Black-shouldered Kite


Black-shouldered Kite

Black-shouldered Kite

One of the species we often have visiting our garden, or soaring overhead, is the Black-shouldered Kite, shown in today’s photos. Over recent weeks we have had frequent visits by an individual displaying juvenile plumage. This is not the first time that this species has been observed breeding in the vicinity of our home.

Yesterday’s visit proved fruitful for me. Normally the bird will perch on the dead branch at the top of a mallee tree at the house. This gives it a good view all around. Usually, when I creep outside with my camera it flies off immediately, much to my annoyance and frustration. Yesterday was different; it posed for my camera while I took about 20 photos. Great – especially with the deep blue summer sky as a backdrop.

It wasn’t allowed to perch there unchallenged for long. I noticed  that the resident White-plumed honeyeaters were chirping their warnings to all around, and the Red Wattlebird (shown below) was brave enough to actually swoop the kite and snap its beak nearby. Eventually the harassment was too annoying, and the kite flew off.

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Red wattlebird

Black-shouldered Kite

Black-shouldered Kite


Keep the water coming

Australian Magpie Lark at our birdbath

Australian Magpie Lark at our birdbath

Summer has arrived here in South Australia. Already during spring we have had many days with temperatures over 30C (86F) and the forecast is for a hot, dry summer. In my home town of Murray Bridge we frequently get days over 40C (104F) and occasionally the thermometer soars to as high as 46C (115F).

Whatever the temperature in summer our birds often suffer from the extreme heat and hot searing north winds. On days of high temperature there is a constant stream of birds visiting our bird baths in our garden. They not only appreciate a drink, they often take a dip as well. On days of extreme heat their very survival depends on having access to water. The death rate during hot weather would be very high.

My advice would be to put out some dishes of water, or invest in a birdbath; there are many different styles available so check out your local garden centre or pet shop. Check the birdbaths every morning, replenishing the water as necessary. And don’t forget to scrub it clean once a week (but don’t use any detergent or other cleaning agents – just a brush will do).

Keep the water coming – your garden birds will love you – and keep coming back again and again.

See more photos here.

New Holland Honeyeater having a bath

New Holland Honeyeater having a bath

One hot sparrow

I was very tempted to use the following title: “One hot bird”.


Seriously, that title might well have attracted the wrong crowd to this post.

Summer here in South Australia is only a few days away. We have already experienced a few hot days over 30c (86F) and the nights are very mild, not dropping below about 10c (50F). As a result we have not had to light our slow combustion fire for several months. Just as well.

A few days ago we heard terrible scrabbling noises coming from the chimney. Next thing a House Sparrow appeared in the fire box, so it was lucky for it that we didn’t have a fire roaring in there. We are quite puzzled as to how it managed to actually get in there. Now we had the problem of getting it out.

My dear wife had the easiest of solutions: open the sliding door three metres away, then open the door to the fireplace.

ZOOM. Like a speeding bullet that little bird raced towards the light, through the open door and out to freedom again.

Well done little bird.

Keep your cats inside

Warning: controversial material.

You have been warned. Cat lovers – this article may upset you, but this article is backed by solid scientific research.

A recent CSIRO study has estimated that over 75 million Australian creatures (birds, reptiles, mammals etc) are killed by cats every day. Read that again: 75 million daily.

Furthermore, cats have been identified as the prime reason for the extinction of mammal species in recent years. Extinction is forever.

If you love your cat, keep it indoors all the time. Other studies have shown that the average lifespan of a domestic cat allowed to roam freely is 4 years. However, cats living indoors all the time live, on average, 14 years. The implication is obvious; if you love your cat and want it to live a long life, keep it indoors.

Domestic cats left to roam very frequently go feral, or breed with feral cats. I hope you never come face to face with a truly wild, feral cat; they are enormous, wily, and truly terrifying hunters. We have over 20 million of them out there in our cities, suburbs, rural areas and the bush.

Federal Environmental Minister Greg Hunt recently told Background Briefing that he wants to focus on feral cat eradication, announcing a 10-year plan to control them.

“Right now we have the best part of 20 million oversized, over hungry, ferocious predators in the wild and that’s what we have to deal with,” he said. “Although, making sure that we have very solid and safe protocols with our councils for ensuring that [domestic] cats are registered and microchipped and sterilised I think is very important,” Mr Hunt said.

As I have stated here on a number of occasions, especially in the comments, is that cats have no place in our Australian environment.

Furthermore, both feral and domestic cats are a serious health risk due to being transmitters of the disease toxoplasmosis.

Further reading:


Apostlebirds by the dozen

Apostlebirds, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Apostlebirds, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Apostlebirds are not all that common in South Australia. In fact, they are confined to a few locations in the mid-north of the state plus one site I know of near the eastern border south of Renmark. In parts of New South Wales, however, they are widespread and common in many places. They are also very confiding birds and will happily share their little patch of bushland – if you share some of your morning or afternoon tea.

On our recent visit to the Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo I was surprised at just how common they actually are, but then there is plenty of food for the taking, both in the animal enclosures and in the picnic areas where human food scraps are in abundance. It is not surprising then that I was able to get at least several good photos during our visit.

Apostlebirds are not the most photogenic birds found in Australia, being only dull grey with some black patches. What they lack in colour they certainly make up for with their gregarious nature. Because of this nature they certainly are one of my favourites and I always look out for them wherever we travel.

Apostlebird, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Apostlebird, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Apostlebird, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo

Apostlebird, Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo