Last March a new juvenile cassowary appeared in our forest. Judging by the size of his casque and wattles and the fact that there were still some brown feathers visible on the back, we tentatively assumed it was a 3 year old male. He had unusually long, light-coloured “fingernails”: the quills sticking out from the rudimentary wings.
Distinguishing features of cassowaries are mainly the casque, which might be straight, leaning to one side or the other, big or small (although in a young bird it would most likely keep growing for a few years), and the wattles, which can be short, long, one longer than the other, or oddly shaped.
He came past our house and the cabin quite regularly, and when we noticed, that he didn’t have his long, golden quills anymore, but shorter, black ones, we assumed that he lost them while moulting.
To our surprise, he recently showed up with his quills as long and golden as before! Shortly thereafter, they were black and short again! TWO birds! Same size, very similar casques and wattles, but very different quills!
So, when trying to identify individual cassowaries, have a close look at their fingernail as well!
After some rain (cyclone Owen didn’t have much effect on us), many more birds are breeding now. There are more insects around for feeding their offspring. We also have a large number of honeyeaters taking advantage of the mass-flowering of Red Mahoganies.
The Victoria’s Riflebirds are still displaying, although they have started their yearly moult, and the males don’t look their best.
That additional row of emerging wing feathers looks quite attractive!
Despite the lack of fruit at the moment, some Superb Fruit-doves have decided to nest here. We observed one nest (from a long distance!), where the chick fledged after only one week, which is normal for Superbs.
In typical pigeon style, the nest is a very flimsy affair. No wonder, the chick doesn’t stay!
An unusual visitor to the cabin was a Varied Sitella. They normally occur in drier forests (Springvale Road is more their habitat), and we’ve seen them once before in the Casuarinas in the western part of our forest.
Every summer Superb Fruit-Doves (Ptilinopus superbus) come here to take advantage of the fruiting trees, shrubs and vines in our forest. The first birds arrived in October, but their numbers greatly increased in January, and we can hear them calling all around us. They are particularly vocal for a few hours in the morning and again in the late afternoon. When they are breeding, they are sharing incubation duties, with the female sitting from about 5pm to 8am and the male sitting during the day.
Superb males are very colourful and easy to identify:
The female is mainly green and white, with a purple cap:
It might seem difficult to image how such a colourful bird can hide from predators, but try to spot the male dove in this photo: He is in the centre, looking at me over his back.
When the rain eased a little, he emerged to pick a few fruits:
Other birds have discovered the abundance of fruit, too. Several species of Honeyeaters, Silvereyes and many Satin Bowerbirds are having a good feed. This young male bowerbird is one of several visiting the Symplocos tree near our veranda many times a day.
Another regular visitor is this male Olive-backed Oriole:
The last few days the doves have been quieter than usual, maybe because those two predators are hanging around more often. Grey Goshawk:
Superb Fruit-Doves are very nervous when building their nest, so we try not to disturb them and avoid going on regular walks in the forest during their main breeding period. Once they start incubating their single egg, they are quite approachable, but I would never go near a nest. I stumbled across this one while spotlighting 2 years ago, the nest was right next to our walking track on an old tree stump. After taking one photo from a distance, I quickly left. You can see the chick’s back sticking out from underneath mum’s belly.
It takes only about a week from hatching to fledging (you don’t want to be a sitting duck for longer than necessary with those birds of prey around!), and several juvenile doves have joined the adults searching for food and exploring the forest.
A juvenile male or female? We have to wait and see…
Today is a beautiful sunny day, I couldn’t resist taking more footage: Two males were hanging out in the Symplocos for about 2 hours, picking a few fruits, then having a rest before eating a few more. Very relaxed, seems they’ve finished with brooding duties for this season. They have pretty pants, too:
Their brilliant colours make them quite easy to see: