Good Birding requires both sound hearing and sharp eyesight, as explained on my 5 Steps to Better Birding page. Sadly for myself over the last few months the visual aspect has become extremely challenging for me. It was such a blessing having the young astute eyes of my grandchildren to assist during their recent stays. However, increasing visual impairment due to cataract formation in my left eye, has taken some of the pleasure out of birding. The good news is that I am scheduled to have the problem surgically rectified this coming Thursday.

Noisy Miner feeding from our Bottlebrush flowers which are rich in nectar.

This week we focus on the delight and importance of hosting backyard birdbaths and nectar producing native trees and shrubs, which include Bottlebrush and Grevillea species. Considering Australia has over 70 species of Honeyeater, planting additional flowering nectar producing native plants and trees in our gardens can only be helpful to them. Some of you will have previously explored my Home Page info and tips on setting up birdbaths and bird etiquette, if not click here. Many people ask me each year about bird baths after experiencing the joy of observing ours, and now they enjoy the benefits. The birds likewise benefit having clean water to drink and bath in. Australia is a hot dry land for most of the year and supplying fresh clean water is the best thing you can provide for your local birds, especially if their are no creeks, rivers or fresh water lakes immediately nearby.

Rainbow Lorikeet feeding on our Bottlebrush flowers

Others ask me about feeding our native birds, and the ornithological advice is to avoid feeding our Australian native birds. If you do feed them ensure you feed them food that is part of their natural diet and avoid our processed human foods, they are quite capable of feeding themselves. Some provide seed feeders for some of our amazing 57 species in the Parrot family. The problem we face with our intelligent birds is that, if they know they can get regular feed from humans, they will bring their young to be fed, which will result in a false dependence on the human hand. This may mean over time that the youngster does not learn and master the skills of natural food scavenging. This is particularly important for the Australian Magpie, Laughing Kookaburra and the many species of bird from the Parrot family.

Our Male and Female Magpie pair. We always love hearing them say thank you after their wash.

In Australia many of our birds are territorial inhabitants. This means they spend their breeding lifetime essentially in the same local geographic area. In that small area of say between 100 to 500 meters square more or less, only one breeding pair of each local species will share that area and basically co exist. They will learn the meaning of mobbing and alarm calls of their neighboring species, and respond with them to assist in removing common threats. During nesting season rules may change, but for most of the year their is an order of respect, which gives the alpha male Magpie, prime dominance. The exception is that the Noisy Miner comes in a coalition or small flock of around 12 to 20 birds, and are highly organised and intelligent birds, I speak about these birds in my books, as I do the other birds mentioned in this post. Most of the birds otherwise exist as a breeding pair. When their young reach maturity they are sent off to find their own territory and mate, otherwise some will stay to assist nesting and training future clutches of their parents until they feel ready to leave.

The Miners provide an additional function in the local territory as they basically govern who comes and who goes from the area, often driving out unwanted birds. They are an excellent example of power in numbers. Sadly they continually drive out our local Kookaburra family, as they propose a threat to their young. It is always great to have them stop by, and have driven out many species of Honeyeater among other birds.

This Immature Pied Currawong always comes secretly and very cautiously, ready to leave the instant he is detected.

This immature Pied Currawong is disliked and often chased away by the Miners, as is the Australian Raven, which are kept out of our area, due to their propensity to attack nests of smaller birds.

The Pied Currawong, a unique Aussie bird, though similar to a Raven in many ways is not a Corvid, but are likewise omnivorous and extremely opportunistic (see photo from my book above). The adult which also frequents the baths, has taught junior well. I love it when I see the parent birds bring their young and train them by observation on how to access the birdbaths and drink, wash and preen. This Grey Butcherbird dad has brought his two youngsters to teach them how to use our birdbaths. Months later he continues to come with one of his youngsters, now starting to mature. In fact we just now watched them both bathe one after the other followed by an extensive preen in our Bottlebrush tree, which is the routine of most our birds.

Grey Butcherbird dad with juvenile youngsters above our birdbaths.
Grey Butcherbird immature bathing and preening.

I love catching these birds leaping, they are so agile, springing long distances from branch to branch without opening their wings.

Sometimes the cheeky brave Miners will try and bath at the same time as the larger birds, as we have both small and large baths. Each species knows which is theirs. Note the reaction of the Pied Currawong as the Noisy Miner baths behind it.

You may know we have a Crested Pigeon nest in our Bottlebrush tree where several generations of our native pigeon have been fledged. Most of our local birds pair for life and are often seen in pairs feeding, drinking and washing, except for the Grey Butcherbird which comes alone. Noisy Miners usually come as a team or coalition group.

Rainbow Lorikeet pair drinking together

It is quite delightful watching these birds all come at their regular self appointed times, usually the same each day, to drink and wash. The Noisy Miner come several times a day, where as the others usually only once or twice. Birds are clean creatures, and they enjoy the cool water, especially in Summer. The body temperatures of birds are slightly higher than ours, and their energy levels higher also, so standing in the water cools them down, as their feet lack feathers, and exhibit the only non plumed part of their body, i.e. bare skin. As a result on hot days birds overheat, and are poorly adapted to regulating their body temperatures, thus water bathing assists them in regulating it. Often during heat waves birds will come panting with their mouths open, similar to dogs, to try and dissipate heat, as shown below with this Grey Butcherbird during our terrible heatwaves several years ago. Their plumage keeps the heat in, so their mouth, face and feet offer the best places for them to cool down, which makes your birdbath suddenly very attractive.

The Noisy Miner coalition is very effective at moving on unwanted birds and animals. Here is one of our local Kookaburras being mobbed and harassed by our local team.

Our local Kookaburra being mobbed by our local Noisy Miner coalition.

We get much pleasure watching our local birds come in each day, and some are learning to become more trusting of us, especially the Miners and Magpies. When the birdbaths are low after we have been away for a couple of days, they are often seen watching me refill them from a distance. Immediately I go inside they are back washing and drinking again.


Have a wonderful week and enjoy your local birds. Be inspired to make provision for them if you have not done so already. The investment in a birdbath is worthwhile. You can make your own by affixing a large dish with a rim to a post under a tree, so that it does not move when the bird lands in it.


Before I finish here is some footage I captures on my iphone while on a recent beach breaky date with my lovely wife. This tree was only several feet from the ocean wall. We were brought to its attention by the strange calls of this juvenile Eastern Koel (a nesting parasite Cuckoo) being fed by a Little Wattlebird. This migratory bird will be collected by its parent and return to New Guinea for the coming Winter months after it is fully fledged. It currently as a juvenile resembles the female, but will show its true sex as it develops its adult plumage. Males are black with white beak and red eyes, and are sometimes mistaken for the male Satin Bowerbird.

Juvenile Eastern Koel begging for food from a Little Wattlebird which raised it from an egg.

Some interesting thoughts about nest parasites. Each Summer we see and hear both Eastern Koel and Channel-billed Cuckoo arrive and plant their eggs deviously into the nests of our native birds, for them to raise, often at the death and exclusion of the young of the native bird. We can view this practice from several ethical positions:

>>> It is unfair to the host bird. The lazy Cuckoo should raise its own young. Something should be done to eradicate these parasitic birds OR

>>> Birds that continue to feed and raise nest parasites are just plain stupid. They should be able to identify the intruding bird as not its own and deserves to suffer the consequences. OR

>>> It demonstrates the unconditional non judgmental loving caring attitude of birds to their young, regardless of what they look like are how pressing their needs are. They are committed to care for the life entrusted to them as if it were their own.

These three options describe how each of us view life. One of these options will stand out for us, or maybe two. While they may all be correct, if we were to place ourselves in the place of the host bird or the nestling parasite, we would have a different answer. This is the difference between love and fear, grace and law, forgiveness and judgement, mercy and punishment. It separates this world’s philosophy from that of Jesus Christ, the most revolutionary person ever to walk this earth. What if Cuckoo’s were deliberately not given insight or wisdom to build its own nest, and what they are doing was actually God’s plan for them ? Interesting thought, that many ornithologists morally toy with.

“But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.” – Romans 5:15 (NLT)

“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first.” – 1 John 4:18

” Freely you have receivedfreely give.” – Matthew 10:8

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To introduce people to our amazing Australian Birds

To learn from them better ways of living a healthy happy life

Adv. Dip. of Counselling and Family Therapy

© W. A. Hewson 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023

8 Comments »

  1. Love this post, Ashley! The videos were most enjoyable!! I too love watching birds bathe, their antics can make me giggle at times. 🙂 My water dishes aren’t very big, but my birds will wait in line on my deck railing or on the long branch I secured hanging over it, for their turn.

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  2. This was a delightful post, Ashley! I added a small bird bath to my back garden last year but, not one bird used it. I’m going to try again this Spring/Summer and hopefully the little sparrows and finches will discover it.

    I have not read your post on bird baths so I’ll go do that now.

    Have a great week!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Deborah,
      I do hope you get results from your birdbath soon. Positioning is the key to success. They like close access, such as branches or landing places nearby and above, some shade and no other animals in yard. I keep my baths clean and filled as much as I am able. We are blessed to have most of our local birds call into our place.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I flip the bowl over in the winter and put a branch across it and add some seeds. All the birds love it. They just don’t like that spot for a bath I suppose. There’s a fence right behind it, and I always add the branch. No shade though as there are no trees where I want it so I can see it and watch discretely.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Its good you are able to assist the birds during winter, as your winters are much harsher than ours. I guess you just wait and see if the birds discover your bath. They may be finding water nearby in river creek or lake. Not sure if your birds are territorial as much as ours, if they are not as much this may limit their visits also. Enjoy your week my friend.

        Liked by 1 person

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