In pictures: BirdLife Australia’s 2018 calendar

By BirdLife Australia 8 December 2017
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BirdLife Australia is turning the spotlight on some of our most beautiful, colourful and intriguing woodland birds.

SINCE EUROPEAN settlement one-third of Australia’s woodlands, and 80 per cent of temperate woodlands, have been destroyed—and vast swathes of bush continue to be cleared to this day. Over one-third of Australia’s land birds are woodland dependent and as a consequence of this habitat destruction (and a multitude of other reasons) at least one in five of these species is now threatened. Some of these special birds feature in their 2018 calendar—now on sale here.

Superb Parrot

Polytelis swainsonii

superb parrot

(Image Credit: Andrew Silcocks)

The aptly named Superb Parrots live on the slopes and plains west of the Great Dividing Range in New South Wales, spending the winter in northern and central regions of the state, and then heading south to the riparian River Red Gum forests of the Riverina to breed, especially along the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers.

Crested shrike-tit

Falcunculus frontatus

Crested shrike-tit

(Image Credit: Dean Ingwersen)

This arresting bird is heard more often than it’s seen, though it’s not the call of the Crested Shrike-tit that’s the giveaway. Shrike-tits use their strong, stout bills to rip bark from the branches of trees to reveal insects and other invertebrates underneath, and it’s usually the sound of tearing bark that attracts the ear, rather than the bird’s mournful, piping whistle.

Forty-spotted Pardalote

Pardalotus quadragintus

Forty-spotted Pardalote

(Image Credit: Geoff Park)

These tiny birds rely on White Gums to nest and feed, gleaning insects and prising lerp from the leaves with their hooked beaks. Preserving old gums, in forests and on farms, is one of the keys to protecting this Endangered Tasmanian native, but revegetation programs have also proved successful in creating new habitat for Forty-spots.

Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo

Calyptorhynchus banksii

red-tailed black cockatoo

(Image Credit: Jan Wegener)

The sight of a flock of Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos flapping on broad, lethargic wings as they slowly trail across the landscape is one that lingers in the memory. They are usually seen flying above the treetops, but, with a flash of their blood-red tail panels, can suddenly spiral down to land in the branches of trees or onto the ground to forage.

Square-tailed Kites

Lophoictinia isura

Square-tailed Kites

(Image Credit:L David Stowe)

Usually seen circling low and slow just above the treetops as it searches for food, the Square-tailed Kite mostly hunts other birds, especially songbirds. Their prey is usually ambushed, plucked from among the foliage of the trees, and during the breeding season, chicks are often stolen from their nests—it is rumoured that Square-tailed Kites are capable of snatching a nestling with each foot.

Varied Sittella

Daphoenositta chrysoptera

Varied Sittella

(Image Credit: Ross Coupland)

Usually a noisy chatter from the treetops is the first sign that Varied Sittellas are around. They forage high in the branches of eucalypts, especially those with rough bark, where they explore cracks and knotholes, probing them to glean tiny insects and other invertebrates. When foraging, they spiral down the tree trunks and branches (unlike treecreepers, which always spiral up the trunks).

Barking Owl

Ninox connivens

Barking Owl

(Image Credit: John Tranter)

Unsurprisingly, the Barking Owl is named after one of its distinctive calls—a dog-like woof-woof—but it also makes a number of other noises. One of these calls sounds uncannily like a screaming woman. They are so convincing that when the early settlers heard these far-carrying shrieks coming from the depths of the forest at night, they assumed that someone was meeting a grisly fate.

Grey-crowned Babblers

Pomatostomus temporalis

grey-crowned babblers

(Image Credit: Chris Tzaros)

It’s seldom difficult to tell when a party of Grey-crowned Babblers is in the vicinity. Their scolding, whistling and chattering calls readily give their presence away, but their most well known call is a distinctive ‘ya-hoo’, given as a duet by pairs of birds—the female gives a harsh ‘ya’ and the male responds with a high-pitched ‘hoo’, though given the precise timing it sounds as though the call was given by a single bird.

Diamond Firetail

Stagonopleura guttata

Diamond Firetail

(Image Credit: Shelley Pearson)

Like most finches, Diamond Firetails eat seeds, which they usually peck from the ground, though they sometimes also pluck them from the seed-heads of tussocks of grass. Grass doesn’t only provide a food source, as its stalks and blades are also expertly woven into strange, bottleshaped nests, with the neck of the bottle forming an entrance tunnel to a feather-lined chamber, where up to seven glossy white eggs are laid.

Painted Button-quail

Turnix varius

Painted Button-quail

(Image Credit: Gerard Satherley)

Shy, unobtrusive and superbly camouflaged, Painted Button-quails are sometimes so inconspicuous in the forest that they can be difficult to find. The only sign that they’re there may be the tell-tale circular patches— known as ‘platelets’—they leave in the leaf litter. These platelets are formed when the birds forage for seeds on the forest floor, spinning on alternate legs while scratching among the fallen leaves to reveal a round patch of bare soil.

Blue-faced Honeyeater

Entomyzon cyanotis

Blue-faced Honeyeater

(Image Credit: Heyn de Kock)

In Queensland, the Blue-faced Honeyeater is sometimes known as the Banana-bird, due to its habit of foraging for insects among the foliage of banana trees, though they sometimes eat the bananas as well. Similarly, it is known as the Pandanus bird in the Northern Territory, again reflecting its occasional foraging habitat. However, these birds are more likely to be seen feeding in open eucalypt or paperbark forests and woodlands, or in monsoon forests, and sometimes even among mangroves.

Red-capped Robin

Petroica goodenovii

Red-capped Robin

(Image Credit: Rob Drummond)

Red-capped Robins are often seen as they perch on a stump or low branch, they patiently watch the ground below, waiting and hoping to spot an insect or other invertebrate among the leaf litter, before pouncing onto it. Their call is usually a quiet, insect-like trill, but on rare occasions they may mimic the calls of a Scarlet Robin.