Wednesday, April 13, 2011

South-west Endemics Part 1: Red-eared Firetail

The Red-eared Firetail is an attractive finch endemic to the southwest of WA. As there is only one native firetail in the region, many locals tend to just call them “Firetails” or “Firetail Finches”. The Red-browed Finch, which also has a fiery tail, is present in some Perth hills locations and has established a self-sustaining population from aviary escapees at least 50 years ago [1]. So they are tickable too!

Adult Red-eared Firetail.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

ID Feature: White-tailed Black-Cockatoos

Although recognised as distinct forms as long ago as 1933 (by none other than ornithologist Ivan Carnaby), Carnaby's (Calyptorhynchus latirostris) and Baudin's (C. baudinii) Black Cockatoos were only officially split by the first Christidis & Boles checklist in 1994 [1]. They are typically described in field guides as 'identical except for bill length', which can be unhelpful for birders who can't get a decent look at the upper mandible. We hope the following information is more useful!

Bill Length (but don't forget width!)
This is the obvious and defining difference between the two species, and reflects a difference in feeding habits. Baudin's use their very long mandible tips to carefully extract seeds from woody fruits (e.g. marri gumnuts), leaving little damage on the nut. Carnaby's tend to much more destructive and will chew the rim off marri nuts to access the seeds.

A male Baudin's Black-Cockatoo carefully hooks the seeds out of a marri nut. Note the brownish tinge to plumage (see General Description below).

Friday, April 1, 2011

Northern Pintail at Erskine Lakes

LATEST UPDATE: Northern Pintail still present on Monday, back on the smaller lake - per Bruce Greatwich (11 April)

A female Northern Pintail has again been reported from Erskine Lakes near Mandurah. This is the same location as a female was located in July 2010 and is likely to be the same bird. There are five previous records from Australia (including the 2010 Erskine record), three of which have been from WA.

Northern Pintail at Erskine Lakes