Chris Watson

Birding Central Australia #86 - Tree Martin

Chris Watson

Fairy Martin Petrochelidon ariel (top) and Tree Martin P. nigricans (bottom)

These two birds giving you their best “over-the-shoulder-smoulder”, are two of the trickier species to separate while birding around Alice Springs. On top is the dainty Fairy Martin, and below, the closely related and slightly larger Tree Martin. In this picture the difference between the two is perhaps obvious, but when they are whizzing past at high speed it may be tricky to pick the glossy blue crown of the Tree Martin from the rufous crown of the Fairy Martin.

If you have ever noticed beautiful bottle-shaped mud nests below the eaves of your house or on the occasional road-side culvert, then you have seen the work of the Fairy Martin. As the name suggest, the Tree Martin usually makes its nest in a tree, although it is also known to reuse the abandoned nest of other species, including Welcome Swallows and Fairy Martins. Around Alice Springs, both species of martins are commonly encountered; Fairy Martins often where a road passes over a culvert or bridge, and Tree Martins most often, along tree-lined river beds.

It’s been all go in Alice Springs, and reports of Grey Falcons continue to arrive from west of town near Standley Chasm and also to the south-west at Kata-Tjuta. A Grey-fronted Honeyeater has been reported from out in the Eastern MacDonnell Ranges near Corroboree Rock.

I’ve been out in the Great Sandy Desert this week and can vouch that many of the nomadic honeyeater species are present up there in WA in phenomenal numbers, with Black, Pied, and White-fronted Honeyeaters among the most common birds seen over three days.

Crimson Chats are now being reported much more regularly along the road in every direction from town and Orange Chats are still regular at the sewage ponds.

Happy Birding!