Chris Watson

Birding Central Australia #7

Chris Watson

Fairy Martin Petrochelidon ariel

Tiny birds move in

Do you have muddy, bottle-shaped nests under the eaves at your house? Worried about bees or even wasps making their home on your doorstep? Fear not – chances are, you are just hosting the tiny Fairy Martin, pictured here on barbed-wire for a sense of scale.

Many people have emailed me over the last few weeks about this bird’s nests. Barely 12cms long, it builds its nest by mixing soil and clay with saliva. A talented sculptor, it uses this mud to fashion a perfect little bottle-nest, which it fixes beneath a rock overhang, a road culvert, and in many cases under the eaves of your home.

The nests will not damage your home, and once the birds have fledged their youngsters, the nests are often taken over and inhabited by other small birds like Pardalotes. Even some of our small bat species may use old Fairy Martin nests.

Sightings this week: 

-          Banded Lapwing, usually a scarce bird, were everywhere this week. They have been seen at the sewage ponds here in Alice, on crown land adjacent to Hidden Valley Town Camp, and at Hamilton Downs, each time with juvenile birds.

-          Long-toed Stint was picked out by Lisa and Pete, among the waders at the sewage ponds. A tricky bird to separate, so a great effort that.

-          A single Oriental Pratincole was seen earlier in the week at the sewage ponds

-          The always spectacular Channel-billed Cuckoo have been seen and heard on the east side of town and around Braitling on the north side.

-          Rufous-throated Honeyeater, in good numbers at the sewage ponds in Tennant Creek, close to the southern extremity of their range.