet 20%
of these pellets included a bull ant, indicating that Pied Currawongs do not take in the odd ant
by chance. One pellet consisted of all flying ants, except a few fig seeds and one beetle. Further
information on the food of the Pied Currawong can be found in Rose op cit.
In a study of the food of the Black -backed Magpie Gmynorhina tibicen at Canberra,
Vestjens and Carrick (1974) examined the stomach contents of 1319 magpies of known age,
sex and social status. It was found that insects taken in the largest numbers were ants of five
genera. The ants are available and numerous throughout the year and were found in the stom-
achs of 70% of both territorial and flock magpies over a full year period. Ants do not figure so
prominently in the gizzard contents that examined of the ten magpies which came from Glou-
cester and Sydney Districts.
Standard reference texts, particularly that of Lea and Gray (1936) Frith (1967 and

1969), and Serventy and Whittell (1948) do not record ants in the diet of the following birds:

Short -tailed Shearwater Puffinus tenuirostris, Black Duck Anas superciliosus, *Painted
Quail Turnix varia, *Sacred Kingfisher Halcyon sancta, Welcome Swallow Hirundo neo-
xena,*Spotted Quail -thrush Cinclosoma punctatum, *Grey -crowned Babbler Pomatos-
tomus temporalis, Dusky Wood -swallow Artamus cyanopterus, Yellow- tailed Thornbill
Acanthiza chrysorrhoa, Variegated Wren Malurus lamberti, Rock Warbler Origma
solitaria, Spotted Pardalote Pardalotus punctatus, *Noisy Friar -birds Philemon corn-
iculatus, Satin Bower -bird Ptilonorhynchus violaceus, Regent Bower -bird Sericulus
chrysocephalus, *Pied Currawong Strepera graculina. Those marked * have been men-
tioned in Rose (op cit.) as including ants in their diet.
To date I have recorded 35 species of birds eating ants, although several species prob-
ably only took them by chance with their more natural food. Many more species examined
Con’t. page 3028. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 9 (2)
Short -tailed shearwater winged ant 1/5 Dec. (winf
Black duck ants 1/44 May
Painted quail ants 3/4 July, Oct,
Spur -winged plover ants 1/1 Aug.
Owlet -nightjar mainly ants 2/4 June, Sep.
White -throated nightjar winged ants 1/2 Jan.
Spine -tailed swift winged ants 1/1 Dec.
Laughing kookaburra ants 3/28 Dec, Sep.

Sacred kingfisher ant 1/3 not known
Superb lyrebird ants 1/4 Aug.
Welcome swallow winged ants 2/7 Jan. and bi
Spotted quail -thrush ants 1/3 Apr.
Grey -crowned babbler ants 1/1 Sep.
Superb blue wren ants 2/5 June, Apr.
Variegated wren ants 3/4 Mar., May
Yellow-rumped thornbill ants 1/1 Sep.
Rock -warbler ants 2/3 Jan., Mar.
Scarlet robin sugar ants 1/1 Dec.
Southern yellow robin ants 2/3 Aug,. May
Rufous whistler ants 1/1 not knowr
Grey shrike -thrush ants 1/5 Apr.
Spotted pardalote ants 2/9 Dec. both,
White -eared honeyeater ants 2/2 Apr.,Aug.
Noisy friar -bird ants 2/6 Oct., Feb.
New Holland honeyeater ants 2/4 Oct., wir
Nosy miner ants 5/12 Mar., Sep.
Red wattle -bird ants 1/1 May wing,
Starling ants 1/2 Nov.
Indian myna ants 3/6 Nov., Dec.
Magpie lark ants 4/9 Feb., Apr.
Dusky wood -swallow ant 1/1 not knowr
Pied currawong ants 6/10 Mar., Nov.
Black -backed magpie ants 3/10 Nov.,Apr.
Regent bower -bird ants 1/1 Apr.
Satin bower -bird ants 1/1 Mar.December, 1974 29.
(sects in 2 others) None
mown None
Isoptera and winged ants)?)
gar ants (winged), Camponotus, Iridomymex
Ibly taken in with bread.
lain food. None
main food. June nothing else but ants. None
ly and eggs None
Camponotus, Polyrhachis, Iridomyrmex.
of winged ants, worker Pheidole, Iridomyrmex, Amblyopone, Myrmecia.
of worker, spider as other food.
Myrmecia, Camponotus, Pheidole.
led. Iridomyrmex
led male bull ants. None
Nov. Workers Pheidole
:t. nestling, Nov., winged bull ants Camponotus, Iridomyrmex.
ill ants. Camponotus, Iridomyrmex.
sugar ants only feed. None
Sep. Camponotus, Pheidole, Iridomyrmex.
Jan.,1 only in 2 birds. None
ged, Apr. bull ant. Camponotus, Iridomyrmex, Myrmecia, Pheidole,
have had insect remains, including Hymenoptera, but not positively ants, so these have been
excluded. Pied Currawongs’ gizzards and pellets combined showed that 24% of those examined
contained one ant. Data from the remaining species examined is insufficient to determine the
extent to which a species feeds on ants. 16 species have not previously been recorded feeding
on ants.
Many thanks are extended to all those persons who bring in road killed specimens, however
damaged and rotten, since some use can always be made of them; Mr. M. F. Lovell of Wahroonga
N.S.W. for collecting regurgitated pellets; the staff of the Entomology Department, Australian
Museum, for identifying material; Mr. H. J. de S. Disney for checking bird species, and A. K.
Morris for comment and advice on the text.
Frith, H. J. 1967 Waterfowl in Australia. Angus & Robertson, Sydney.
Frith, H. J. Editor 1969 Birds in the Australian High Country. A. H. & A. W. Reed,
Hindwood, K. A. 1967 Birds and Ants. Birds 1:4:2
Keast, J. A. 1944 Termites and Birds. Emu 43:218-219
Lea, A. M. & J.T.Gray 1935-6 The Food of Australian Birds. Emu 34:275-292;
35:63-98; 145-178, 251-280, 335-347.
Rose, A. B. 1973a Food of some Australian birds. Emu 73:177-9
Rose, A. B. 1973b The food of the White -throated Nightjar.Birds 8:31-32
Serventy, D. L. and 1962 Birds of Western Australia. 3rd Edition. Paterson Brokensha
H. M. Whittell Pty. Ltd. Perth.
Vestjens, W. J. M & 1974 Food of the black -backed magpie Gymnorhina t.tibicen,
R. Carrick at Canberra. Aust. Wild. Res. 1:71-84
A. BARCLAY-ROSE, 24 Fisher Ave., Wahroonga. 2076December, 1974 31.
In the early afternoon of 24 March 1973, a Long-tailed Skua Stercorarius longicaudus
joined a flock of birds being fed from our fishing boat off Sydney Heads and remained in the
vicinity for about 15 minutes. The bird flew actively, allowing good views at ranges down to
about 3 metres. Nine 35 mm colour photographs were obtained; these are mediocre in quality
but confirm several details of the plumage description noted on the spot, particularly the pale
blue -grey legs.
The boat was drifting a few hundred metres off the cliffs at North Head. Seas were
slight and weather conditions good with a thin overcast and a light breeze from the southeast.
Observers were: Margaret Cameron, Richard Cooper, David Sawyer, Richard Noske and the
writer. A flock of seabirds was being fed small lumps of suet thrown from the stern of the
small fishing boat. Besides a few gulls and terns, this flock consisted of about 6 Arctic Skuas
Stercorarius parasiticus, and at least 10 Pomarine Skuas Stercorarius pomarinus,
although it was notedfrom the plumages of the various individuals present that the compos-
ition of the flock was not constant.
The Long-tailed Skua suddenly appeared in the midst of the other skuas and was
immediately picked out by members of the party as being conspicuously different in general
appearance and flight style. The bird was smaller and lighter in build than the other skuas and
had a much more dashing and impetuous flight style (which factor was chiefly responsible for
the poor quality of the photographs obtained). Various members of the party described the
flight as “tern -like” or “kestrel -like”; the bird was slim and graceful enough almost to suggest
a Crested Tern Sterna bergii. Typical behaviour over the period of observation was to hang
as though suspended just astern, then dash through the flock to snatch a food item, then
wheel overhead to take station over the stern again.
The following description was summarised from notes taken on the spot: the back was
smooth uniform greyish -brown, paler than that of any of the other skuas present; rump uni-
form with the back. Tail darker towards the tip of the outer retrices, longer in comparison
with other skuas and less broad; shafts of retrices white. Underparts dusky white with diffuse
greyish pectoral band. Dorsal surface of wings uniform with back, flight feathers darker,
undersurface dark grey. No white flashes in the wings, only the shafts of the first four or five
primaries white. Head pale, cheeks yellowish, cap not as dark nor as distinct as that of other
skuas and less extensive, well separated by a pale nape. Dark smudge near eye. Bill mid grey,
legs pale bluish -grey, webs black.
This appears to be the first definite record of the Long-tailed Skua in New South Wales,
although Iredale (1940 Emu 40: 180) mentions a possible sighting in Sydney Harbour in the32. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 9 (2)
1930’s. There are several records elsewhere in the Australian region (Carter 1966 Emu 66:
69-70, Sibson 1967 Notornis 14: 79-81, Cox 1973 S. A. Ornith. 26:85, and Corben 1973
Sunbird 4: 54-55). Both Carter (in litt. 17 October 1973) and Corben have already pointed
out that all Australasian records so far are in the period March-April and the present record
continues the trend. However, with the exception of the New Zealand record (Sibson, loc.
cit.) all have been adults. Our bird appears to have been immature, perhaps in its second
winter, and in fact conforms closely with the description of the New Zealand bird given by
I am grateful to Michael J. Carter, John B. Cox, Chris Corben and Alan E. F. Rogers
for their comments on copies of our field notes of this bird and to Margaret Cameron for
the loan of photographs.
T. LINDSEY, P.O. Box 8, Malanda, Q1d. 4885
The Blue Petrel Halobaena caerulea is generally considered to be a rare visitor to Aust-
ralian waters with few records from most States. In New South Wales the appearance of three
specimens during the winter of 1973 (July), two at Palm Beach and one at Wanda Beach near
Cronulla (Rogers 1974), is of particular interest as these are apparently the only records for the
State since 1954 when nine specimens were collected, including the first record (Hindwood &
McGill 1955).
The 1973 specimens were not preserved but the two from Palm Beach (PB) were verified
at the Australian Museum and the Wanda Beach (WB) bird was photographed. These were ident-
ified as follows:
PB: Upperparts bluish -grey, crown darker than back, forehead mottled, lores and under-
parts white, tail squared, black with a white terminal band (diagnostic of this species), bill black,
latterally compressed. The back and upper wings had the “W” pattern similar to that of prions
Pachyptila; D. Sawyer (in litt.).December, 1974 33.
WB: Specimen in very poor condition, lacking head and feet but readily identified by the
diagnostic white tail band.
A review of the records from other States indicated that the status of this species is rare
to very rare. Most records have apparently been from Western Australia where it is considered
a “rare winter visitor …. as far north as the Fremantle area” (Serventy & Whittell 1967). In
spite of only two records in South Australia, in 1914 and 1954, Condon (1969) considered it
to be a “casual” visitor, Learmonth (1955) recorded the first specimen for Victoria (Portland)
since the one previous record of 1890 (Mordialloc) when one was collected in 1953 and six in

  1. There have been subsequent records for western Victoria (Wheeler 1967) and Cooper
    (1970) has since obtained the first two records for eastern Victoria. Sharland (1958) indicated
    that there were “few records” for Tasmania and Green (1962) considered records to be “almost
    non-existent”, when specifying one for Evandale on the Tamar River (2 July). Dell (1952)
    listed only one record for Tasmania, a questionable specimen collected on 20 March by
    Fletcher (1928) at Eaglehawk Neck (McGill pers. comm.). Subsequent Tasmanian records
    have apparently all been from King Island (Green & McGarvie 1971; McGarvie & Templeton
    1974; D. R. Milledge in litt.).
    The Blue Petrel has been recorded on a number of subantarctic islands including Crozet,
    Falkland, Heard, Kerguelen, Macquarie, Prince Edward, South Georgia and South Orkney
    Islands and small islands near Cape Horn, during the summer where it is known to breed or
    probably breed. Non -breeding distribution is circumpolar in the cooler subantarctic as well
    as Antarctic waters between the latitudes of 70°S. and 40°S., wandering further north
    (cf. Johnson 1965; Murphy 1936:723; Serventy et. al. 1971:106; Szijj 1967). It apparently
    winters in the Tasman Sea (May to October) and is regularly picked up on New Zealand
    coasts but usually only in very small numbers (Falla et. al. 1966; Rogers pers. comm.). The
    species has been recorded up to 30°S. off South Africa (Voous 1970) and 33°S. off the
    coast of Chile (Johnson loc. cit.) but its movements are probably correlated with water
    temperature preferences (Jehl 1973; cf. Murphy op. sit.). It has apparently straggled north
    to new Caledonia (Warner 1947) and Fiji (Alexander 1963).
    Although there have been few documented records of the Blue Petrel in Australian waters,
    the non -breeding distribution suggests that it is most probably a regular visitor, though perhaps
    normally in small numbers, generally following the subantarctic zone of surface water, largely
    south of 40°S., with a surface temperature range of between -2°C. and 11°C. (Jehl 1973;
    Szijj 1967). As it seems with some other sea -birds rarely recorded in the Australian area, the
    Blue Petrel records may coincide with periods of cyclonic conditions e.g. New South Wales in34. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 9 (2)
    1954 and 1973 (the only years in which the species has apparently been recorded). The year
    1954 was also significant for records in other States e.g. Victoria. New Zealand parallels New
    South Wales in that 1954 and 1973 produced records of a relatively large number of Blue
    Petrels (Falla et. al. 1966; Edgar 1973). It is also interesting to note that 1973 saw the occurr-
    ence of unusually large numbers of the Dove Prion pach vpti/a desobta on New South
    Wales coasts, 194+ (Rogers 1974), compared to one and nil in 1972 and 1971 respectively
    (Morris in litt.).
    We are very grateful to Messrs. H. J. deS. Disney, A. R. McGill, D. R. Milledge, A. K.
    Morris, A. E. F. Rogers and D. Sawyer for their kind assistance with enquiries during the
    preparation of this paper.
    Alexander, W. B. 1963 Birds of the Ocean. 2nd ed. New York: G. P. Putnam’s
    Condon, H. T. 1969 A Handlist of the Birds of South Australia. 3rd ed.
    Adelaide: S.A.O.A.
    Cooper, R. P. 1970 Additional Records of Birds from Wilson’s Promontory.
    Aust. Bird Watcher 3:239-245.
    Dell, R. K. 1952 The Blue Petrel in Australasian Waters. Emu 52:147-152.
    Edgar, A. T. 1973 Classified Summarised Notes. Notornis 20:346-376.
    Falla, R. A., 1966. A Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand.
    R. B. Sibson and London: Collins.
    E. G. Turbott
    Fletcher, J. A. 1928 Bird Notes from Southern Tasmania. Emu 28:156.
    Green, R. H. 1962 A Tasmanian Record of the Blue Petrel. Emu 62:215.
    Green, R. H. and 1971 The Birds of King Island. Rec. Vic. Mus. No. 40.
    A. M. McGarvie
    Hindwood, K. A. and 1955 Sea-bird Mortality in Coastal New South Wales during
    A. R. McGill July, 1954. Emu 55:148-156.
    Jehl, J. R. Jr. 1973 The Distribution of Marine Birds in Chilean Waters in
    Winter. Auk 90:114-135.December, 1974 35.
    Johnson, A. W. 1965 The Birds of Chile and Adjacent Regions of Argentina,
    Bolivia and Peru. Vol. 1. Buenos Aires: Platt Est. Graf.
    Learmonth, N. F. 1955 Blue Petrels in Victoria. Emu 55:99.
    McGarvie, A. M. and 1974 Additions to the Birds of King Island, Bass Strait.
    M. T. Templeton Emu 74:91-96.
    Murphy, R. C. 1936 Oceanic Birds of South America. 2 Vols. New York:
    Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist.
    Rogers, A. E. F. 1974 N. S. W. Bird Report for 1973. Birds 8:97-119.
    Serventy, D. L., 1971 Handbook of Australian Sea -birds.
    V. Serventy and A. H. & A. W. Reed.
    J. Warham
    Serventy, D. L. and 1967 Birds of Western Australia.
    H. M. Whittell 4th ed. Perth: Lamb Publ.
    Sharland, M. S. R. 1958 Tasmanian Birds. 2nd ed. Sydney: Angus & Robertson.
    Szijj, L. J. 1967 Notes on the Winter Distribution of Birds in the Western
    Antarctic and Adjacent Pacific Waters. Auk 84:366-378.
    Voous, K. H. 1970 Blue Petrels Halobaena caerulea in Cape Seas.
    Ardea 58:266-267.
    Warner, D. W. 1947 The Ornithology of New Caledonia and the Loyalty
    Islands. Unpubl. Ph. D. thesis. Cornell University,
    New York.
    Wheeler, W. R. 1967 A Handlist of the Birds of Victoria. Melbourne V.O.R.G.
    MR. B. 14). FINCH, 29 Macken St., Oatley West, 2223
    MR. M. D. BRUCE, 8 Spurwood Road, Turramurra, N.S.W. 207436. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 9 (2)
    D. G. GOSPER
    Bruce (1974 Aust. Birds 9:17), summarising recent occurrences of the Red -backed Quail
    Turnix maculosa in south-eastern Australia, lists four sightings from coastal northern N.S.W.*
    Two further records from this region, including one of breeding, are now described. Both obser-
    vations were made in cultivations on adjoining dairy farms at Southgate, 9 km north-east of
    Grafton during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s whilst was resident in the district.
    Between 1957 and 1960 (no date was recorded) a breeding record of the Red -backed Quail
    was obtained when a deserted nest containing two eggs was found in a lucerne bed following
    mowing. At the time was unable to identify the eggs with certainty from the description in
    the available literature. Some years then elapsed before was prompted to forward the eggs to
    Mr. K. A. Hindwood for positive identification. In reply (25.9.62) Mr. Hindwood stated “They
    agree quite well with those of the Red -backed Quail T maculosa, also called Black -backed,
    Black -spotted and Orange -breasted Quail. The glossy surface of the eggs separate them from the
    rather similar eggs of the Red -chested Quail, the eggs of which species have a dull surface and,
    in the Museum series at least, are slightly larger and more pointed”.
    A further occurrence of the species was recorded in December 1962 when a female was
    captured in an oats crop by a neighbour, Mr. G. Tarrant. The bird was placed in an aviary where
    viewed it on a number of occasions, the first being 21 December. These were the only occasions
    on which evidence of the presence of the Red -backed Quail was detected although cultivation
    paddocks, particularly lucerne, were frequented by Brown Quail Synoicus ysilophorus,
    Stubble Quail Coturnix pectoralis and King Quail Excalfactoria chinensis, all of which
    bred as indicated by nests found after mowing in most years.
  • (Note: Bruce (op. cit.) gives the record by Hobbs and Kaveney (1962 Emu 61:296) as
    Diamond Head near Woolgoolga. However, the location given by the original authors in their
    paper is Diamond Head, north of Taree).
    D. G. GOSPER, 15 Arthur Street, Casino, N.S.W. 2470h allid , ‘f- t2 1:k
    Hobbs, J. N. A Western Sandpiper in New South Wales 21
    Sawyer, David. An Australian Dotterel near Sydney 24
    Baldwin, Merle. Colour variation of a Willie Wagtail 25
    Rose, A. Barclay. Birds that include ants in their diet 26
    Lindsey, Terrence. A record of a Long-tailed Skua in New South Wales 31
    Finch, Brian W. & Murray D. Bruce. The status of the Blue Petrel in Australian Waters
    Waters 32
    Gosper, D. G. Supplementry records of the Red -backed Quail from north-eastern
    New South Wales 36

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