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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Birding Victoria: Laughing Kookaburra and the Rest

No birding trip to Australia could be considered complete without encountering the signature kingfisher native to Australia: the laughing kookaburra. This large, carnivorous bird is reportedly common and therefore I started proactively panicking when my 48-hr birding excursion neared its end and there was no sign of the kookaburra. Simon, my guide, ultimately delivered the target species and I could safely return to the States without the shame of being known as the birder who counts common species as nemesis birds.

Perhaps the most common bird of prey was the whistling kite [right]. This kite reminded me of our harriers in its behavior. Also seen were little eagle [middle] and black shouldered kite [left; compare with our white-tailed kite with which they were earlier considered conspecific].

The brown falcon [left] is another endemic; in addition to the black shouldered kite and little eagle.

Among larids, the most common gull was the silver gull [left and lower right]; they are very common and quite attractive in their breeding colors. Also sighted was crested tern [upper right] which has a distinctive yellow bill.

Australia is known, if for nothing else, but the richness of its psittacids. The first one I saw, in urban Melbourne, was the Sulphur-crested cockatoo [upper left]. Another common cockatoo is the Galah [right] which is increasing in numbers. While I missed the male King Parrot, I did see the female [lower right]; and, a much smaller parrot -- the red rumped [middle].

Concluding the psittacids: the purple crowned lorikeet [left] and the spectacular crimson rosella [center and lower right].

In the final assortment, we see the top notch pigeon [aka the crested pigeon, left], the prehistoric emu [right], and the white-throated treecreeper [center].

Birding Victoria is an extremely rewarding exercise. If you have limited time, I strongly recommend a guide -- you are guaranteed to see an incredible amount of endemics and lifers.

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