Chris Watson

Birding Central Australia #39

Chris Watson

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike Coracina novaehollandiae

Kyah Gillen, at 12 years old, could be one of Alice Springs’ youngest birders. Kyah reported the bird in the picture this week, a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike. These birds are fairly common around most of the suburbs of Alice but seem to be particularly abundant around northside this year.

Some people know this bird as a “Shufflewing”, owing to its habit of shuffling its wing feathers back into position every time it lands. Some folks have suggested that it looks like it’s performing “The Macarena”, for those of us unfortunate enough to recall that particular pop monstrosity. You might find Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes nesting this year in a shallow saucer nest which looks much too small for a bird of this size.

Kyah had some other interesting sightings this week, including an unfortunate White-plumed Honeyeater which had been caught by a Collared Sparrowhawk.

Feral Spotted Turtle-doves continue to run rampant over the town, but genuinely intriguing this week was a report of two Brown Cuckoo-doves around Plumbago Crescent. This is a species more at home along the east coast and would be the first record for the NT if confirmed.

The first of the returning migrants has been sighted, fittingly, by the president of the Field Nats, Barb Gilfedder. Barb and some friends found a lone Common Sandpiper at the poo ponds after its epic journey from distant parts of far eastern Asia.

Lastly, I had a great encounter with a small flock of Varied Sitellas along the eastern boundary of the AZRI block during the week. These frenetic little birds are never common to bump into, but always fun to watch as they land on a tree trunk and spiral their way downwards, feeding as they go. Great stuff!