Sunday, July 19, 2009

Australian birds

I revisited the Australian Museum this weekend and spent the day in the education room, where you can touch and move to a desk to draw taxidermy models. I took the opportunity to take an “up close and personal look” at a few urban Australian birds. The Magpie, pee wee and Rainbow Lorikeet are three birds that are seen and heard regularly in the city area I know in Sydney and where I grew up in Queensland. I sometimes see these birds up close, but of course they move so quickly and I don’t always have my sketchbook with me.

The Australian Magpie is black and white, but the plumage pattern varies across its range. Australian Magpies are common and conspicuous birds. They live in areas that have a combination of trees and adjacent open areas, including parks and playing fields. They are absent only from the densest forests and arid deserts. Australian Magpies have a beautiful carolling call and they often call together. They have a loud melodic flute like song. It is glorious to hear and makes you glad to be alive. Sound file . It is a sound that many Australian miss when they live overseas.

Groups of up to 24 birds live year round in territories that are actively defended by all group members. Some Australian Magpies can be very aggressive during breeding season and attacks on humans and pets can occur.I lived in fear of walking to school in September as there were magpies in a tree opposite our house and in a park I had to walk through. I used to run past with my schoolbag over my head.

The Pee Wee or Magpie Lark ( no relation to the magpie ) is common in urban areas. It is smaller than a Magpie, not seen as much as a magpie makes a sharp screeching sound

The Rainbow Lorikeet is unmistakable with its bright red beak and colourful plumage. Both sexes look alike, with a blue (mauve) head and belly, green wings, tail and back, and an orange/yellow breast. They are often seen in loud and fast-moving flocks, or in communal roosts at dusk. Another bird witha screeching sound. especially loud when a flock flies over. Sound file
Rainbow Lorikeets live off nectar mostly and water they find in leaves. At the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary in Queensland, the visitors are asked to hold food out for the birds when they arrive in groups of hundreds at around 4pm. They will perch on people's arms and heads to be fed. Many fruit orchard owners consider them a pest, as they often fly in groups and strip trees containing fresh fruit


  1. These are wonderful, Alissa, and thank you for the sound files, I loved them! We learn so much from this blog...

  2. Thanks for posting this Alissa. Your drawings are great and glad you found inspiration at our Museum!


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