Deserts Shrublands & Grasslands (Mulga & Spinifex)

The surprising diversity of the birds of the arid habitats of Australia...

Class Aves: Birds

While the diversity of birds in the Australian arid areas is not high compared to the other habitats on the continent, and the equivalent arid areas of Africa, there are many interesting species to be found...

Family Casuariidae

(outside Bladensberg National Park, western Queensland)

Dromaius novaehollandiae, 'Emu'. With emus, it is the males that raise the young.

(Let's get the flock outta here! Winton, western Queensland)

Emus can run up to 50 kilometres an hour. They often run in zig-zagging confused directions.

Family Columbidae

(Nallan Station, Western Australia)

Ocyphaps lophotes, 'Crested Pigeon'.

Family Accipitridae: Hawks, Kites, Eagles

(Marla, South Australia)

Aquila audax, 'Wedge-tailed Eagle'. This is the largest eagle in Australia. It is found across the drier open habitats across much of the continent, including being a common sight on the side of roads where it feeds on roadkill. In this way, it seems to fill in a niche equivalent to old world vultures in Africa and Asia. However, they are very wary when approached at carcasses, and quickly take off when approached. 

(north of Coober Pedy, S.A)

'Wedge-tailed Eagle' in flight with distinctive diamond-shaped tail. 

Family Falconidae: Falcons

Brown Falcon (image by Damon Ramsey)(South Australia)

Falco berigora, 'Brown Falcon', light morph.

Family Cacatuidae: Cockatoos

Galahs trying to play soccer, (Nallan Station, WA)

Eolophus (Cacatua) roseicapilla, Galah. Widespread in any dry habitats across most of Australia.

Family Psittaculidae: Parrots

Barnardius zonarius (zonarius), '(Port Lincoln) Ringneck Parrot'. Beautifully striking parrot, with yellow 'scarf' and dark head. Ringing call. The subspecies in central Australia is known as the 'Port Lincoln Parrot'. Common in drier habitats across much of Australia. In Central Australia, usually found in Eucalypts along dry river beds.

Melopsittacus undulatus, 'Budgerigar'. Wild budgies are usually green and yellow, not the other colours seen in cage birds. They are normally seen in flocks, often large. They are nomadic. So putting a nomadic and social bird in a tiny cage by itself, is probably very illogical, but the 'budgie' is the third most popular pet in the world, after the puppy and the pussy. Found in arid habitats across inland Australia.

Family Ptilonorhynchidae: Bowerbirds

Western Bowerbird at bower (image by Damon Ramsey)(Alice Springs Olive Pink Botanical Gardens)

Chlamydera guttata, 'Western Bowerbird'. Dark scales on back. Yellowish tint on underbelly. Pink on back of neck. Found in arid woodlands particularly in gorges and gullies, in Central Australia and the Pilbara.

Show us ya pink bits! (Alice Springs Olive Pink Botanical Gardens)

The pink patch on the back of the neck of a Western Bowerbird.

Family Meliphagidae: Honeyeaters

(Botanical Gardens Alice Springs)

Manorina flavigula, 'Yellow-throated Miner'. Miners usually hang out in groups, and are very resourceful and adaptable birds. They are a common bird of drier areas across Australia. Along the wetter east coast they are replaced by the similar Noisy Miner.

(Botanical Gardens, Alice Springs, N.T.)

Ptilotula penicillata, 'White-plumed Honeyeater'. Feed on nectar and small fruits, but they mostly glean leaves for lerps. Found in many different habitats across much of Australia, including in Eucalyptus River Red Gums trees along dry watercourses in arid areas.

(Nallan Station, Western Australia)

Acanthagenys rufogularis, 'Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater'.

male Pied Honeyeater (north of Coober Pedy)

Certhionyx variegatus, 'Pied Honeyeater'. Males do displays by flying high into the air and back down again, while calling their repetitive mournful whistle (which sounds like a Little Grassbird'). They are usually thought of as being nomadic, following the flowering of desert species such as Eremophila. Found in arid habitats across central and western Australia.

Epthianura spp. 'Chats'

I know that Crimson Chats eat insects, because in half of my photographs they seem to have one in their mouth! (Stuart Highway, north of Coober Pedy)

Chats are a type of honeyeater that has evolved to feed on the ground of arid areas, where they feed on the nectar on low flowers, but where they also catch a lot of invertebrates.

(Stuart Highway, north of Coober Pedy)

Epthianura tricolor, 'Crimson Chat'. Males are bright red. Found across Australia in arid areas, where they are thought to be nomadic, following rain and the resulting irruption of insects.

Family Pomatostomidae: Australian Babblers

Pomatostomus temporalis, 'Grey-crowned Babbler'. Usually seen in noisy groups where they bounce around and chatter, yap and 'meow' with each other quite comically. Found in tropical and arid woodlands across central and northern Australia and into southern New Guinea. 

Family Artamidae: Woodswallows, Butcherbirds

(Coober Pedy)

Artamus personatus, 'Masked Woodswallow'.

Family Petroicidae: Australasian Robins

The Australasian Robins are found in Australia, New Guinea and New Zealand. They are not related to the European Robins after which they were named, nor are they related to the American Robins. 

female (or juvenile male) Red-capped Robin (Nallan Station, Western Australia)

Petroica goodenovii, 'Red-capped Robin'. A tiny Australasian robin. Found in many drier habitats across Australia.

male Hooded Robin (Nallan Station, Western Australia)

Melanodryas cucullata, 'Hooded Robin'. Found in open habitats over much of Australia.

Family Orioicidae

Crested Bellbird (image by Damon Ramsey)(Nallan Station, Western Australia)

Oreoica gutturalis, 'Crested Bellbird'. One of the birds most distinctive of the Australian arid habitats. The black bib and bright orange eye are distinct features of the male. They are usually seen hopping along the ground between mulga bushes, where they apparently feed on insects and seeds. Their call is one of central Australia's most evocative and far-carrying; a repetitive and slightly honking morse code; the first two notes slow, and the following three much quicker. Often, the male and female do a duet, with the male making this previous call, and the female accenting the last notes with her more honking bell like notes.

Family Corvidae: Crows

(Olive Pink Botanical Gardens, Alice Springs)

Corvus spp. The common species found throughout inland dry areas are the 'Little Crow',  'Australian Raven' and 'Torresian Crow'. Adults have white eyes. Which species is this? Dunno. Probably the 'Little Crow', which is the more common of the corvids around Alice Springs.

Family Estrildidae: 'Grass-Finches'

(Nallan Station, Western Australia)

Taeniopygia guttata, 'Zebra Finch'.

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