While staying in Melbourne, I caught a tour down to see the large penguin colony on Phillip Island. I actually wrote about this, and included an excerpt from my book about the penguins coming ashore, back in June 17, 2007, when the blog was still fairly new. (However, if you missed the earlier post, you can see it here.) Because penguins were pretty well covered, I thought I’d talk a bit about some of the other Australian birds I love—these ones for their songs or calls. The links will take you to videos where you can hear these wonderful creatures.
Kookaburras are the largest members of the kingfisher family (they can reach lengths of 17 inches). They are also the fastest kingfishers, are very territorial, and mate for life. While there are birds in Australia with lovelier songs, there are no others that can so easily put a smile on my face. Whole families of kookaburras greet the day with everything from raucous laughter to quiet chuckles—and it is almost impossible not to join in.
Australian magpies are handsome, crow-sized birds with pure white markings splashed across jet black feathers. They are bold and can be comical, but are most appreciated for their lovely caroling.
My visit to the Dandenongs was not the first or only time I heard the whipbird, but I did hear it a lot as I wandered amid the tree ferns and mountain ash in these mountains outside Melbourne. Unlike the kookaburras and magpies, whipbirds are rather shy. So while they are often heard, they are rarely seen. It is their call, like the whistling of a whip being swung, that gives these birds their names. The long “whip” sound is actually only made by the male. You often just hear that sound, but if there is a little “tweet tweet” immediately following it, that is the female responding. The video reached by this link is not of good visual quality, but it offers a good recording of the male whipbird.
There were only a few times I was in a forest where I was surrounded by bellbirds, but they were remarkable times, with the ethereal, crystalline ringing sound of the birds stopping me in my tracks.
The lyrebird is named for its tail plumes, which, when erect, look like the outline of a Grecian lyre. The male is a master mimic. In this excerpt from David Attenborough’s series on birds, you will recognize several of the bird songs identified above, as well as surprisingly good imitations of some human devices, from a camera’s motor drive to a car alarm to a saw.