Birds of Blackbutt Reserve, Kotara

Blackbutt Reserve was a highlight during a recent short trip to Newcastle. This park contains walking tracks and an extensive array of wildlife exhibits. These feature animals, reptiles and birds.

A boardwalk leads the way through treetops to the main bird aviary. It passes by a rocky reserve where brush-tailed rock-wallabies rest, almost camouflaged. Entering the main aviary is to walk into a world of noise and colour. Lorikeets, pigeons, apostle birds, whip birds and herons fly about or perch atop trees like exotic fruits. At feeding time rainbow lorikeets dominated perches with their bright foliage and chatter.

The space is large but it was overwhelming at first to see so many birds in one place. There were sleeping koalas resting on their own gum trees, a little apart from the chaos of the birds. It was delightful to see many birds close up for the first time. Some are harder to come across in the wild due to their location or rarity.

Besides the main aviary, there are several other smaller exhibits. These featured up to half a dozen different birds in each display. The exhibits included signs about the birds with further information available online.

Here are some of the more unusual birds that I was able to enjoy at the Blackbutt Reserve.

Barking Owl (Ninox connivens)

Barking Owl

These birds feature on the mainland, except for central Australia. They are usually found in woodlands and on the edges of forests, often close to farmland. Degradation and loss of habitat mean they are in decline.

Chiming Wedgebill (Psophodes occidentalis)

Chiming Wedgebill

The call of the chiming wedgebill is amazing to hear. Like the eastern whipbird, it is a very shy bird, more often heard than seen. Their habitat is the dry country throughout South and Western Australia and the Northern Territory. When I first heard the call – before I saw the bird – I thought it was a car alarm or someone’s ring tone. The intense sound was extraordinary.

Topknot Pigeon (Lopholaimus antarcticus) and Apostlebird (Struthidea cinerea)

Topknot Pigeon

I couldn’t resist this bird with its raffish fluff on top of its head. It was one of several pigeons in the main aviary, including the Wonga, white-headed and crested pigeons. The photo includes one of the Apostlebirds. These birds keep together in a crowd; they are pretty, dusky and sociable.

Gouldian Finch (Erythrura gouldiae)

Gouldian Finch

These birds were a particular delight. They are brightly coloured, and found in locations across the top parts of Australia. It is an endangered species for several reasons. It is attractive and subject to illegal bird trade, and like so many other birds its habitat is under threat. There are also parasitic issues. They are highly sociable and it was a treat to see a few of them up close.

Peaceful Dove (Geopelia placida)

Peaceful Dove

This beautiful bird was a delight. They are found across most of Australia, apart from the dry inland, and are usually spotted near water. They have a pleasant call, and are more common in the tropic north.

Star Finch (Neochmia ruficauda)

Star Finch

It is not unusual to see a splash of red colouring on a finch, but the light scarlet face of the star finch stood out. This is a bird of the tropics and coastal areas in the warmer parts of the country. These bright birds are usually spotted in pairs or small flocks. I was also impressed by the delicate spotting along the body and tail areas.

Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)

Glossy Ibis

I found this bird to be particularly agile. Some were way up on the tops of trees, and others picked their way through the grounds of the aviary. This is the smallest of the three types of ibis in Australia. During breeding season the plumage is iridescent and the skin in front of the eye turns cobalt blue. They roost in trees near water, sometimes in very large flocks.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calptorhynchus banksii)

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo

This large cockatoo was impossible to resist. It twirled its way around a hook in the top of the aviary whilst its mate scratched the ground quite a way below. One of my bird books describes them as magnificent, conspicuous and noisy. Females have yellow spots on their head.

These are just a few of the many birds that live at the reserve. Whilst there were many that were new to me, there were also birds that I’ve seen and heard in the mountains. I was able to get a close look at the Eastern Whipbird, which is heard far more than it is seen. It was an amazing experience.

Have you spotted any different birds lately?

[Photo: rainbow lorikeets at feeding time]

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