Australasian Grebe

Tachybaptus novaehollandiae

The two small grebes found in South Australia are an interesting example of two similar species using different habitat types to reduce competition. The Australasian Grebe prefers small freshwater bodies, feeds mainly on fish, keeps close to the shore and seldom forms large flocks. The Hoary-headed Grebe tolerates both fresh and brackish waters, likes large bodies of water and spends much time in the middle where it feeds mainly on invertebrates. It often gathers in large flocks. The Australasian Grebe feeds mainly on fish which it pursues underwater after diving,…

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Hoary-headed Grebe

Poliocephalus poliocephalus

Hoary-headed grebes feed mainly on arthropods (insects, crustaceans and arachnids) rather than fish. They take a wide variety of prey and so can utilise those that appear in temporary waters. Foraging is mainly by deep diving and feeding on the bottom. They are the most gregarious of grebes forming groups and large flocks. In non-breeding plumage the two small grebes in our area (Hoary-headed and Australasian) can be hard to tell apart and good views are needed to be certain. The Australasian has a golden iris, the dark cap does…

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Antigone rubicunda

Brolga congregate in huge flocks in the tropical north, but they penetrate as far as the south-east of South Australia in small numbers. Much of their earlier habitat has been drained and converted to cultivated pastures and cropland. Brolga have a widely varied diet. Major food items are the tuberous roots of sedges, but they also take insects, crustaceans, small vertebrates, and in cultivated areas, cereal grains and nut crops. They feed by digging with their large bill in drier areas, and foraging in shallow waters and wetlands. Breeding is…

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Great Crested Grebe

Podiceps cristatus

Great Crested Grebes are readily identified from their spectacular crest and facial ruff. They are well known for their elaborate breeding displays. The most common display is a simple ‘head-shaking’ but there is also a ‘discovery ceremony’. Here one bird makes a two-note call, while the other spreads its wings and facial ruff. The first bird then approaches the other in a shallow underwater ‘ripple dive’ at the end of which it rises up in a ‘ghostly penguin’ display. Both birds shake their heads and turn away. This is followed…

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Brown Quail

Coturnix ypsilophora

Quail are difficult to spot until they flush, often from almost under the birder’s feet, however, they can  be detected by their distinctive calls, a loud, rising, double-note whistle in the case of the Brown Quail. Brown Quail feed mainly on the seeds of grasses and herbs, and some leaves. They will also take insects and, worms. They forage on the ground in pairs or small groups. Breeding takes place from August to January. Brown Quail are monogamous. The nest is a simple scrape in the ground in which a…

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Leipoa ocellata

Malleefowl are omnivorous. They feed on all parts of plants – buds, flowers, fruit and, particularly seeds. Grain from nearby crops are an important food item in areas bordering cultivated lands. They also take fungi and invertebrates. Insects are apparently not searched for, but are taken whenever they are encountered. Insects are an important component of the diet of hatchlings. Mound building can start between March and May, but more usually in the winter months between June and August, with laying from mid-September to March-April. Generally monogamous with a strong…

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Australasian Darter

Anhinga novaehollandiae

Darters swim low in the water and their long, sinuous neck is very snake-like, hence the common name of ‘snake bird’. One of the most entertaining sights along the river is to watch a darter, after it has captured its prey by spearing it, juggle to turn the fish around and swallow it head-first without hands to help. It usually succeeds! Like cormorants they spend a long time with their wings spread out to dry. Darters feed mainly on fish, but also take amphibians, water snakes, terrapins and aquatic invertebrates….

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Intermediate Egret

Ardea intermedia

Intermediate Egrets are uncommon in South Australia, with greater populations to the north and east of the state. As their name suggests they lie in size between Great and Little Egrets. Their beaks are orange-yellow distinguishing them form Little Egrets, while their neck is about the length of the body distinguishing them from the Great Egret where the neck is a bout one and a half times the body length. They could also be confused with non-breeding Cattle Egrets. These are smaller with a shorter, thicker neck and frequently a…

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Little Black Cormorant

Phalacrocorax sulcirostris

Skeins of large numbers of Little Black Cormorants returning from fishing grounds to roost for the night are a common sight along large rivers and inland lakes such as the Coorong and Murray estuary. Large numbers are also often to be seen drying their wings along the banks of rivers and lakes and on water side trees. They are probably our most common cormorant species. Little Black Cormorants feed mainly on fish, taking large numbers of introduced fish such as carp and perch, and capturing their prey by pursuit-diving. They…

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