Chris Watson

Birding Central Australia #34

Chris Watson

Nankeen Kestrel Falco cenchroides

Sharp-eyed aerial hunter

To all those Centralians with lots of rodents around your homes, this week’s bird should be right up your alley. The Nankeen Kestrel, frozen in mid-air for 1/400th of a second, is a specialist mouse hunter. It is no surprise that they have been doing very well this year.

This bird is unmistakeable when it is seen hovering like this over an open field. The broad, black band across the bottom of the tail distinguishes it from any other bird of prey around Alice. In a stiff breeze, the kestrel can remain almost motionless as those powerful eyes scour the ground for any tiny movement that could be a mouse scurrying under a bush.

These birds are common around Alice at the moment and can be seen along the Todd Riverbed, the poo ponds, and out along Colonel Rose Drive. They’re often sitting in the exposed upper branches of trees in the morning, soaking up the warmth of the rising sun and surveying their territory for good hunting spots.

Sightings this week: 

Grey Falcon – More sightings of a mega-rarity, this time two birds out on the Mereenie Loop just west of the Areyonga turn off.

Flock Bronzewing – These birds are being seen in flocks of up to 150 birds around Burt Plain at sunset.

Pictorella Mannikin – This stunning little finch was reported in small flocks along the Tablelands Highway by ecologists Angela Stewart and Holger Woyt.

Buff-banded Rail – A report of this species from Meg Mooney on eastside confirms the continued presence of this charismatic lurker.