Continuing our showcase of our NSW Outback Roadtrip birds, we focus this post on some of the passerines (perching birds) and our iconic Emu endemic to Australia’s desert plains, dry open forests and savanna regions of our vast hot dry land. As highlighted in the 2nd Edition of my first book What Birds Teach Us, the amazing survival ability of this bird is mostly due to the unique physical features endowed it by the intelligent design of it’s amazing Creator.
While travelling the long stretches of dead straight highway out west, we often saw small and large groups of Emu, often with several young, grazing by the road and in grassed paddocks. Emus are omnivorous and will eat almost anything, tending to eat seasonally what is available. The females are usually larger than male, otherwise they look similar. Emus have two sets of eyelids, one for blinking and one opaque one for keeping dust out, which can be a problem out on the plains during wind storms, for which it is well adapted.
They tend to eat mainly vegetation, including a wide variety of leaves, grasses, seeds, native flowers and even some water plants. It is the second largest living bird, and can grow to 1.75 m tall (5.7′). Many were killed for meat by early European settlers, as by the indigenous population, as they weighed around 50 to 55 kg (110 to 125 lb) with females even heavier. They can run up to and maintain a speed of 50 km/hr (31 mph) for a long period, which gives them an advantage for escape from predators. Their deep drumming call can be heard for kilometres.
Their meat is quite nice to eat, and continues to be served in some restaurants and meat pies and the such like, as these birds are now grown commercially on farms. Their large eggs are prized food for other animals as well as for humans. Introduced feral animals are a major concern, and the large populations on the coastal plains have long since been wiped out. We visited a an Emu farm in the Warrumbungles but was closed to visitors on the day, which was wet and not great for birding either.
Travelling the highway we saw many groups of Emu grazing by the road, often in cattle farm properties, as fences normally do not stop them. However, this inexperienced group of immature Emus were trapped and separated from their parents by a fence and could not work out how to get back with them. The music is ‘The Baby Elephant Walk’ by Henri Mancini for the movie ‘Hatari’ (1962).
Here is a video of an Emu running with a motor vehicle at the same speed. This is old footage. Their powerful legs and feet are also great defensive weapons against would-be predators. Emus were thought to be ‘bullet proof’ as was reported by those who tried shooting then with a rifle who said it took 10 bullets to kill them as they ran. This was due to their thick body and thick soft plumage.
I will share some of interesting western passerines which we saw, and not birds common to our coastal regions, some of which were also present. The five most common honeyeaters were the White-plumed; Blue-faced; Spiny-cheeked; Singing and the Little Friarbird.
We also saw a couple of immature Blue-faced Honeyeater sitting together in tree waiting for parent to feed. Notice the lack of blue face and chest markings. I love the image used as my featured image at top of page, it brings out the angry look these aggressive birds express.
This family of White-plumed Honeyeater were tending their nest while we watched and they tried to move our attention away. These birds are very playful when courting and often seen in family groups chasing each other.
One species that delighted us continually on our journey by turning up to observe us and sing for us was the Jacky Winter, a strange name for the small grey-brown insectivorous Robin/Flycatcher, being thought to be derived from the ‘Jackie-jackie-winter’ call it makes. It is easily identified by its classic white sided tail plumage. This little guy I think was a youngster.
The three classic outback birds which forage in the dry woodlands, and are often found in close proximity of each other, in small clans making their unusual squeaky noises are the Grey-crowned Babbler, the Apostlebird and the White-winged Chough. They turn over leaf littler in search of insects, invertebrates, as well as eating seeds and some plants. The Babbler makes a babbling kind of noise as it busily crawls over tree branches or ground together. All three species of these peculiar birds have tight controlled community rules and structure. You will hear a young Babbler begging for food in the last part of this video, as an Inland Thornbill passes through.
Many non birders mistake the White-winged Chough for a Raven from a distance, but the red eye, curved beak and white wings when flying are a give away. You will notice below one adult assigns itself to care for one juvenile.
The Apostlebird likewise makes its squeaky noise as it busily forages.
While in the Warrumbungles we watched an Apostlebird drive away an Australian Hobby.
The White-breasted Woodswallow was frequently seen in the outback gliding from wires to catch insects on the fly.
Here a parent appears to have food for its begging juvenile, but unsure if it is.
Two types of Dove common to the west are the Peaceful Dove, found in large flocks and the Common Bronzewing.
The haunting call of the Peaceful Dove is heard throughout the western outback bushland.
Peaceful Dove calling
The Rufous Whistler is another bird which can be heard throughout the outback bushlands, but the male is very difficult to photograph due to its extreme shyness. The male and female are quite different.in appearance. I was unable to get many shots of the mature male, though I heard and saw many, but this immature male and the female was a delight to see.
Unfortunately I had difficulty in finding focus on this Restless Flycatcher with the auto focus, which I seldom use, but thought it was working on it but did not realize the leaves in the foreground were stealing focus, just another lesson for me on using this Mirrorless camera.
Thankfully I did capture brief footage of the Restless Flycatcher preening. Initially, I made the wrong call, but then realized.
Lastly, this Diamond Firetail was a joy to my wife as she always gets excited seeing them, but very difficult from a great distance to photograph. The beautiful bright red tail can be seen from a distance. Firetails are a species of Finch, with a red tail.
Have a wonderful week ! We are being subjected to further torrential rain as we move through our third month where flooding devastation and damage is up and down the coast, in an unprecedented year of rain as La Nina does is worst. Next week I hope to conclude this series with Part 3 on Waterbirds and Raptors. If this is your first visit to my website, feel free to explore the many pages on birding and its benefits, and what life lessons we can learn from these amazingly adaptive creatures. Check out my books which you can purchase here online, and can be sent anywhere in the world. Many who follow this blog from other countries have successfully purchased and had delivery. Below is the QR code card that many of my booksellers have below my first book, try it with your mobile phone. Check out my books here:
One of the advantages of birding, is the healthy outdoors walking and fresh air, as well as the stress relief from viewing trees and nature while hearing the sounds of birds, rather than mankind’s noisy repetitive machines. We also get to observe the creatures that share the forest with birds such as this large Grey Kangaroo we saw grazing by the Warrumbungles Visitor Information Centre, where my books are sold:
Many today react to following directions and obeying rules which were put in place by people who cared and lovingly had regard for the safety of themselves and others. There is a culture, especially among the youth of today, that it is cool to get away with breaking out of the boundaries of safety, which have been carefully researched. The spin off for following directions is a safer happier life, when it is done out of love and not obligation. Our attitude and reason for obeying make all the difference, when we work, play or interact in our families.
In the process of marketing my second book Flight of a Fledgling, which has valuable information for teens and young adults for a happy healthy life, I mention to booksellers that parents have found that with this book, unlike the other, you simply place it on the coffee table, leave it and walk out of the room. In a few days you will notice it has moved on the table, and that means your teen has been looking through it. If you want a rebel teen to follow instruction, do not tell them they must, or they will do the opposite, but show by example, and discuss the advantages when the opportunity arises. Respect them as young adults and do not continue to treat them as little children. They are self discovering their own person and identity. These aspects are discussed in detail in the same book, as well as better parenting techniques.
“People who despise advice are asking for trouble; those who respect a command will succeed.” – Proverbs 13:13 (NLT)
“Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.” – Proverbs 19:11
“Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.” – 1 Corinthians 16:13,14
“For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you.” – Romans 13:1-3