Birder's Guide

MAR 2016

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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17 March 2016 | Birder's Guide to Travel through their territory, and some species even occur in gardens. While several spe- cies are bedecked in magnifcent blue, pur- ple, or turquoise, the Splendid Fairywren takes the crown in Australia. Males are en- tirely blue, ranging from violet to sky-blue tones depending on subspecies. Small, inquisitive parties fit through low scrub and woodland edges. The species has a co- operative breeding system, which is quite common among Australian birds, where helpers defend the territory and provision the nestlings alongside the nesting pair. A bit of squeaking in the right habitat could suddenly reveal a low shrub decorated with a troop of active Splendid Fairywrens right in front of the observer. #10 • Gray Grasswren (Amytornis barbatus) Grasswrens are the browner, streakier cousins of the fairywrens and are much more diffcult to see. Most occur in the far-fung reaches of the outback, some with restricted ranges among sand dunes, rocky ridges, or desert fats. Foraging on the ground, birds bounce rapidly between cover, resembling small mammals more than birds—some have even been ob - served hiding in burrows! Laying eyes on any grasswren species is one of the great challenges of Australian birding. The Gray Grasswren was offcially discovered in the 1960s, and the species seems as elusive as ever. It occurs in stands of cane grass in remote corners of the Lake Eyre Basin. The famed Birdsville Track pro - vides chances of seeing this elusive spe- cies, and once I managed to locate some remaining water in the drought-stricken area, the grasswrens revealed themselves for brief views. #11 • Musk Duck (Biziura lobata) There are a slew of interesting waterfowl that grace Australia's bays, wetlands, and ephemeral inland lakes, but none of them are quite like the Musk Duck. This large, dark duck is fairly common on bodies of water in the southeast and southwest. It establishes its well-deserved place on this list during the male's display. With an urgent whistle and bill clapping, a male spreads its tail, rapidly bobs its head, and splashes with its wings. To top it all off, it extends a pronounced, leathery fap attached to its mandible. The species shows pronounced sexual size dimor- phism, and only the larger males secrete the namesake odor. It is well worth sit- ting back to watch a Musk Duck's outra- geous display. #12 • Gouldian Finch (Erythrura gouldiae) A fock of Gouldian Finches simply over- whelms with color. The males have grass- # 8 # 9 Photo © Alwyn Simple Photo © Katharina Hilgers

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