Saturday, 11 January 2014

Kangaroo Island Birds

Before we begin, I just want to make sure that we're all on the same
island. Kangaroo Island is Australia's third largest island with the 
most beautiful unspoilt wilderness and a lovely Mediterranean 
climate. When we arrived, we were surprised by how quiet the place 
was; it almost felt like we had the island to ourselves. Also, thanks 
to the island's isolation, its natural vegetation suffered much less 
damage than the mainland did during the eighteenth century when 
the European settlers arrived in Australia. To start off, here is one of
the biggest birds on the island, the Australian Pelican. 

I was surprised by its ability to take off so gracefully from the lamp 
post it was resting on. The lamp, however, didn't take it so well and 
was shaking after the pelican drifted off. I saw plenty of seabirds 
during our stay. There was a group of Great Crested Terns residing 
at Emu Bay, where we stayed. Being amongst the flock of terns was 
one of my favourite moments from the trip. This one decided to 
have some peace and quiet away from the crowd.

We also came across a group of Australian Pied Cormorants quietly
preening their feathers to keep them waterproof.

Gulls were a common sight just like in Adelaide. While we mainly saw
Silver Gulls, the occasional Pacific Gull showed up. These gulls were
huge. They were usually solitary or in pairs but I never saw a group
of them. This one is the South Australian subspecies, georgii, which
has a white iris. The West Australian birds have red eyes.

This is the far more abundant Silver Gull.

I was quite excited to see some shorebirds for the first time too. I 
saw a pair of Pied Oystercatchers walking along a seaweed-littered
mudflat. They looked much fluffier than how the guide books often
showed them to be: with perfect sleek plumage, probably because
the wind was very strong at that time and it was awfully chilly too.

I must have been very lucky to have seen this rare little Hooded 
Plover just five minutes from my holiday home. Its population is 
declining due to the increased amount of human activity in its 
preferred habitat - sandy beaches. The disturbance has caused a low 
breeding success rate and the increase in gulls and ravens has not 
helped either. It is now 'Vulnerable to global extinction' on the IUCN 
Red List. I was glad to hear that they have been thriving on 
Kangaroo Island, a promising sanctuary for the beautiful wader.

A similar looking species that is doing just fine worldwide, the Ruddy 
Turnstone, was found nearby. They never let me get within pouncing
distance from them so I sat from afar to watch them scuttle along
the shore.

Now for the perching birds. Outside our house there was a tree that
was constantly occupied by busy New Holland Honeyeaters. They were
very vocal, making loud 'chip' sounds as they darted from flower to
flower. The restless birds didn't spend more than five seconds at the 
same perch! Whenever I approached the tree, all the birds would 
sound harsh alarm calls and retreat to the other side of the tree. The
shot below did not come easily.

Welcome Swallows were common too. In the morning they would all
line up on the telephone wires outside our place. A pair had built a 
nest outside the Seal Bay Visitor Centre and swooped by to deliver 
insects every two minutes or so. They were so fast, I had to aim my 
camera at the nest and wait for the bird to arrive, then rapidly fire 
in order to get a shot, also earning many stares as the nest was near 
the toilets!

The morning choir in Kangaroo Island was spectacular and one of the
lead vocalists was the introduced Goldfinch, a tiny bird I would have
expected to see in Europe. The males often sang from the telephone 
wires, twittering cheerfully.

While the Goldfinch has just a splash of red on its face, the flashy
Crimson Rosella is predominantly of that colour, with trimmings of 
blue here and there. This obscured view was the best I could get of
a group high up in a tree in the mallee scrub.

The other parrot species I sighted on the island was the small but 
brightly coloured Purple Crowned Lorikeet, named after the indistinct
dab of dark purple on its forehead. I only saw this individual who
stopped briefly before continuing on its search for flowers.

I have saved the best from the last. Recently voted as Australia's 
favourite bird in BirdLife Australia's national poll, this little bird has 
fascinated me ever since I began learning about nature. I heard their
trilling songs all over the island but the Superb Fairy Wren finally 
came into view on our front lawn on the first morning.  This was the
bird that I was dying to see. Watching the group of them hop around
the lawn was absolutely breathtaking; I literally forgot to breathe.

The name 'superb' is superbly fitting. The male sports an intense sky
blue head and back, while the chest and tail are both a deeper 
ultramarine. While the female doesn't pack quite the same amount 
of colour, she is just as exquisite. They look like tiny feather puffs 
with wonderfully long waggling tails.

Here is another male.

That's all I have for the birds of Kangaroo Island. One I would have 
hoped to see is the endangered K.I. subspecies of the Glossy Black
Cockatoo. However, just being in Kangaroo Island was amazing. I 
loved all of its untamed wilderness. During our three day long visit, 
we went sand surfing in the Little Sahara, walked amongst the lovely 
Australian Sea Lions and of course, met many feathered friends.


  1. Hello Johnny!
    I was delighted to read your comment on my blog: I have been following your butterfly posts carefully some time ago when I had more time to blog!
    Your photos are a delight and I am thrilled to discover all the magnificent species you have there that seem (to me, seen from France!) so exotic!
    Your birds pics are no less splendid!
    I have captured the Australian pelican on lamp posts the same way when I was in Terrigal (Est coast)! A great memory!
    But what captures most my attention is is Purple-colored parakeet... I had many of these species in my bird park in Africa but not this one!
    It is absolutely gorgeous! I wish I can see soon in the wild in a not too far future!!
    Keep enchanting me, congratulations and have a great WE!

  2. Great pictures again Jonny and really interesting to hear about the birds you encountered. The gulls and Oyster Catcher look familiar, but just a little different from the species we have here. The Parakeet is gorgeous and the Superb Fairy Wren is a bird that I didn't know the existence of before! It is really beautiful, and almost looks too good to be true. If I had seen pictures elsewhere I would have thought they were Photoshoped, but I know you wouldn't do that!

  3. very impressive! hope you will see more birds and butterflies in 2014!

  4. Noushka, I'm sorry for this overdue reply!

    I went through your blog again and found your picture of the pelican. It's amazing we saw the exact same thing. I hope you see the purple crowned parakeet in the future; I believe it's quite common in South Australia.

    Thanks again for coming by to my blog. It's always appreciated. :)

  5. To Nick and to Sirona:

    seeing a shift in my comment count always puts a smile on my face. I'll be exhaustingly busy this year but I do hope I will see more new species.

    The Fairy wren was a species I too believed was too good to be real. They were tiny but were a huge joy to see.