Lesson 3
Content Review Test

 

OVERVIEW:

Bird Habitats in Northern Victoria

I. Significant Wetlands
Rivers
Billabongs/Lagoons
Lakes
Swamps
River Islands
Irrigation
Ramsar international Convention on Wetlands
II. Unique Northern Plains
Woodlands
Heathlands/Grasslands
The More Common Birds of Northern Victoria


Bird Habitats in Northern Victoria

I. Significant Wetlands

Northern Victoria is one of the most significant wetlands, not only in Victoria, but Australia. Arguably, since parts of the wetlands are listed under the Ramsar International Convention on Wetlands, it is also one of the most significant wetlands of the world. It is among those unique wetlands that occur in dry-lands. Northern Victoria, being a flat and low-lying country that is fed with an amazing network of rivers and creeks that make it a wonder world of wetlands and an incredible place of associated fauna and flora , despite having a low rainfall! Among the features that make up this wonderfully rich wetland are:
  • Rivers

    In Northern Victoria there are several major waterways including the Murray River and associated creeks that flow from it - swamps, billabongs/lagoons and other wetlands that are renewed by the Murray when in flood. For example: Gunbower Creek; billabongs or lagoons such as Reedy, Taylors and Cockatoo; swamps such as Black and Burnt on Gunbower Island. However there are other rivers such as the Loddon and Campaspe and creeks such as Pyramid, Bendigo, Bullock and Avoca, plus many smaller ones such as the Seven and the Calivil. These Creeks and rivers are lined with huge and vast stands of our famous River Red Gum and associated understory of such trees as various types of Wattle and Ballards. At times large stands of Black Box and patches of Grey Box can also be found. These form a special riverine habitat known as ripian and attracts a range of wildlife, including birds.

  • Billabongs/Lagoons

    Beside the major rivers and creeks that flow through this area are a network of lagoons or billabongs. They are also known as ‘Ox-bow’ lakes. In the Cohuna area, especially on Gunbower Island, you may find Bulrush, Long, Little Punt, Iron Punt, Reedy, Cockatoo, Whistler, Horse Shoe, Green, Little Reedy, Taylor, Harrison, Cockatoo, Upper Gunbower, Longmore, Phyland and Black Charlie Lagoons - just to mention a few! These generally permanent backwaters are not as disturbed as the main river and creek beds, and are richer in fauna and flora than the rivers and creeks. Platypus are found in these water ways, and they are a favoured nesting place for colony water birds such as Egrets, Spoonbills, Cormorants, etc. Recently a Magpie Goose was found for some time in such a habitat. There are also some billabongs on the Loddon and Campaspe Rivers.

  • Lakes

    The area of Northern Victoria is incredibly rich in lakes. Before European settlement most of the lakes in the region were of fresh water, but with settlement and irrigation most of them are now saline. While, some sadly have become so saline as to be unable to support little if any birdlife or other fauna or flora, (such as Lake William), some are able to still attract a wonderful range of birds. Most of these Lakes are to the west of Cohuna - between Kerang and Swan Hill. The more significant are Round Lake, Lake Boga, Lake Tutchewop, Lake William (after rain), Lake Kelly, Kangaroo Lake, Lake Charm, Lake Lookout, Sandhill Lake, Reedy, Middle and Third Lake, Lake Cullen, Lake Bael Bael, Lake Elizabeth, Wandalla (or Brady) Lake, Spectacle Lake, Little Lake Meran, Lake Meran and Lake Murphy. On this amazing range of Lakes a wide range of waders can be found depending on the season and the condition of the Lake. Some are often dry, some are filled as part of the irrigation system of the region in summer, and some are maintained year round as fresh water lakes by environmental water to protect endangered wildlife. A wide range of ducks, including the rare and threatened ones such as the Freckled, Musk, Blue-billed, Pink-eared and Australasian Shoveler as well as Grebes including the Great-crested Grebe can be seen most years on these lakes. Black Swans, Coots, and the more ordinary ducks such as Black & Grey Teal can be seen, as can Australasian & Hoary-headed Grebes. There are waders too such as Avocets, Banded & Black-winged Stilts, Golden Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones, Curlew & Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Red-necked Stints, Black-kneed & Black-fronted Dotterels, Red-capped & Double-banded Plovers etc.

  • Swamps

    Another significant type of wetland in Northern Victoria are the many and various swamps. They occur on river islands such as Gunbower Island where you can find Black Swamp, Green Swamp, Corduroy Swamp, Burnt Swamp, Charcoal Swamp, Barton & Smith Swamp and Pig Swamp to name a few. They also occur away from the major rivers and where often only small creeks flow occasionally in flooding or very wet seasons - or when environmental water is released into them. Some of these types of swamps are First, Second & Third Marsh, Yassam Swamp, Cemetery, Fosters, Mc Donalds, Tragowel, Johnson, Hird, Kow & Murphy Swamps. There are however a whole range of smaller swamps around places such as Pyramid Hill, Lockington, Mitiamo etc. Inland Red Gum, Black Box and Lignum bordering ancient wetlands can be found in these swamps where there still can be seen the middens and scar trees of the Aboriginal people who lived here from earliest times.

    At times these swamps occur out in the middle of the grassland plains, with no or few trees. These swamps in a flooding season become an amazing wetland of teeming life. Hundreds of birds and other animals as well as a profuse flowering of many water plants occur. To observe the transformation from a seemingly dead, still, dry, wasteland of little apparent life into a place of teeming life, colour and sound is a miracle of life! Hundreds of species of birds, making up thousands in number, call, breed, fly and feed. Raptors swoop and glide, causing large rafts of duck to rise in a clap of sound into the air, calling and wheeling - disturbing other feeding birds such as the Royal and Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Glossy, White and Straw-necked Ibis, Large and Intermediate Egrets and even Brolgas. Whiskered Terns, often in great number, swoop over the water joining the more rare Gull-billed & Caspian Tern.

    On the dead trees, Pied, Great, Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants roost along with Darters when they are not diving and feeding. Swamp Harriers, Whistling Kites, White-bellied Sea-Eagles, Wedge-tailed Eagles, Peregrine and at times Black Falcons join various other raptors feeding about the swamp. Welcome Swallows, Fairy and Tree Martins join the White-breasted Woodswallows hawking insects over and around the water, adding to the movement and calls of the swamp.

    In the lignum and rushes and among the shallows shy and rare birds skulk and make their home. Here you can find the rare and threatened Painted Snipe, one of the rarest birds in the world, Spotless & Spotted Crake, Baillons Crake, Lewin’s Rail, Australasian & Little Bittern as well as the more ordinary Black-tailed Native Hen, Purple Swamphen and Dusky Moorhen.

    On the open water thousands of Coots, Australasian and Horary-headed Grebes swim, call and feed and go into a frenzy of splashing, diving or flying low over the water when a raptor approaches.

    In the marginal woodlands, a range of Bushbirds are glad to settle for a time including Magpies, Pied Butcherbirds, Red-capped Robins, Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo, Red-capped Robins, White-plumed Honeyeaters, Superb & White-winged Fairy-wrens, Eastern Rosellas and Red-rumped Parrots to just name a few.

    In the samphire areas, White-fronted Chats are occasionally joined by Orange Chats, the males all brightly coloured up in unforgettable shimmering yellow-gold. In the reeds and rushes Clamorous Reed-warblers make their joyful songs and the shy Little Grassbird gives its mournful call.

    At times too Golden-headed Cisticolas call or jump up on top of a bush to look at the world around them. In shallows, various waders can be found, such as Avocets and Black-winged Stilts, Curlew and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Red-necked Stints, Latham’s Snipe & Wood Sandpipers.

    Yes, the swamps are ‘magical’ places that can enchant you.

  • River Islands

    In our northern region we have various River Islands. The largest is of course Gunbower Island, which is the largest inland island in the world. It is approximately 50kms long, with the Murray River on the eastern side and Gunbower Creek on the western side. This 26,400 hectare floodplain is internationally recognized as a wetland of significance for its importance to birdlife, native mammals and amphibians. Gunbower Creek is an anabranch. An ‘anabranch’ is a creek/river that has its origins and mouth in the same river. Most of Gunbower Island is a Ramsar site with large numbers of small creeks and gullies crisscrossing it, and is littered with large numbers of billabongs and swamps. Winding dirt tracks wander among vast stands of wonderful Red Gum forests and on higher ground, stands of Black Box can be found with understories of Cherry Ballard, Melaleuca, various Wattle and some wildflowers. Occasional ancient sandhills can be found with more open bushland and their own special flora and fauna. This is a feeding and breeding habitat of many species of birds including some special state listed ‘threatened’ species.

    On some still nights and in certain places the haunting calls and startling shrieks of the Barking & Boobook Owl can he heard or the sudden strident ‘carr’ ‘carr’ of the Owlet Nightjar. The Tawny Frogmouth adds his friendly ‘mopoke’ ‘mopoke’ to the night chorus. During the day White-browed Babblers, dash around the low bushes, and disturb other lower story dwellers such as the Red-browed Firetail & Diamond Firetail Finches White-browed Scrubwrens, Painted and in some years Red-chested Button-quail.

    In more open areas small families of slowly striding Emus are often seen. The river and creeks acts as a highway and roads for the bird traffic, and flocks of Black Duck, Grey Teal and Wood Duck can be seen, and at times other species. Along these open ways the flash and roll of the flashing Dollarbird and Rainbow Bee-eater can be seen with their grating and piping calls.

    In the forest tops White-winged Choughs, Crested Shrike-tit, Grey Shrike-thrush, Gilbert’s Whistler, Spotted & Striated Pardalotes, Striated, Buff-rumped, Yellow and Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Yellow (form of the) Crimson Rosella, Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, Long-billed Corella, Eastern Rosella and a large number of additional birds can also be seen and heard. In leafy, thick patches of vegetation the shy Nankeen Night Heron finds its day roost away from pesky birds such as Noisy Miners and where it can catch up on its sleep.

    At rare times the beautiful and rare Superb Parrots can be seen, usually in small flocks as they flash past calling as they go. Here too can be found a good range of Bats and reptiles such as the Carpet Python. Delicate and highly active little Yellow-footed Antechinus jump, skip and hop and run around tree trunks. Other mammals are rare Echidnas or Spiny-Ant Eaters, Water Rats, Brush-tailed and Ring-tailed Possums, Black or Swamp Wallabies & Grey Kangaroos. The water and water-ways is a home too of the Murray Cod and Golden Perch. Gunbower Island itself forms many little river Islands.

    There are also other River Islands in the area such as Canary Island on the Loddon River, and further on along the Murray are other too such as Cambells and Pental Islands. All special habitats.

  • Irrigation

    The north of Victoria is crisscrossed with a vast network of open irrigation ditches and drains, as well as holding ponds, and farm dams. These areas also create a habitat for many types of water birds. Many of the ditches, drains, channels and dams are lined with Cambungi and other water-weeds and rushes. In such places Ducks such as the Black, Wood & Grey Teal make their homes and often breed. But here too are the various Ibis, Egrets, Cormorants and Herons of the area. At times such birds of the reeds as Australasian Bitterns, Buff-banded Rail and Spotted Crakes can be seen. In the associated pastures and bushes Stubble & Brown Quail and in season Black-tailed Native-hens can be found. Here too you can find Clamorous Reed Warblers, Little Grassbirds, White-fronted Chats and Golden-headed Cisticolas.

    Various raptors haunt these areas looking for a feed, including Brown, Peregrine & Black Falcons, Little Hobby, Nankeen Kestrel, Whistling & Black Kites, Spotted and Marsh Harriers, Black-shouldered Kites and an occasional Wedge-tailed Eagle or even a White-bellied Sea-Eagle may soar majestically by looking for a Carp it can snatch from the water. Though man made, these wetlands have now become part of the vast wetland habitat of the region.

  • Ramsar International Convention on Wetlands

    We have made reference to the RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands. What is this RAMSAR? Some wetlands in the area such as Gunbower Island are said to be a ‘Ramsar site’. Ramsar is the name given to an International Convention on Wetlands, of which Australia is a signatory. It is named after the city of Ramsar in Iran where this treaty was signed in 1971. It came into force in 1975. This Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. It is the only global environmental treaty that deals with a particular ecosystem. The Convention’s member countries cover all geographic regions of the planet. For our area to have Ramsar status is to be of major importance ecologically.
    For further information on Ramsar see the web site: http://www.ramsar.org/index_about_ramsar.htm#intro


II. Unique Northern Plains

  • Woodlands

    Northern Victoria has some of the most significant woodlands in the State. The White Cypress Pine forest just north of Mitiamo in the Terrick Terrick National Park is the most intact and largest such forest in the State and of unique significance. Many of the Pine trees, which grow very slowly, are over a hundred years old. It is a beautiful place, especially in Spring when the Pine forest with its mix of Grey and Yellow Box and understory of plants such as Gold Dust Wattle, Hop Bush, Snowy Mint-bush, and a wide range of flowering plants and some ground orchids are to be found here. On the striking granite outcrops are rare Deane’s Wattle, as well as Correas and a range of other flowering plants such as Nodding Blue-lily. There are also patches of Casuarina or Bull Oak, Desert Hakea and Quandong. It is the home of a wonderful range of birds, which can be seen most times of the year and of a range of migrant birds too. The rare Gilbert’s Whistler filling the forest with its song in Spring, is quite common here, along with other birds not so commonly seen such as Crested-Shrike-tit, Black-chinned Honeyeaters, Painted Button-quail, Hooded, Red-capped, Yellow & Scarlet Robins, Chestnut-rumped Thornbills, Southern Whiteface, Australian Ringnecks & Chestnut-crowned Babblers. There are the more ordinary birds too, adding to the more uncommon and threatened birds that make the bush become alive with sound and colour. White-winged Choughs, Jacky Winter, Brown Treecreeper, Varied Sittella, Grey Shrike-thrush, Rufous Whistlers, Yellow & amp;Yellow-rumped Thornbills, Weebills, Peaceful Doves, Common Bronzewing & Crested Pigeons join the migrant birds that come here such as the Dusky, White-browed & Masked Woodswallows which cause the bush to ring with their calls, White-winged Trillers, Olive-backed Oriole, Rufous Bushlarks, Pallid, Horsfield’s Bronze, Golden Bronze & Black-eared Cuckoos are also to be found here.

    In some years the odd Black, White-faced, Pied & Painted Honeyeater & Diamond Doves may also be found. Barking Owls have been reported, and Boobook, Owlet Nightjar & Tawny Frogmouths can be found here. Raptors such as Wedge-tailed Eagles, Peregrine & Brown Falcons call the Terricks ‘home’!

    However, there are also other woodland communities to be found on the Plains of Northern Victoria away from the wetlands. There is Leaghur State Forest on the Kerang to Boort Road, with not only a large Black Box community, but also a significant community of Mallee/Casuarina woodlands, with a mix of Desert Hakea and related flora. It is a good place to find similar birds to the Terricks, including Grey-crowned Babblers.

    There is also Mystic Park Reserve, Wandella Flora Reserve, and Appin Forest. These are not very well known forests of Grey and Black Box with associated flora types. Many of the woodland birds mentioned above can also be found in these reserves.

    There is remnant woodland habitat along roadsides and in small reserves as well as on some properties too. Here, such as along the Koroop Road, one can find Bush Stone Curlews & Grey-crowned Babblers.

    There are reserves such as Pyramid Hill and Mount Hope where birds such as Singing Honeyeaters, Mistletoebirds, and Peregrine Falcons etc can be readily seen.

    Another two woodland reserves of real beauty and significance that have been preserved are Goshen and Tresco West Reserve (also know as or Golf Course Reserve) just to the west of Lake Boga and at Lake Boga. They are a mixture of Mallee type woodland with patches of grassland among it. There is also a saline lake beside the Tresco West Reserve. Again, especially in Spring after a good wet Winter, these are amazing places for birds. Though small they are very rich in flora and birdlife. In a good Spring, Dusky, Masked & White-browed Woodswallows come in large numbers, filling the air with their flight and happy calls.

    Other birds from the inland also come some good years to places such as Goshen. Budgerigars, Cockatiels, White-faced, and (the rare for Victoria) Black & Pied Honeyeaters visit this reserve to make their home for a time and raise their families. Their calls making the bush ring with sound. Then, in the grassy areas, Crimson Chats with their strikingly lovely red, white black and grey colours of the male can be seen - a real treat! Rufus Songlarks, White-winged Trillers, Red-backed Kingfishers & Blue-winged Parrots also come to this area. They join a wonderful diversity of resident birds such as Blue Bonnets, Variegated Fairy-wrens, Tree Martins, White-winged Choughs, Red-capped and Hooded Robins, Jacky Winters, and the more common birds such as Grey Fantails, Willie Wagtails, Magpie Larks, Little and Australian Ravens and so on. Such sites are jewels ecologically and need our ongoing care and protection as there is very little of their like left in the region now.

  • Heathlands/Grasslands Plains

    Last but not least are the special Northern Victorian grassland or heathland plains. These are areas with few or no trees. They can look, especially in summer and dry seasons, sterile and empty country. But they are in fact amazingly diverse and rich in special plants and animals. There are various reserves, National Parks and private native grassland/heathland still in the area. One of the most significant is the grassland section of the Terrick Terrick National Park. These ecosystems of lowland plains of South-Eastern Australia are recognized as one of the most endangered ecosystems in Australia. In a good Spring the plains bursts alive with an amazing range of diverse and colourful display of wildflowers. In the Terricks grasslands twenty-six rare or threatened plant species of plants have been identified. Some are only found in Victoria at this site and some are only found here in all of Australia! Annual Buttons, Pepper Grass Bottle Bluebush, Fragrant Leek-orchid & Murray Swainson-pea are some of them. They are rich also with fauna. Here is the beautiful little marsupial mouse type animals known as Fat-tailed Dunnarts and the very rare legless lizard known as the Hooded Scaly-foot. This reserve is the only known area in Victoria where this little reptile is known to exist. But then there are the birds.

    Another very rare and unique bird, one of the rarest and most unique in the world is found here - the little Plains-wanderer. This park is the most important area in Victoria for this bird. Other special birds to be found on the grassland plains here and in other places in Northern Victoria are Little Button-quail, Stubble Quail, Brown Songlark, Singing Bushlark, Richard’s Pipit, Brolga, Banded Lapwing, Australian Pratincole, Bustard & Black-faced Woodswallows. More common birds include, Masked Lapwing, Red-rumped Parrots, Magpie, Little & Australian Raven etc can be found.

    To the north-west of Cohuna there is another area of significant grassland around Yassam, Lake Lookout and Sandhill Lake. This is where some of the special birds of dry country grassland can be found. Not only those found on the Terricks Grassland, but also Australian Pratincole and Inland Dotterels.

 

The More Common Birds of Northern Victoria

Below is a listing (read from left to right) of the more common birds of Northern Victoria.

Ostrich Emu Stubble Quail Musk Duck
Black Swan Australian Shelduck Australian Wood Duck Pacific Black Duck
Australasian Shoveler Grey Teal Pink-eared Duck Hardhead
Australasian Grebe Hoary-headed Grebe Darter Little Pied Cormorant
Pied Cormorant Little Black Cormorant Great Cormorant Australian Pelican
White-faced Heron White-necked Heron Great Egret Cattle Egret
Nankeen Night Heron Australian White Ibis Straw-necked Ibis Royal Spoonbill
Yellow-billed Spoonbill Black-shouldered Kite Black Kite Whistling Kite
Swamp Harrier Wedge-tailed Eagle Little Eagle Brown Falcon
Australian Hobby Peregrine Falcon Nankeen Kestrel Buff-banded Rail
Purple Swamphen Dusky Moorhen Black-tailed Native Hen Eurasian Coot
Marsh Sandpiper Common Greenshank Red-necked Stint Sharp-tailed Sandpiper
Curlew Sandpiper Red-necked Avocet Red-capped Plover Black-fronted Dotterel
Red-kneed Dotterel Masked Lapwing Silver Gull Whiskered Tern
Rock Dove Common Bronzewing Crested Pigeon Peaceful Dove
Galah Long-billed Corella Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Crimson (Yellow) Rosella
Eastern Rosella Red-rumped Parrot Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo Southern Boobook
Barn Owl Tawny Frogmouth Azure Kingfisher Laughing Kookaburra
Sacred Kingfisher Rainbow Bee-eater White Throated Treecreeper Brown Treecreeper
Superb Fairy-wren White-winged Fairy-wren Spotted Pardalote Striated Pardalote
White-browed Scrubwren Weebill Western Gerygone Buff-rumped Thornbill
Yellow-rumped Thornbill Yellow Thornbill Southern Whiteface Red Wattlebird
Noisy Friarbird Little Friarbird Blue-faced Honeyeater Noisy Miner
White-plumed Honeyeater White-fronted Chat Jacky Winter Red-capped Robin
Hooded Robin White-browed Babbler Varied Sittella Rufous Whistler
Grey Shrike-thrush Restless Flycatcher Magpie-lark Grey Fantail
Willy Wagtail Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike White-winged Triller White-breasted Woodswallow
Dusky Woodswallow Pied Butcherbird Australian Magpie Pied Currawong
Australian Raven Little Raven White-winged Chough Singing Bushlark
Richard’s Pipit House Sparrow Zebra Finch Diamond Firetail
European Goldfinch Mistletoebird Welcome Swallow Tree Martin
Fairy Martin Clamorous Reed-warbler Little Grassbird Rufous Songlark
Brown Songlark Silvereye Common Black bird Common Starling

 



Review

Northern Victoria has some interesting and rich habitats for birds. Despite the fact that it is a dry area there are significant wetlands and unique plains.

The wetlands are comprised of rivers, lakes, swamps, billabongs, river islands and irrigated areas.

The unique Northern Plains include heathlands/ grasslands and woodlands.

Review again the listing of the more Common birds found in Northern Victoria to aid in identification of the birds you may see.



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 3
 
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