Tag Archives: birdsong

Australian Magpie

In the previous post, I mentioned enjoying seeing and hearing the magpies, and it occurs to me that some of my readers will not have heard or seen an Australian magpie.

Aussie magpies are not the same birds as Eurasian magpies, but they look similar, with striking black and white feathers.

Aussie magpies can be aggressive during the mating season, so they are not always welcome guests in backyards. However, they are handsome and have an unusual, musical call that is delightful. So here’s a video, to share the sight and sound of the Australian magpie. (Note: as is common in Australia, if one bird is present, others are, as well, so there are other bird calls in the background.)


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Filed under Australia, Nature, Travel, Video

Satin Bowerbird

Male bowerbirds are birds that build bowers, structures designed to attract females and used for mating. The bowers are not nests, though they are elaborately constructed of twigs. Various types of bowerbirds build different shapes and sizes of bowers and collect different items to adorn the area around the bower. The male satin bowerbird, which is a shiny blue-black, builds a bower that is an arched tunnel, and he collects only blue items to attract the olive and yellow-colored female. (If you’re in their territory, don’t set down anything blue that you don’t want to lose. They’re adept thieves.)

I had read about the satin bowerbird long before I saw one, and saw one long before I heard one. However, I finally heard what is often described as the “starter motor call” on my second trip to Australia. The satin bower bird uses this odd call to woo the lady bowerbird he hopes to win. While I’m sure it must have some appeal for the lady bowerbird, I find it highly amusing. The video below shows a few of the blue items a satin bowerbird has collected, around the lacy bower. Then, when the female appears, you get to find out how the mating call got its name.

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Filed under Australia, Nature, Video

Feathered Friends

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.
Australian magpie

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.

Penguins on Phillip Island


Filed under Australia, Book, Geography, Nature, Travel