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King Parrots on the pavement

A pair of King Parrots surprised me today. They were quietly feeding on a grassy pavement as I walked by. At first they took a careful look at me, then they decided I was harmless and went back to their browsing. The photos aren’t great quality, because I had only the camera on my mobile phone with me.

The male of the pair has a red head and chest, and dark green on his back. The female bird has a green head and softer red colouring on her chest.  The video shows them feeding quietly then flying off with a characteristic chirp.

It wasn’t me that scared them away, but rather a big bird flying overhead. The big scary bird turned out to be just a currawong, so the parrots came back quite quickly. Here they are together:

Here’s the male, showing the pretty colouring and markings on his back:

Common name: Australian King Parrot

Scientific name: Alisterus scapularis

Approximate length: 44 cm

Date spotted: 7 July 2017 (Winter)

Location: Allambie Heights, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’13.2″S 151°15’41.1″E


Rainbow Lorikeets and a flowering grass tree

A grass tree (Xanthorrhoea) perches precariously on the edge of a cliff in our garden. Every couple of years, the grass tree throws up a flower spike—much to the delight of the Rainbow Lorikeets in the area. Here’s a closeup of a couple of the birds on the flower spike:

Here’s the grass tree on the cliff, with the flower spike shooting up. The grass tree is the one with long, thin, spiky leaves at the base of the flowering spike, not the fleshy big-leafed succulents that surround it:

You can only fit so many lorikeets on a flower spike at once. So, the trick is to line up on the nearest power line and take turns. This video shows the interaction between the birds as they wait in line:

Evidently the nectar from the flowers on the spike is deliciously sweet. Australian Aboriginal people use it to make a sweet drink. Europeans used to burn it as incense in churches. The birds feel it’s worth waiting in line:

It turns out you can fit quite a few lorikeets on a flower spike:

Common name: Rainbow Lorikeet

Scientific name: Trichoglossus haematodus

Approximate length: 30 cm

Date spotted: 7 July 2017 (Winter)

Location: Allambie Heights, New South Wales, Australia

Musk Lorikeets feeding and chatting

A tree outside our house is in flower, and attracting many avian visitors. This is the first time I’ve seen a Musk Lorikeet. They’re pretty little birds, very fast moving and well camouflaged amongst the green leaves. They chatter to each other constantly, often making a pleasant trilling sound. For some reason, that sound makes me of a phone ringing in a sunlit roof-top apartment.

You can also hear water running down the hill, as it’s been raining a lot recently.

Common name: Musk Lorikeet

Scientific name: Glossopsitta concinna

Approximate length: 23 cm

Date spotted: 27-28 February 2017 (Summer)

Location: Allambie Heights, New South Wales, Australia

In this second video, an Australian Miner joins the lorikeet in the floral feast. The miners and lorikeets usually have a bit of a squawking match over feeding territory, but they managed to co-exist on the same branch for a short period.

The loud chirping you can hear is a Rainbow Lorikeet flying by. (There’s a picture of one further down in this post.)

Musk Lorikeets are mainly green, with a red mask around the eyes, a blue cap, and a yellow stripe along the wing:

Musk Lorikeet

They never seem to stop moving! This one stood still for a short time, but you can see it’s thinking of launching itself into the air any time:

Musk Lorikeet

Other visitors to the tree include Rainbow Lorikeets like this one:

rainbow lorikeet

They’re much more common around here than the Musk Lorikeets. Also Currawongs:


Crimson Rosella feeding on bottlebrush seeds

Usually when you spot a Crimson Rosella, there’s another one close by. This time, though, I could only see one. It was contentedly nibbling at the seeds on a bush – a bottlebrush, I think. [Update on 24 April: It’s not a bottlebrush, but Scrub She-oak, Allocasuarina distyla. Thanks to Carol Probets for the comment!]

The male and female Crimson Rosella look very similar, with the male being larger. I don’t know whether this one was male or female.

Crimson Rosella

These birds are so pretty, even though this one was moulting, so a little shabby in places.

Crimson Rosella

From the rear, the feathers are quite intricate in pattern:

Crimson Rosella

Common name: Crimson Rosella

Scientific name: Platycercus elegans elegans

Approximate length: 35 cm

Date spotted: 12 February 2017 (Summer)

Location: Manly Dam Reserve, New South Wales, Australia: 33°46’58.4″S 151°15’11.8″E

Cockatoos teasing

Cockatoos are playful, sociable creatures. Yesterday I watched a pair of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos high in a gum tree. One of them was grooming. The other was teasing its companion, prodding it and seeming very satisfied with the startled response.

A couple of minutes later both of them flare their wings and crests, squawking gleefully.

Common name: Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Scientific name: Cacatua galerita

Approximate length: 50 cm

Date spotted: 8 October 2016

Season: Spring

Location: Manly Dam Park, New South Wales, Australia

Latitude/longitude: 33°46’51.5″S 151°14’51.7″E

King Parrots on my commute

Not many people in the world are lucky enough to be able to say this: I bumped into a couple of King Parrots on my way home from work the other day.

We see a few different varieties of parrots around the neighbourhood. King Parrots aren’t a very common sight – I see them maybe two or three times a year. One of their charming characteristics is that they’re always in pairs. See one, and the other isn’t far away.

These two were investigating some seeds on the ground. They let me get quite close, and flew off when I was about a metre away.

Common name: Australian King Parrot

Scientific name: Alisterus scapularis

Approximate length: 44 cm

Date spotted: 5 October 2016

Season: Spring

Location: Allambie Heights, New South Wales, Australia

Approximate latitude/longitude: 33°46’13.2″S 151°15’41.1″E

Why we plant native bushes and trees

One of the reasons we plant native bushes and trees in our garden is to provide food and shelter for the birds and animals. So that they’ll drop in and share this tiny patch of Australia with us. We see possums, lizards, bats, and birds of many kinds. Last week a wallaby passed through on its way from somewhere to somewhere else – but that’s most unusual, as ours really is a very small patch.

Rainbow lorikeets are frequent visitors, snacking on the nectar from the flowers. They’re noisy and quarrelsome, and very pretty.

The bush is a grevillia that we planted a couple of years ago, specifically to attract birds. It works!

Rainbow Lorikeet

Common name: Rainbow Lorikeet

Scientific name: Trichoglossus haematodus

Approximate length: 30 cm

Date spotted: 3 September 2016

Season: Spring

Bird swathed in Christmas colours

This little Rainbow Lorikeet shows off its bright cloak of red, green, blue and yellow, perched on the greeny-white flower of an Old Man Banksia. Christmas colours indeed

Bird swathed in Christmas colours

Common name: Rainbow Lorikeet

Scientific name: Trichoglossus haematodus

Approximate length: 30 cm

Date spotted: 24 December 2015

Season: Summer

Location: Allambie Heights, New South Wales, Australia

Approximate latitude/longitude: 33°46’19.2″S 151°15’39.6″E

Crimson Rosella in the wet

A Crimson Rosella hangs out on a wire in a Sydney rain storm.

Crimson Rosella in the wet

(Click the image to zoom in.)

The Rosella looks a little miffed. The rain’s been going on a while, and I guess the bird’s had enough of it.

Crimson Rosella in the wet

Common name: Crimson Rosella

Scientific name: Platycercus elegans elegans

Approximate length: 35 cm

Date spotted: 26 September 2015

Season: Spring

Location: Allambie Heights, New South Wales, Australia

Latitude/longitude: 33°46’13.9″S 151°15’39.2″E

Galahs galore

I’ve posted a few pictures of galahs on this blog. They’re gorgeous birds, a type of parrot with a distinctive call and an endearing habit of walking around on the ground in large groups, bobbing their white-capped heads at each other. If you do something silly, an Australian might fondly say, “You silly galah” – an affectionate nod to the slightly bumbling behaviour of the birds.

Yesterday I came across a group of them, all agog because a tree was dropping its seed balls. This bird peeks down at me while holding a seed ball in its beak:

Galah holding a seed ball

In this video, you can hear the galahs chatting noisily to each other. Towards the end, something startles them and they take off, flying towards the camera with seed balls in their beaks:

Common name: Galah

Scientific name: Cacatua roseicapilla

Approximate length: 38 cm

Date spotted: 23 May 2015

Season: Winter

Location: Manly Vale, New South Wales, Australia

Latitude/longitude: 33°46’48.6″S 151°15’52.2″E

To find more about these pretty birds, see the galah category in this blog.