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I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Colours in Nature; gingery shades 5 - overseas birds

It's turned into something of an odyssey, but here is the final episode in this series celebrating animals with colours we variously refer to as chestnut, ginger, rusty, rufous or copper among others. The series began back here and my most recent posting was the penultimate one. I won't reiterate what I said then about the chemical basis of such colours, but will proceed to introduce you to some more birds which bear them, crossing three continents in the process. As I've mentioned more than once in the course of this journey, I find the richness and subtlety of these shades most appealing indeed. 
Ocellated Tapaculo Acropternis orthonyx, Refugio Paz de los Aves, northern Ecuador.
This is a relatively large and very vocal bird, but normally near impossible to see in the forest.
The patience and skill of Angel Paz in habituating it to come in for food is astonishing.
Wattled Jacana Jacana jacana, near Guayaquil, Ecuador.
The jacanas form a group of eight species, found throughout the world's tropical zones,
which specialise in walking on floating leaves by means of hugely extended toes. This one is found throughout
most of South America east of the Andes, plus this isolated near-coastal population in Ecuador.
This species gave its Tupi name, from Brazil, to the entire group.

Grey-headed Sparrow Passer griseus, Entebbe, Uganda.
An Old World sparrow which has adapted to human habitations like some other family members,
including the next one.
Tree Sparrow Passer montanus, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
A sparrow with a huge natural range across Europe and Asia, as well as having been
introduced to North America and Australia (where it is rare and declining).
I like the fact that these two closely related species flaunt their chestnut tones in different places.
Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis, Puerto Ayora, Galápagos.
Cinnamon Flycatcher Pyrrhomyias cinnamomeus, San Isidro Lodge, northern Peru.
A common and widespread little beauty of the forests.
Raffles's Malkoa Rhinortha chlorophaea female, Sepilok, Sabah.
The malkohas form a group of large non-parasitic cuckoos.
Black-throated Flowerpiercer  Diglossa brunneiventris, Chivay, southern Peruvian Andes.
The flowerpiercers are a group of tanagers which use their awl-shaped bill to pierce the base
of tube-flowers to 'steal' nectar without pollinating the flower.
The next two, both kingfishers and quite similar, though in different genera and from different continents, are normally admired for their blue plumage - and quite rightly too - but their rusty undersides are an important part of the striking overall effect.
Blue-eared Kingfisher Alcedo meninting, Sepilok, Sabah.
A beautiful kingfisher found widely in southern and south-east Asia.

Malachite Kingfisher Corythornis cristatus, Lake Mburo NP, Uganda.
An exquisite little bird found across sub-Saharan Africa.
So far the species features have varying amounts of the chestnut shades, from small highlights to up to half of their bodies; other birds however are virtually wholly coloured thus.
Andean Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis (above),
and Cinnamon Teal Anas cyanoptera (below),
both males and both on Lake Titicaca, Peru.
In both species the females are much less conspicuous, in mottled browns.
 
In the wonderful Torrent Duck Merganetta armata however, the rusty roles are reversed, with the females wearing it.
Torrent Ducks displaying, Urabamba River, Peruvian Andes.
Males on the left, female on the right.
Rufescent Tiger-Heron Tigrisoma lineatum, YasunĂ­ NP, Ecuadorian Amazonia.
A beautiful heron often seen along streams by visitors travelling by boat.
(And 'rufescent' is a name borne by only three bird species in the world!)
Almost the last, two superficially similar rainforest woodpeckers from opposite sides of the world - and both taken in very poor light conditions, unfortunately.

Cinnamon Woodpecker Celeus loricatus, Rio Silanche Reserve, north-western Ecuador.
Rufous Woodpecker Micropternus brachyurus, Sepilok, Sabah.
This pretty little woodpecker is found right across southern and south-east Asia.
And finally, a very handsome, and very rusty, big South American cuckoo.
Squirrel Cuckoo Piaya cayana, Manu NP, Peru; a lovely and active non-parasitic cuckoo found
from northern Mexico to Uruguay.
I hope you haven't felt I've gone on with this theme for too long, but I felt, apart from anything else, that it was a chance to meet some possibly new birds, and hopefully simply enjoy them.

I'm off again soon, on an extended holiday to tropical Australia, and will leave just a couple of offerings to tide us over until I get back in mid-September. Normal service will resume then!

BACK WITH SOMETHING QUITE DIFFERENT ON THURSDAY 18 AUGUST
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