Chris Watson

Birding Central Australia #30

Chris Watson

Black-tailed Native-hen Tribonyx ventralis

The ultimate bush chook

The Black-tailed Native Hen or Barcoo Bantam, is a fascinating and relatively unknown outback bird. You might go years without seeing one in the bush and then suddenly you might see flocks of dozens flitting across floodways in outback tracks across the inland.

This is a bird perfectly adapted to the boom and bust economy of our deserts. In good years they have been recorded in flocks up to 4000 birds or more. They surge across the ground, flicking their little tails and making short dashes at incredible speed – but eventually covering vast distances.

When the feed and water starts to dwindle so will these great irruptions and the birds fade back towards the coast or whatever permanent water supplies remain inland.

In Alice your best chance at seeing one of these is the sewage ponds where we have a small breeding population which are usually present year round.

Sightings this week: 

-          Red-tailed Black Cockatoos have been coming in close to town along the Ross Highway near the camel farm

-          Australian Crake continue to be seen by dedicated birdos at the sewage ponds and Ilparpa Swamp. Some of these birds have juveniles with them.

-          Purple Swamphen also enjoying breeding success with many young ones seen at the sewage ponds through the week

-          Slaty-backed Thornbill, a prized Centralian bird has been reported a few times this week in mulga along the Santa Theresa Road including a couple of active nests

-          Orange Chats have been making a bit of a comeback lately with sightings at the sewage ponds and in spinifex on the Ross Highway and Santa Theresa Road

-          Black-tailed Godwits, still feeding up at the sewage ponds in preparation for a late departure on one of the epic migrations of the animal world all the way to Siberia. These birds are showing beautiful breeding plumage – a rare sight for Centralian birdos.