Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Rare Birds around SE Qld - July 2014

Eremaea is basically the site to monitor records of rare birds in SE and Central Qld [although all states are covered] however I'd like to publish records close to or of interest to Sunshine Coast birders here as well in the hope that more people can access the information.

First the 'big' news; while not an Australian first it's almost in that category. A Yellow Bittern has been discovered at North Lakes in SE Qld. This is normally a common SE Asian species. It is a female bird and there is a male Australian Little Bittern at the same site.

This is the initial report from Eremaea dated July 8;               Yellow BitternNorth Lakes SE Queensland

Still present this morning. Paul Walbridge & Brian Russell found a female Ixobrychus Bittern on Sunday which was far more prone to fly around and its call was different to another Australian Little Bittern present. Photos were sent down south for analysis and the immediate response was that it was probably a Yellow Bittern; this has since been confirmed by J.Davies, D.Rogers & M.Carter and an expert based in Asia. Paul will now write up and submit the record as the first live mainland sighting. Paul will give out further details. Contact him on: The particular lake is in a rather peaceful section of the complex and we expect visiting birders to show respect for the local residents e.g. with Parking. The streets are rather narrow and won't stand up to large numbers of extra vehicles. Also one would expect observers to keep to the footpaths and observe the birds from a respectful distance. Can the local 'Photographers' please respect all the birds present, stay on the path and not disturb the area, and refrain from cutting vegetation down to get good shots.
Rob Morris & Andrew Jensen

This is a description of the Australian Little Bittern from a Birdlife Australia document - 'Australian Little Bittern Identification Guide';
The ALB is the smallest Australian heron, only 35 cm long and weighing around 85 g. In contrast to most other herons, the sexes are distinguishable with the male having a black back, whereas the female’s back is brown. Both have a black or dark crown, a rufous or buff neck, black tail and a dark-brown double-stripe from throat to mid-belly, flanked by broader buff streaks. The juvenile is similar to the female except it has bold brown/black streaks on much of its body and rufous tips on most feathers feathers. In flight the male shows a marked contrast between dark back and primaries, and the buff upperwing coverts, whereas this contrast is reduced in the female and slight in the juvenile.  

Also from that guide; In northern Australia, be wary of a potential vagrant species, the Yellow Bittern . This migratory species has been recorded once in Australia but may be go undetected. It is of similar size to the ALB, but it is a much paler bird, with both sexes being rufous brown on the back. However, in flight the primary and secondary feathers of all phases of Yellow Bittern are black and contrast markedly with the rest of the plumage, at times giving a piebald impression.

Some good pictures of Australian Little Bittern can be found here;

This is a description of Yellow Bittern from a Birds of singapore website [] -
 Description:  Crown, short crest and nape black marked with buff. Rufous-brown on face, sides of head and neck, with deeper rufous on hind neck, greyer on forehead and supercilium. Upperparts, tertials and scapulars reddish-brown marked with pale buffy-yellow. Lower back, rump and uppertail coverts pale grey marked with reddish-brown, mostly obscured by long feathers of mantle. Sides of body and flanks pale buff. Tail black. Primaries and secondaries black, primary and greater coverts pale buffy-yellow. Underparts white streaked with golden-buff from chin to middle abdomen, whiter on the throat and neck. Undertail and underwing coverts white.
Females: Like males but more rufous above. Forehead and crown streaked with dull rufous, back and scapulars rufous-brown streaked with buff. Underparts paler white, with a dark buffy-brown line down middle of chin, throat and foreneck, breaking up into streaks on the sides of the body and flanks. In very old birds, the line down the throat and foreneck disappears, and both sexes are almost exactly alike (Robinson & Chasen 1936).
Immature birds: Head and mantle dark brown streaked with pale buff. Greater and lesser wing coverts coarsely streaked darker brown, uppertail coverts blackish-brown. Underparts heavily streaked, with reddish-brown on throat and upper breast, with dark buff on abdomen, vent and undertail coverts.
Soft parts: Iris orange-yellow, facial skin greenish-yellow (a bird with a brood patch, caught at Sungei Buloh on 13 December, had facial skin bluish-yellow). Tarsi dull greenish-yellow, yellower on the rear, soles yellowish-buff. Bill brownish-black on ridge of upper mandible, lower mandible orange-yellow, greener at base.

Simpson and Day emphasise the difference in bills between the two species; The Yellow Bittern's bill being longer and thinner than the ALB. I think this difference can be seen in the accompanying photos.
Bill of ALB
Yellow Bittern Bill

Below are some photos taken by Ken Cross yesterday.
Yellow Bittern
Yellow Bittern

Yellow Bittern

Male Australian Little Bittern

Male Australian Little Bittern
Other birds of interest in the greater area include Powerful Owls seen at Sheep Station Creek Reserve near Caboolture. Also at that reserve are White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes as well as Fuscous Honeyeaters [both uncommon species in the greater Sunshine coast area. At Toorbul, a well known site for SC birders, an Asian Dowitcher continnues to show as well as a variety of other wintering waders plus Red-necked Avocets.
A Powerful Owl


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