Lesson 1
Content Review Test

 

OVERVIEW:
Why go Birding?
I. Ascetic Reasons
Birds are living works of art
Birds are interesting and give pleasure in all seasons
Birds are also important in various ways scientifically
Australian birds are special!
Birds are Living Jewels
II. Practical reasons
Indicators of the health of the land
Economic Importance of Birds
Recreational Importance of Birds
Necessary Equipment
Pair of Binoculars.
Good Field Guide.

Hints on Birding
1. Identify Species by Elimination.
2. Identify Species by Voice.
3. Identify Species by Size.
4. Identifying Species by Habits & Flight Pattern.
5. Identifying by Distinctive Plumage and Silhouette.

Why go Birding?

There are aesthetic, scientific and recreational benefits for an interest in birds, or ornithology.

I. Aesthetic Reasons to go Birding

Splendid Fairy-Wren
  • Birds are living works of art.

    Even the most plain bird under close observation, are living wonders of design. Few things can equal the beauty of the different colours, songs and behaviour of birds. For example, the colour of the Splendid Fairy-Wren; the song of the Pied Butcher Bird; the dance of the Brolga or display of the Lyre Bird etc . They can truly give pleasure and joy to us.

  • Birds are interesting and give pleasure in all seasons.

    They change with the seasons. They constantly are moving around, and give us pleasant surprises when they pop up. No one is too young or old to not find an interest in birds. Bird watching can satisfy those who enjoy an active physical lifestyle or those who like to laze along. It is a healthy recreation for all ages.

  • Birds are also important in various ways scientifically.

    They are great indicators of the health of a region for example. They are important for the pollination of plants and the distribution of seeds, and this has a flow on use to man. Some species are a source of food for man.

  • Australian birds are special!

    Australia is, area for area, among the richest in the world for birds. Some 777 species are recorded for Australia.

    Approximately 90 species of Australian birds are mainly non-breeding summer waders and seabirds both from the Antarctic region & New Zealand to our south, as well as from the Northern Hemisphere.

    Some Australian birds migrate amazing distances. For example, during our winter months one of our seabirds, the Short-tailed Shearwater flies thousands and thousands of miles to the Arctic Sea area. Another tiny wading bird found around Cohuna, the Red-necked Stint travels for our winter months to Arctic Siberia!

    In comparison to other countries and continents, we have a wonderful diversity of birds. We are especially rich in Honeyeaters, Parrots and Finches.

    We also have some unique birds too, such as the beautiful and delicate little Fairy- wrens, our incredible Lyrebirds, Malleefowl & Quail-Thrushes . These & about 345 other species of bird are endemic - they are found no where else in the world.

  • Birds are living Jewels.

    Even the apparently most ordinary looking bird, when viewed up close is an incredible work of art. The patterning of the feathers, their different shapes and designs show wonderful order and beauty. The colourings of some birds are so brilliant and exquisite, they are like enameled jewels - living jewels that shimmer and glisten in the sunlight - you really are seeing something when you see a male Orange Chat in full golden breeding plumage with the Spring sun on it.!

    The feathers of some birds are so attractive and useful that, especially in the past, capes, decorations for hats and even dusters, pillows, mattresses and doonas were made from them.

    Thankfully the fashion in hat decorations has passed, as thousands of birds were slaughtered, often just for several attractive feathers.

II. Practical Reasons to go Birding.

  • Indicators of the health of the land

    It is well known that birds are good indicators of habitat quality. We know that if there is a rich diversity of bird species present, the ecosystem is likely to be healthy and land practices in that region are likely to be sustainable into the future. We need a healthy land, a land to pass onto our children and future generations. Birds can play a significant part in helping us to achieve this.

  • Economic Importance of Birds

    Birds also are important economically. Locally, for instance, the contribution of the huge Ibis colony to the farmer is enormous. The known amount of pasture destroying insects that they consume saves the farmer thousands of dollars per year in pesticide control, and protects the environment from needless chemical use.

    Birds also bring tourists. When an area becomes well known as a good birding site, literally thousands of people will visit that area to watch birds. They come and spend money in the local community. Bird watching is a huge industry. For instance, 25 million North Americans travel abroad to watch birds; Australia and NZ are the most popular destinations after the Americas and Hawaii.

    Australian bird watchers help the economy too. For example, there is a small reserve west of Lake Boga, which several months ago attracted a remarkable selection of inland birds. In the four or so weeks that these birds have been known to be in the area, about several hundred people visited the area. They have stopped and spent money in the area.

    While not all of us are keen on duck hunting, we cannot deny that ducks are big business too.

    Birds are the theme for greeting cards, place mats, ornaments and pictures. There is big money in bird paintings. Original prints of Gould&';s birds of Australia cost thousands of dollars today.

    People are interested in buying homes and land where there are birds and other animals. Some of the most prime real estate in country and city areas is valued because of the birds and animals found nearby. They add value to property and life. They are important economically.

  • Recreational importance of Birds

    People, who are not necessarily interested in birds, are interested in beauty and attractive things. Apart from those who find relaxation and recreation in bird watching, there is a real aesthetic value to birds. They are, like so much of our native fauna and flora, living works of art. Birds are living gems. To see some in certain light is to see something of real wonder and beauty - and it is living and active. There is a wonder to it. We are the poorer in our spirit and soul without them. Life is that much more gray and dreary without the colour, song and antics of birds.

    To have birds, you have to have trees and bushland, forests and grasslands, lakes and marshes. Isn’t it significant that when we want a holiday, so many of us go to such places? Around our district the rivers and forests are where people like to go for a day outing. Birds are very much a part of those things that relax and renew us.

    We cannot deny then, that birds are associated with our recreational use of the land.

Necessary Equipment For Birding

  • Purchase and Use a Pair of Binoculars.

    Bird watching is made immeasurably more satisfying when a suitable pair of binoculars is used. They are essential for anyone really interested in bird watching. The colours and finer detail of a bird are better observed and enjoyed when seen through a pair of binoculars.

    Many makes, sizes and price range of binoculars are available. Comfort, weight, ease of movement all need to be considered at purchase time. The most commonly used strength binoculars used in bird watching are 8x40 & 10x50. Some of the top brands cost thousands of dollars. For beginners or the less financial, which is most of us, an inexpensive pair can be obtained for about $60.00 - $80.00. The magnification I would recommend is 10 x 50.

    Some species of birds, such as waders and ducks can be viewed with a telescope. Magnifications of between 20+ and 30+ are the most useful.

  • Purchase & Use a Good Field Guide.

    It is essential that you have a good, up to date field guide to help you know and identify Australian birds. There are various excellent ones available today - some real works of art. The most common recommend are:

    •  Field Guide to the Birds of Australia, by Simpson & Day.

    •  The Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds, by various members of the Slater family.

    •  The Graham Pizzey & Frank Knight Field Guide to the Birds of Australia.

    •  Michael Morcombe Field Guide to Australian Birds

    Bear in mind that some birds will not always appear exactly as the colouring of the bird in the field guide. It may for example, appear to have a deeper colour than the field guides show. Colours vary depending on such things as the light, the degree of wear of the feathers, the age of the bird, the angle at which you are looking at it etc. Look for the over all colours, shape and size of the bird, as well as other distinguishing features of the bird.


Hints in Identifying Species

  1. Identify Species by Elimination.

    When you come across a bird that is unknown to you, it helps to proceed by elimination. For example, if you see a Robin like bird near Cohuna with a white breast, and you think it could be a White-breasted Robin . However, a check of the distribution map listed in the Field Guides, will show that such a bird is only found in Western Australia. It is probably a Jacky Winter you are observing. Habitat and altitude also helps to eliminate species.

  2. Identify Species by Voice.

    Most birds are of course identified by sight; however their calls can also assist in their identification. This is an acquired aid, and means listening to calls, remembering them and being able to put them to a specific species. Remember though that some birds mimic other birds, birds such as Lyrebirds and Bowerbirds are born mimics. So a call in some places may not necessarily be the species that usually makes that call. Generally speaking though, calls are a real help in identifying birds. Start with the obvious ones such as Galahs and Magpies. When walking about listen to calls, see if you can match them to a species of bird. If you do not know, try to get a look at the bird and remember it for another day. Sometimes it helps to remember a bird’s call with an association. For example, one of the calls of the Red-capped Robin is like a telephone dialing.

    Try listening to these: Kookaburra (478K .wav), Magpie (128K .wav), Magpie-lark (240K .wav), Raven (211K .wav), Currawong (208K .wav), Cockatoo (206K .wav), Chough (133K .wav)

  3. Identify Species by Size.

    In learning different species of birds, try to get some idea of their size. Though this can be deceiving at times, and light, distance and background can make it difficult to be sure of the size, it never the less is a real help in identifying a species. A similar black and white bird could be a Magpie , a Magpie-lark or a Pied Butcherbird . However, size, among other features, will immediately help in identifying it.

    It can be helpful to think of a common bird with which you are familiar and compare its size to the bird you are seeking to identify. For example, is it the size of a Sparrow, Starling, Crow, Fowl or Turkey ! A fully black bird bigger than a Starling, smaller than a Crow but found in Northern Queensland would probably be a Black Butcherbird.

    Seek to get an idea not only of the overall size of the bird, but the size of its legs, neck, beak, tail etc. These features also assist in identifying the bird.

  4. Identifying Species by Habits & Flight Pattern.

    The habits of birds often provide clues to their identity. If, for example, it perches in a prominent position, such as the top of a bush, tree or telegraph pole, they may belong only to certain classes of birds, such as Raptors (birds of prey), or Robins . It they are shy and hide in vegetation they may belong to another class of birds, perhaps a class such as Grasswrens .

    Clues to identity can also be found in characteristic habits, such as tail wagging, like the Willie Wagtail. A bird creeping up or down a tree and on its branches could be a Sittella or a Treecreeper.

    The way a bird moves can also assist in identifying it. For example, take note if it hops, or walks along the ground. A Scrubwren hops, a Ground Cuckoo-shrike walks. If it is a water bird swimming, does it sit high in the water, or low? A Moorhen sits high and a Muskduck sits low.

    When taking off from water, does the bird need to get a run up to launch itself, or rise directly off the water? A Pelican needs a run up, but a Black Duck springs clear in one jump.

    The flight of a bird may be undulating, and will help identify a Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike , and some parrots such as Rosellas and Blue Bonnets . Some birds have a fast direct flight, such as Magpies, Crested Pigeons and Martins. Some are swift but erratic - changing direction quickly such as the Sunbird.

    The wing beat of some birds will be slow, as with Herons or rapid such as with Ducks and Lorikeets. Some birds hover in the air such as the Nankeen Kestrel , or will alternate rapid wing beats and glides, such as Ibis and Swifts.

  5. Identifying by Distinctive Plumage and Silhouette.

    The Pattern and colour contrasts of the plumage of a bird can be most helpful in identifying it. Noting the colour of the under parts, whether for example they are spotted, banded or plain, and the degree and extent of these markings are helpful aids to identifying a species. Does it have a white rump patch or some other colour? These are helpful aids in sorting out a species. For example Black-eared Miners have a dark grey rump, but the similar Yellow-throated Miner has a pale or white rump. The extent of white in tail and wings are aids too in identifying birds.

    The shape too of a bird’s tail is often significant. Look whether it is forked and the degree of forking. A Black Kite could be confused with a Whistling Kite , but the Black Kite has a forked tail and the Whistling Kite has no fork. The Brown Goshawk has a rounded tail and the Collared Sparrowhawk (unless very worn) is square. Look if the tail is wedged - as in the Wedged-tailed Eagle.

    Wing patterns should be noted, especially in the case of waders and ducks. Also note head markings, especially around the crown, ears and eyes. A Yellow Thornbill has striping over the ears and a smooth forehead, while the similar Buff-rumped Thornbill has a ruffled crown and not so striped ear covering.

    Seek to know the various silhouettes. A duck silhouette is quite different from a Honeyeater. An Ibis is quite different from a Little Eagle as is a Quail from a Seagull. When the general outline of a bird can be appreciated, it will greatly assist in quickly identifying it.

    Have a look at the outlines below (they are NOT in perspective, size-wize, to each other)....

    Scrub wrens
    Scrub Wrens
    Quails
    Quails
    Dotterels
    Dotterels.
    Terns
    Terns
    Ducks
    Ducks
    Finches
    Finches
    Kingfishers
    Kingfishers
    Robins
    Robins
    Egrets
    Egrets
    Falcons
    Falcons
    Parrots
    Parrots
    Pigeons
    Pigeons
    Long-billed Honeyeaters
    Long-billed Honeyeaters
    Short-billed Honeyeaters
    Short-billed Honeyeaters
    Fairy-wrens
    Fairy-wrens
    Woodswallows
    Woodswallows

SOME FURTHER BRIEF POINTS:

The best views of birds are when the sun is behind the observer.

Clothing that is similar to the habitat’s colouring in which you are bird watching is generally thought to be more helpful in not disturbing a bird and so getting a better look at it.

Movement can disturb birds - go slowly.

Usually birds are more vocal early in the morning - from sunrise until late morning. This is especially true of Bushbirds, though waterbirds can be appreciated at all times of the day.

Raptors generally like the hotter time of the day to take advantage of thermal air currents.

The number of birds in an area generally varies according to a season. Mostly Spring and Summer are the best months. It is then that migratory birds are present.

When you are moving about outside and on trips etc. keep your eyes open for the birds that will always be around. See what you can identify. Check up on the ones you cannot identify in a field guide, and keep a list of the different species you have observed.

Consider joining a society that promotes an interest in birds, and holds outings and camps.

Join a Bird-listing or ‘surf’ the Web!



Review

There are Aesthetic and Practical reasons for birding or bird watching. Aesthetic in that they are living works of art; interesting and give pleasure in all seasons; important in various ways scientifically; special; and birds are Living Jewels! Practically, birds act as Indicators of the health of the land and are important Economically and Recreationally.

To go birding or bird watching it is really essential to have a pair of binoculars and a good Field Guide.

There are certain pointers that can help in identifying birds. Take particular note of its voice, size, flight pattern, habits, habitats in which it is found, it’s Distinctive Plumage and Silhouette. Check a Field Guide carefully reading the description (don’t just look at the pictures). Check that the bird may be found in that area from the distribution map.

Open your senses, your eyes and ears, and take in the wonder of the bush and its animals - especially birds. Take a quiet walk. Breathe in the good it does you.




Test

The test is comprised of three parts:
  1. A colour - in sheet of bird outlines. Download sheet [hint]
  2. Make a sightings list of at least 20 birds that you have seen and identified. (Do this between lessons) [hint]
  3. The online test Test for Lesson 1
 
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