When thinking “outback” you could be forgiven for not imagining much else but vast stretches of ‘nothingness’, red dirt and sheep or cattle. We love to dispel all sorts of myths and misconceptions about the outback and the lack of birdlife is one of them!
The great Queensland Outback is one of the most “alive” places you could visit on the planet. Shimmering grasses, immense deltas flowing with fresh water, high rocky crests, unique desert fauna and flora. And of course, where there’s flowers, plants, insects, snakes or small marsupials, you will find birds. Did you know that the Cunnumulla region alone is home to 57 varieties and over 201 species of Australian native birds, including one of the rarest birds in Australia, the Grey Falcon!
We’d like to introduce you to eight of our beautiful and sometimes rare outback avians – they make their home in places where you wouldn’t think to find such delicate beauty and colour. We even managed to find some sound-bytes of some of their lovely calls.
Turn up the sound and get chirpy with it!
Rainbow Bee Eater (Merops Ornatus)
What a useful medical breakthrough it would be to find out how this colourful beauty developed immunity to bee-stings! A bird of many monikers – The Australian, Black-tailed or Pin-tailed Bee-eater; the Rainbow Bird, Rainbow-bird or Rain-bowbird; the Golden Merops or Golden Swallow; the Gold Digger or Gold Miner; the Pintail Sandpiper; or the Kingfisher, Pintail, Spinetail, Needlebeak or Berrin-berrin. Found in almost every part of Australia, the only threat is the Cane Toad, however in the past it was legal to shoot them as they were considered a noxious pest in Queensland in the 1930s and a bounty was paid for its destruction. Milliners also loved their little feathers to decorate ladies’ hats as was the fashion of the day. Happily, the Merops Ornatus now enjoys the status of protected species like all birds in Australia.
Call: Here’s his chirpy call.
Purple-Crowned Fairy Wren
Or perhaps the avian “Priscilla of the Desert”? These glamorous little birds are one of our favourites – such delicate bodies and a spring in their step with a precocious upright tail.
Dressing for Success! When setting out to find a mate, the boys do a little “colour-change” on their head plumage, and change from their normally grey-brown feathers to a spectacular bright purple. Add a black “beauty spot” on top of his fabulous crown, a very sexy, black “Zorro” mask to add intrigue and he’s armed and he’s got the look the ladies love! After all, once mating season is over, he’s back to being his grey-brown headgear with just a little black spot on his cheeks. Sigh……back to the daily grind.
The ladies have a blue-tinged grey crown, chestnut ear-coverts, and greenish blue tail and they are on the lookout for the lad with the most fabulous headgear of the season.Once paired up, they love to sing duets to keep others out of their love-nests. Their loud calls -“cheepa-cheepa-cheepa”, a quieter ‘chet”, and a harsh “zit”- resonate in their north-western Queensland habitat of Boodjamulla. Who said birdlife wasn’t exciting?
Hall’s Babbler – Pomatostomus halli
This little guy is a relative newcomer to the avian listings, as it looked very similar to the white-browed babbler and was only recognised as a species in the 1960s, Named after the Australian-born philanthropist Major Harold Wesley Hall, who funded a series of expeditions to collect specimens for the British Museum, during which the first specimens of Hall’s Babbler were collected in south-western Queensland in 1963.
All he needs is a tuxedo, with his white ‘bib’ from chin to mid-breast ready to go. White-tipped tail feathers creates distinctive white ‘corners’ to the fanned tail which is conspicuous in flight
Hall’s babbler is found in semi-arid and arid regions of eastern Australia and prefers tall Acacia-dominated shrub lands, usually mulga. It has been sighted as far north as Winton and Boulia, as west as McGregor and Grey Ranges, and south to Mootwingee and Brewarrina and east to Longreach-Idalia National Park – Cunnamulla.
Here’s some babbling from the Babbler, recorded at Cunnamulla.
Bourke’s Parrot – Neopsephotus bourkii
80s Retro: With its dusty pink and brown-grey plumage and yellow bill, this little guy would have been an interior designer’s dream accessory in the 1980s. Its white patches around the eyes make it look like it has glasses on, and as usual, the boys get some blue headgear while the ladies do without! Their feathers help it blend in with the reddish soil of its home, There are four documented mutations found in captive Bourke’s parrots; yellow, Isabel, fallow and pink or rosa.
This relatively small (18-23cm long) grass parrot was named after General Sir Richard Bourke, Governor of New South Wales from 1831 to 1837. Also known as the night parrot, blue-vented parrot, sundown parrot, pink-bellied parrot, Bourke’s parakeet, Bourke or “Bourkie”, and sometimes confused with the Diamond Dove, it is the only species in its genus so unlike any other parrot.
Listen here to this parrot’s rather frequent call and mellow “chu-vee” sounds, recorded at Eulo Bore.
Loved this blog? Why not check out PART 2!
By Sandra Beynon