Chris Watson

Birding Central Australia #68 - Variegated Fairy-wren

Chris Watson

Variegated Fairy-wren Malurus lamberti

Sitting still on the branch of a bush plum, the Variegated Fairy-wren could be mistaken for a coloured berry itself. Fortunately, sitting still is not something the fairy-wrens are known for. They are usually flitting about the scrub at a feverish pace and calling energetically, making them much easier to detect.

The bird in this picture is the brilliantly coloured male. If you ever encounter these birds on a walk you might be able to get a better look at them by employing the archane birder’s art of pishing.  This is an onomatopoeia describing the act of making short, high-pitched, squeaking or kissing noises in order to arouse the curiosity of territorial bush birds. It can work to a greater or lesser degree on a variety of species, but is particularly effective on the fairy-wrens; they are strongly territorial little birds. Any such squeaky noises nearby will arouse enough suspicion to get a small party of birds hurrying over to investigate, allowing the surreptitious pisher (try saying that 3 times quickly!) a few moments of close views.

The reports have been coming in from all directions this week. Spotted Harriers have been observed by numerous birders out on the Plenty Highway and along the Ross Highway, near Corroboree Rock. Also in the Eastern Macs, Black-chinned Honeyeaters were reported on the weekend at Benstead Creek and Jessie Gap. Two birders have had success finding the scarce Grey Honeyeater in mallee woodlands along Namatjira Drive recently.

Spotlighting along the Plenty and Sandover Highways yielded dozens of sightings of Spotted Nightjars for Jesse Carpenter, including some in groups of 3 birds. Waterfowl numbers are slightly down at the sewage ponds following recent rain, but the local corellas seem to be doing well with the resident flock approaching 40 birds.

Happy birding.