Mealtimes are great times for watching beautiful birds and other wildlife in Australia. On the Wildlife Journey we take most of our meals outside in nature for this reason.
Travel usually involves moving from place to place, but when we eat, we stop. Wildlife feels more comfortable with us when we’re not moving.
At Buchan, near the Snowy River, Wildlife Guide Martin and guests sat down at a picnic table to have lunch. This table is a favourite: beside it runs a small stream overhung with Kanooka and Tea-tree. In summer, December to February, wild birds and wallabies love to drink from this stream. The same area is home to a pair of Powerful Owls.
Martin’s keen eyes noticed a group of Australian King-Parrots high in the trees above the stream. They were looking down at the water nervously.
Australian King-Parrots (Alisterus scapularis) are beautiful, shy birds. They are large, and usually seen in wet eucalyptus forest and rainforest. They feed quietly in the treetops on seeds and fruit of Eucalyptus, Acacia and a large range of other rainforest trees. Read about another beautiful bird they share their forest home with: Gang-gang Cockatoos.
One female King-Parrot flew down close and looked into the stream. Her brilliant green head and back shone against the dark water.
But the bird was very cautious with humans nearby, and quickly flew back up to the canopy.
“Wait,” said Martin, “have a coffee. We have the perfect view for when they come back”. He could see that the parrots were thirsty, and would come down in time – provided his group stayed seated and relatively still.
A brave young parrot flew down and landed on a fallen branch just above the tea-coloured water. She was lit by a patch of sunlight. Cameras were grabbed and fumbled with. Martin was right – they had the perfect view.
She leaned over and drank from the stream. Another beautiful bird joined her – a sibling. Then another.
Even when young, Australian King Parrots are coloured in a green that is as shiny-brilliant as a rainforest leaf. Their bellies are scarlet red, their bills are orange and their eyes are dark. As they grow they will become even more beautiful. Adult males develop a red head, and both sexes have a light turquoise band in their green wings. You can see the beginnings of the turquoise band in the wing of the bird in the foreground, above and below.
Over the next few minutes the birds drank, jostled for position, played and preened. There were adults present too – probably their parents – but they were less inclined to pose for photographs.
Australian King-Parrots are in decline* throughout Australia, mostly due to logging in tall eucalyptus forests in Victoria and New South Wales. We support the following projects that campaign to retain native forest and halt logging in the home ranges of these beautiful birds. Please donate, click through and share:
WOTCH: Wildlife of the Central Highlands, VICTORIA. https://www.wotch.org.au/
Great Forest National Park, VICTORIA. https://www.greatforestnationalpark.com.au/
Emerald Link, VICTORIA https://www.emeraldlink.com.au/
Great Koala National Park, NSW: https://npansw.org/npa/campaigns/great-koala-national-park/
All photographs by Wildlife Guide Martin Maderthaner.
Love parrots? Combine this journey to East Gippsland with a journey to the Top End to see their cousins – the Red-winged Parrots.
NOTES & REFERENCES:
BirdLife Australia fact sheet: http://www.birdlife.org.au/bird-profile/australian-king-parrot
*IUCN Red List Conservation Status: https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22685046/93056658