Fascinating bird life

As there’s a bit of interest in bird watching here I have a question. I observe quite a lot of bird life where I live, and have a sugar water bottle feeder that is frequented by tui and bellbirds. I have just seen a bird that at a glance looked like a tui -but after a closer look I don’t think it can have been.

It was about the right size and colour (black), but it looked a bit different shape, and in particular it had no white throat feathers. Instead it had a greyish collar. Does anyone know what that could be?

We have regular visits from tui and bellbirds. Just before seeing the strange visitor this morning I refilled the water bottle, and when I went out to mount it there was a bellbird sitting on the platform, and when I was about 3 metres away it let rip with typical birdsong – it was amazingly loud for a small bird.

Other birds around here – we have smatterings of thrush and pairs of blackbirds, plus frequent flocks of starlings (I have largely discouraged them from nesting in the roof). Also small birds like finches and wax eyes.

Each evening at the moment a bunch of sparrows hang around our grapevine, I think they mist be attracted by insects.

We have occasional visits from fantails, also after insects.

We are on the harbour flight path of seagulls – I like seeing them flying overhead (I detest them scavenging but they don’t do that here).

Hawks regularly soar along the bush line of the hill we face, but lately have been speeding past as a couple of magpie have taken residence nearby. It’s cool watching magpie harassing hawks, but as they tend to discourage other birds too I will have to move them on.

We periodically get paradise ducks flying over, and they sometimes hang around.

Kereru are often passing by or perching and feeding – we have quite a few trees near us. They sometimes swoop right overhead, they don’t seem to have any fears.

From time to time we get eastern rosellas visiting, sometimes two or three, occasionally a flock. They can be quite raucous. I think that Dunedin is one of the few places they frequent.

Less frequent visitors are oyster catchers and herons.

I haven’t seen any morepork but hear them occasionally at night.

All of this is observable from our living room. And they can make quite a lot of mostly nice noise, especially early in the day but through the day as well.

It is fascinating watching the variety of bird life co-existing with us in our neighbourhood.

We have a cat that occasionally catches birds, but their numbers have been increasing since we have been here so don’t seem adversely affected overall.

33 Comments

  1. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  April 7, 2018

    Probably a juvenile… They lack the throat tuft of white
    “At first, juveniles have a browner body and lack the throat tuft, but after a few months they are only distinguishable in the hand from the lack of notch on the 8th primary.”
    http://www.nzbirdsonline.org.nz/species/tui

    • I wondered about that and think you are probably right.

      The closest pic is can find is this:

      That’s a lot younger than the one I saw, but the juvenile feathers look like the colour of the collar I saw so it could have been the last remnants of their young plumage.

      • Maggy Wassilieff

         /  April 7, 2018

        Here’s a Steve Attwood pic of a juvenile that might fit the bill.
        Tui (juvenile) - Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae

        • That looks quite different. Talking of bills, I didn’t have a decent look at the beak to see if it had the characteristic curve.

          I’ll keep an eye out and try and take a photo, but don’t get much time, especially when there’s a queue. Tui have a strong pecking order (and bellbirds have to wait until the tui are finished).

          • Gezza

             /  April 7, 2018

            The blackbirds around here attack the tuis & chase them off. Dunno whether it’s just at nesting time. Quite surprising because the tui are bigger birds.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  April 7, 2018

              The grey collar made me wonder if it was a tui. If you see one in the right light, it looks as if the white feathers are on a collar.

              We have a reasonable number of them around here, also rosellas – at first we thought that these were someone’s pets who’d escaped.

              It was wonderful when the bellbirds came to my garden, I never, ever thought that I’d have them here,

              One of the loveliest things ever was being close enough to a dancing fantail to feel the wind from his wings as he gave me a free recital of his courtship dance – a dress rehearsal. It seemed to go on forever and I stood still, hardly breathing as if I was playing ‘statues’. It must have been all right because he went off and came back with his girl and the two danced together, That is the only word for it, it was an aerial ballet, and it was a wonderful privilege to see it,

            • Gezza

               /  April 7, 2018

              @ Kitty
              You wouldn’t believe the draft from a pukeko or a duck when they decide to fly up onto the fence & find, in panic, they’re a foot away from your face! They hadn’t seen you! Happened once with Charlie Drake, once with Aspen, & once with Bluey.

              The backwash as they squawk in fright & instantly push themselves backward in the air, trying to stay airborne, is something else.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  April 7, 2018

              Well, if a fantail can make such a breeze, a pukeko must make a tornado. It was astonishing, even though the fantail was so close, the closest ever – less than a forearm’s length away – to feel the wind from the wings. Even a bumblebee makes a surprising air movement.

            • Gezza

               /  April 7, 2018

              Yes, it was Kitty. It was a helluva blast of moving air, with both the ducks and the pooks. Each time I said “Jesus!” and reeled back with my head. None of us were expecting to run into the other during the flight, let alone find the other right ‘in ya face’! The adrenaline kicked in inside me too.

              But the whoosh of air was a massive gust & made me instantly appreciate just how much thrust those wings of both birds generate to get them airborne. It’ll be the same for all birds, but my pilots would displace a heck of a lot more volume of air than a tiwaka or a sparrer, just because of their size.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  April 8, 2018

      Or a female? Only the males have the white collar.

  2. Gezza

     /  April 7, 2018

    I have some cellcam video of a tui on my fence on a drizzly day that is so blue I had to walk outside to try & get as close as I could to get a reasonably clear view of it on my old 2mp 2x zoom cell.

    At Gezza’s stream lately:

    Four tui frequently whooshing overhead and sometimes stopping briefly in my riperian trees to have a sing song. I think they’re roosting in a large tree, north, upstream (species unknown) that they emanate from & return to at night

    Dunnocks everywhere. Sometimes the house sparrows too, but not as many.

    Occasional goldfinches, waxeyes, and very rarely, a yellowhammer.

    Song thrushes – absolutely the most melodic bird to hear in the dawn choruses, some of which I go outside to hear before people get on the roads & start up the usual cacophany of noise we don’t really notice.

    I’ve heard, but never seen, a shining cuckoo occasionally.

    Very rare – but saw a young kingfisher in Charlie’s tree two days ago.

    We don’t seem to get kereru, but ruru/morepork are frequently calling & one was very close last year.

    Blackbirds for Africa, including fledgy & his missus, Henny, who have both taken to drinking from Aspen’s water bucket, as has Pickles.

    Small flocks of starlings, though only intermittently.

    Seamus, a young little black shag with a white chin, not every day, he’s a treat. Fascinating to watch him hunting in the wai, on and under the surface.

    Every few days, welcome swallows. I’m 20 feet up from the stream, so unless they’re doing aerobatics, I see them looking down at their beautiful blue backs.

    Once – only once – a kaka. Also, rarely, a red-headed kakariki (small native parakeet).

    Paradise ducks only when hiking in the hills here. Also harrier hawks in the hills.

    Bellbirds are rare, but saw plenty when I visited Mana Island, a bird sanctuary off Plimmerton. Also saw takahe there.

    See the occasional mallard and mallard/grey duck hybrid drakes and hens.

    Sometimes see pukekos.

    • Gezza

       /  April 7, 2018

      Oh, sorry, seagulls sometimes appear and raid food. One swooped down unexoectedly & got a meat chunk I threw to Ella the eel. I was shaking my head with amazement. The bloody thing kept circling & swooping, trying to get more.

      Also, huge flocks of black-backed gulls that settle on long rooves or fields around here. The pooks don’t like them, or even seagulls & go ballistic when they have chicks and any gulls fly over. My three pooks group-attacked a large old greyed black back who landed in the stream one day, when Pickles was very small. They injured it. It didn’t move for an hour, until it knew the coast was clear.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  April 7, 2018

        I see a lot of kingfishers, one or more most days,

        Also chaffinches, goldfinches and redpolls, both kinds of sparrer, grey warblers, thrushes, blackbirds, kereru (occasionally), shining cuckoos (ditto), pheasants (across the road), partridges (ditto, but both cross sometimes) starlings, mynahs (boo), magpies (not often with the reception they get), yellowhammer, moreporks (I saw one !!!!), rosellas, fantails, bellbirds, waxeyes, pooks (in street apart from rare visits), greenfinches….

        Flyovers include spoonbills, plovers, lorikeets (!), hawks, dux, geese, herons (these are not uncommon).

        We had WHITE HERONS in the street !!!

        The best place to live is on the edge of the country near a lake ! The only thing that would be better would be to have a stream at the bottom of the garden, There is one somewhere, as mozzies and frogs appear. Mozzies all the time, froggies when there’s been a lot of rain. I’d like to know why one was spreadeagled on the glass that time.

        Other wildlife….tiger slugs ( I no longer loathe these and wouldn’t squash one), wetas (big buggers, very fine specimens) and untold lizards. Hedgehogs too, of course, and possums.It’s standing room only on my little section.

        Welcome to the Catkin Wildlife Park,

        • Gezza

           /  April 7, 2018

          Stop boasting. My estate has been totally outclassed. You’ve hurt me now.

          Plovers – thank you. Must check them out. Often hear a bird flying overhead in the dim dusk sky & at first thought it was seagulls, then realised its high-pitched ‘skreeek!” isn’t a gull call.

          Someone told me what it was once up at the school grounds where some enthusiasts were flying their RC model aeroplanes until it got too dark to see them (my fave was the F4U Corsair – quite a big one).

          One was calling. I having a feeling my mate Andrew said it was a plover.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  April 7, 2018

            They sound really crabby, although their colouring and demeanour make them look gentle and peaceful. They can’t help their raucous voices.

            A man I knew was walking down his street in Island Bay and met a penguin walking up it. Now that really, really made me swoon with envy. Lucky sod.

            One of the funniest things I’ve seen was the collision between the waxeyes flying in and the dog running out. I don’t know who was more surprised as everyone flew straight up, spun round and whizzed back whence they came. Why were the waxeyes flying so low in the first place ?

            Nobody could outclass the Gezza Pookery.

            • Gezza

               /  April 7, 2018

              Oooh – I forgot, I get tiwaka (fantails) too. Frequently. I videoed some the day before yesterday. Thought I missed them but they are on the vid clip doing one quick aerial dance together. In the trees at eye level I love looking at their cute little Beagle Boy bandit masks.

              Up at our first place on the hill in Redwood we got all black ones one year. They interbreed with normal colour ones but it’s a recessive gene so next year there was a mix of black & normal parents & youngsters, then back to all normal colour, with only the odd rare sighting of a blackie therafter.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  April 8, 2018

              There are some beautiful chooks loose in this area, but I have only seen that one prancing into my place as if she owned it. Black and iridescent, no comb that I could see….I didn’t know that chook feathers could be so lovely. I have named her Hendie in case she comes again – H for hen, n and d for nonus and decimus, ergo 9, 10, a big fat hen, Well, she’s a fine size, they all are. There are some in a nearby street that stroll across the road, knowing that nobody will squash them.

          • Maggy Wassilieff

             /  April 7, 2018

            Confusingly, they are also known as masked lapwings.
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masked_lapwing

            • Gezza

               /  April 7, 2018

              Yes, that’s it. I just had a listen to its calls at New Zealand Birds Online. Definitely the spur-winged plover. When my nephew was doing his Masters at Vic he & his US wife had a place in Newlands with a school playing field out the back. It could get a bit marshy at the edges in Winter. There’d often be a plover or two on the ground there.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  April 7, 2018

              Oh, are plovers lapwings ? I always imagined lapwings as being quite tiny, For many years, I thought that plover rhymed with rover, and still hear it as that when I read it. There are quite a lot around here – how pretty they are, even if their song isn’t the prettiest. It never seems to match them, somehow. It’s fun to see goldfinches hopping in unison; one moves and then all the others do.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  April 8, 2018

              I have two bird books, one about town birds (it was gratifying to see how many appear around here) and one that covers the whole lot. There’s also a book on NZ moths and butterflies. I had no idea that there were so many.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  April 7, 2018

      Do you remember when birds (magpies ?) held the Sydney CBD to ransom when they were swooping and attacking people some years ago ? How terrifying. Any magpie who shows his face in my garden has a stone rattled off his heels if there’s one handy or is sent on his way with very rude words if there isn’t, Birds of ill omen, loving to tell people that there’s some bad news coming.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  April 7, 2018

        The corellas are pretty, but I can see why the novelty would soon wear off,

        Have you read the original The Birds ? It is far more frightening than the film which bears virtually no resemblance to it.

        • Maggy Wassilieff

           /  April 7, 2018

          I think I’ve only read Rebecca.
          I might look for her short stories…. tho’ I do like happy endings.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  April 8, 2018

            She doesn’t really do many of those (h/e). The Birds is the most unnerving story that I have ever read, and I have read many thousands of books. It’s unnerving because it’s ordinary things going wrong, which I find more frightening than something like scifi which I can’t really believe in. She is good at that sort of thing (shudders)

  3. Kitty Catkin

     /  April 8, 2018

    I wish that the black and white sparrow would stay long enough to let me take a photo, It’s only the second time that a semi-albino bird has been seen in the garden, the last was a blackbird, I think. Well, a blackandwhite bird. Like the sparrow, it looked as if someone had painted it with black and white paint – someone who wasn’t an expert painter,

    • Gezza

       /  April 8, 2018

      I know what you mean. It can be quite frustrating, getting them to hang around, or to do or repeat an interesting performance for the camera. I often whip out my phone but by the time the camera or videocam function boots up & ready to record the scene the bird’s gone.

      Two very smart, bright-eyed young male blackbirds on the fence this morning, unusually close, talking lots. By the time the vidcam was ready to record they’d flown off. Various birds have started to go & hop up & drink out of Aspen’s water bucket. They look interesting doing it but often the vidcam catches them hopping down again.

      Any of the pooks performing a respectable-looking controlled flight usually do it on the dpur of the moment. Best fliers: Sweety & Pickles. Pickles is surprisingly adept, flies smoothly in large circles out over the stream and back. Can fly off the roof & land on the fence top. So can Sweety – she can land on the top of a 4×4 post!

      A lot of video files get deleted on review – because a bird looked like it was about to do something worthy of recording so I started filming & kept it up, hoping to catch it – and then they bloody didn’t!

      Hard to catch reasonably long performances by my tuis. By the time it occurs to me they’re doing a decent one & pull out the camera, they decide to whoosh off elsewhere. Fantails ditto. Keepng them in the viewfinder’s a challenge when a couple is air-dancing.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  April 8, 2018

        Often the blasted bird waits until the photo’s being taken and then takes off, raising one feather as it passes.

        I am very thankful for digital cameras. Remember when you had to wait for the photos to come back and be paid for before you knew if they were any good ?

        • Gezza

           /  April 8, 2018

          Yes, I do. Instant review & delete’s a godsend by comparison. As is the ability to store, send & share them anywhere so easily. I’m not seeing upticks from you for all my wildlife sharing efforts. I shouldn’t have to wait for one from another pook aunt. Are you sure you still want that job?

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  April 9, 2018

            Yes, oh yes, Gezza.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  April 9, 2018

            Did you ever take a whole film of the inside of the lens cap ? I never did, but I did take a few of that fascinating view before I realised it. Some poor chap came home from his overseas holiday and found that every photo he’d taken on every film was of the inside of the lens cap. And in those days, he’d have paid for every one of them.

            I didn’t know that some digital cameras have an old-fashioned view finder or whatever it was called as an extra feature, That must be great when the sun is making the screen look blank and one has to point and hope for the best.