I have observed that a principal reason I had for supposing that there was either an inland sea, a desert country, or both in the interior, was from observations I had made during several expeditions, and in South Australia, of the migration of certain of the feathered tribes to the same point — that is to say, that in lat. 30 and in long. 144, I observed them passing to the N.W. and in lat. 35, long. 138, to the north. Seeing, on prolonging these two lines, that they would pass over a great portion of the interior before they met, about a degree beyond the tropic, I concluded that the nature of the intervening country was not such as they could inhabit, and that the first available land would be where the two lines thus met. It so happened that at the Depot, in lat. 29 1/2 and in long. 142, I was in the direct line of migration to the N.W., and that during our stay at that lonely post, we witnessed the migration of various birds to that quarter, though not of all. This was more particularly the case with the water-birds, as ducks, bitterns, pelicans, cormorants, and swans — we saw few of the latter, but generally heard them at night passing over our heads from N.W. to S.E. or vice versu; but we never afterwards found any waters which we could suppose those birds could frequent in the distant interior. On Strzelecki’s Creek a small tern was shot, and on Cooper’s Creek several seagulls were seen, but beyond these we had no reason to anticipate the existence of inland water from any thing we noticed as to the feathered races. On our first arrival at the Depot there was a bittern, Ardetta flavicollis, that frequented the creek in considerable numbers. This bird was black and white, with a speckled breast and neck. Every evening at dusk they would fly, making a hoarse noise, to the water at the bottom of the Red Hole Creek, and return in the morning, but as winter advanced they left us, and went to the N.W.
About February and the beginning of March, the Epthianura tricolor and E. aurifrons, and some of the Parrot tribe, collected in thousands on the creeks, preparatory to migrating to the same point to which the aquatic birds had gone. It was their wont to fly up and down the creeks, uttering loud cries, and collecting in vast numbers, but suddenly they would disappear, and leave the places which had rung with their wild notes as silent as the desert. The Euphema elegans then passed us, with several other kinds of birds, but some of them remained, as did also the Euphema Bourkii, which the reader will find more particularly noticed under its proper head.
The range of the Speckled Dove (Geopelia cuneata), so common on the Darling, extended to the Depot, and two remained with us during the winter, and roosted two or three times on the tent ropes over my fire.
There were always an immense number of Raptores following the line of migration, and living on the smaller birds; nor was any thing more remarkable than the terror they caused amongst them. The poor things would hardly descend to water, and several of the Euphema came to the creek in the dark, when we could not see to fire at them, and several killed themselves by flying against our tent ropes.
The range of the Rose Cockatoo was right across the continent as far as we went — as well as that of the Crested Parroquet, which was, as I have observed, the last bird we saw, just before Mr. Browne and I turned homewards from our first going to the N.W. The Cacatua sanguinea, Gould, succeeded the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo to the westward of the Barrier Range, and was in flocks of thousands on Evelyn’s Plains, near the Depot, but I am not certain as to the point to which it migrated. It is remarkable, however, that the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, though numerous along the whole line of the Darling, was never seen near the Depot, or to the westward of the Barrier Range.
The Amadina Lathami, to which we always looked as the harbinger of good, was met with in every part of the interior — where there was water — and frequently at such vast distances from it, when migrating, I suppose, that vast numbers must have perished.
I have noticed the Pigeons in their proper place, and stated my opinion as to the point to which they went on leaving us; and I would refer my reader to my remarks on that head: he will find their habits and localities fully described there.
We fell in with the water-hen, Tribonyx, on one of the creeks on our journey to Lake Torrens, and again on Strzelecki’s Creek, apparently migrating to the south. These birds ran along the banks likefowls, as they did in the located districts of Adelaide, as described by Mr. Gould, and that too in great numbers, and when disturbed took wing to the south. In like manner we observed the Eudromias Australis, migrating southwards in May. From these facts it would appear that the great line taken by the feathered tribes in migrating from the southern or southeastern parts of the province is in a direction between the east and south points of the compass, and I cannot still help thinking that about a degree to the north of the Tropic, and about the meridian of 138, a more fertile country than any hitherto discovered will be found.
It may be necessary for me to observe that on our advance to Fort Grey, in August, we observed numerous Caloderae, and other smaller birds in the brushes, apparently on the move whilst there was water for them, that had been left by the then recent rains. We did not again see these birds until we had passed the Stony Desert and entered the box-tree forest to the north of it, in which was the creek with the huge native well. There a variety of birds had congregated — the Rose Cockatoo, the piping Magpie, the Calodera, various parrots and parroquets, bronze-wing Pigeons, and numerous small birds.
At Cawndilla, Mr. Poole shot a Euphema splendida, Gould. It was in company with several others; but this bird was not again seen until we passed the 26th parallel, in September, when it was met by Mr. Browne and myself coming from the north. The following is a list of the birds seen during the expedition.
Two of these birds frequented the Depot Glen, in 29 degrees 40 minutes 0 seconds and in longitude 142 degrees, one of which was secured. They generally rested on a high pointed rock, whence their glance extended over the whole country, and it was only by accident that the above specimen was killed.
This powerful bird is common both on the Murray and the Darling, and is widely, perhaps universally distributed over the Australian continent, although the two birds in the Glen were the only ones seen in the interior to the N.W. of the Barrier, or Stanley’s Range.
This species of Eagle is considerably smaller than the first and has much lighter plumage. It is a dull and stupid bird, and is easily approached. It was shot at the Depot, in the month of April, 1845. Several others were seen during our stay there.
This beautiful bird was shot at the Depot, at which place, during our long stay, Mr. Piesse, my storekeeper, was very successful with my gun. A pair, male and female, were observed by him one Sunday in May, whilst the men were at prayers, hovering very high in the air, soon after which he succeeded in killing both. They came down from a great height and pitched in the trees on the banks of the creek, and on Mr. Piesse firing at and killing one the other flew away; but returning to look for its lost companion, shared its fate. Nothing could exceed the delicate beauty of these birds when first procured. Their large, full eyes, the vivid yellow of the ceres and legs, together with their slate-coloured plumage, every feather lightly marked at the end, was quite dazzling; but all soon faded from the living brightness they had at first. The two specimens were the only ones seen during an interval of seventeen months that the party was in the interior, and these, it appears probable to me, were on the flight, and were attracted down to us.
A single specimen of this bird was shot at the Depot, when just stooping at a duck on some water in the glen. The strength of limb, and muscle of this fine species of falcon were extremely remarkable, and seemed to indicate that he despised weaker or smaller prey than that at which he was flying when shot. He had been seen several times before he was killed. His flight was rapid and resistless, and his stoop was always sure.
This must be a scarce bird, as the specimen was the only one seen.
The colour of this fine bird is a sooty black, but his shape is beautiful, and his flight, as his sharp pointed wings indicate, rapid. He was shot in some brushes behind the Depot, where he had been spreading alarm amongst a flight of parroquets, (Euphema Bourkii).
This must also be a scarce bird, as he was the only one seen.
This is both a smaller and a more common bird; its range being very wide. This species followed the line of migration, and made sad havoc among the parroquets and smaller birds. He was generally hid in the trees, and would descend like an arrow when they came to water, frequently carrying off two of the little Amadina castanotis, a favourite bird of ours, one in each talon.
Like the last, small and swift of wing, following also the line of migration.
This bird is generally distributed over the continent and is known by the nankeen colour of his back.
This bird was occasionally seen during the journey.
This bird is common over the whole continent of Australia. They are sure to be in numbers at the camps of the natives, which they frequent to pick up what may be left when they go away. They are sure also to follow any party in the bush for the same purpose. About fifty of these birds remained at the Depot, with about as many crows, when all the other birds had deserted us; and afforded great amusement to the men, who used to throw up pieces of meat for them to catch in falling. But although so tame that they would come round the tents on hearing a whistle, they would not eat any thing in captivity, and would have died if they had not been set at liberty again. It was this bird which descended upon Mr. Browne and myself in such numbers from the upper regions of the air, as we were riding on some extensive plains near the Depot in the heat of summer. There can be no doubt but that in the most elevated positions where they are far out of the range of human sight, they mark what is passing on the plains below them. This bird is figured, see page 269, Vol. 1.
This beautiful bird was first seen on a creek to the eastward of the Barrier or Stanley’s Range, and before the party had crossed that chain of hills. One was shot on the advance of the Expedition from the Darling in the early part of November 1844, in latitude 32 degrees, and on the return of the party from the interior, in December 1845, several specimens were seen as low as Cawndilla, and ranging along the banks of the Darling. In the interval they were seen in flocks of from thirty to forty, either soaring in the air or congregated together in trees. They were never seen to stoop at any thing, nor could we detect on what they fed, but I am led to believe that it was mice. They are fond of hovering in the air, and in such a position look beautiful, the black bar across the wing underneath them appearing like a W, and contrasting strongly with the otherwise delicate plumage of the bird. They left us for a time whilst we remained at the Depot, and the first that were afterwards seen by us were on the return of Mr. Browne and myself from our first northern journey.
These birds are widely distributed over that part of the interior traversed by the Expedition. Like Elanus notatus, it has a bright full eye, the iris inclined to a light pink. Its shoulders are black, and its back like a sea-gull, slate-coloured.
This bird, with its spotted plumage, was not common. A specimen was shot on the banks of the Darling, between Williorara and the junction with the Murray. None of the same bird were seen in the N.W. interior, or to the westward of the Barrier Range.
This fine night bird was very rare in the interior, and only one specimen was procured. Its plumage is characterised by that softness so peculiar to the genus to which it belongs, and in consequence of which its flight is so silent and stealthy that, like the foot-fall of the cat, it is unheard.
This owl was shot on the Darling, after having been startled out of a tree.
Nearly allied to the Strix flammea, or Barn Owl of England. This bird, widely spread over the continent of Australia, inhabits the interior in great numbers, wherever there are trees large enough for it to build in. Their young were just fledged when the Expedition descended into the western interior, and at sunset came out on the branches of the gum-trees, where they sat for several hours to be fed, making a most discordant noise every time the old birds came with a fresh supply of food, which was about every quarter of an hour. It was frequently impossible to sleep from the constant screeching of the young owls. Their food is principally mice, bats, and large moths.
So called from its whoop resembling that sound. Like others of its genus it comes from its hiding place at sunset, and its note in the distance is exactly like that of the cuckoo, but the sound changes as you approach it. This bird has a dark brown plumage, spotted white, and differs in many respects from the genus Strix, although very closely allied to it.
This small bird, although a night bird, is very frequently seen in the day time, sleeping on the branch of a Casuarina, to which they appear to be partial. It is very common in the brushes of the Murray belt, and when disturbed has an awkward flight, as if it knew not where to go. Its plumage is very downy and soft, and it weighs exceedingly light.
This singular bird is an inhabitant of the distant interior, and was seen on several occasions, but invariably near hills. The appearance of this uncouth bird is very absurd, with his enormous mouth that literally reaches from ear to ear, and his eyes half shut. Mr. Browne surprised five of these birds on a stone, on the summit of Mount Arrowsmith, about half a degree to the southward of the Depot. They were all sitting with their heads together, and all flew in different directions when roused.
This rapid-winged night bird is widely distributed over South-eastern Australia, if not over every part of the Continent. I have often watched the motions of this light and airy bird round a pond of water close to which I have been lying, with the full bright moon above me, and been amazed at its rapid evolutions; and admired the wisdom of that Providence which had so adapted this little animal for the part it was to act on the great stage of the universe. So light, that it had no difficulty in maintaining a prolonged flight, with its noiseless wing, making its sweeps to greater or lesser distances, and seeming never to require rest. The habit of this Goat-sucker is to lie under any tree or brush during the day, from which it issues in great alarm on being roused.
The brown-headed Swallow, a common bird in the interior during the summer. Gregarious, and building clay nests, like bottles stuck against a tree, in rows one above the other. Instinct guides these little birds to select a tree that slopes and is concave, in which the nests will be protected from rain or storms. A white-headed swallow was also frequently seen, but it was always under circumstances that prevented our procuring a specimen.
This beautiful little bird, with its varied plumage, is migratory, and visits the southern parts of the continent during summer, when its locality is near any river, or chain of ponds, although it is also found in other places. I first shot this pretty bird on the banks of the Macquarie in 1828, where it was in considerable numbers. It visits Adelaide, and we saw it in the interior almost to our extreme north.
This ill-proportioned bird in shape and general appearance is like the Kingfisher. Instead however of living on fish, he contents himself with lizards, beetles, grasshoppers, etc., and amongst these he makes a great havoc. The range of this bird did not extend beyond the lat. of the Depot.
Similar in shape and figure to the last, but differing in plumage and in size, having dull red feathers over the rump, the blue being also of a duller shade. It ranges far north.
The flight and habits of this bird are very like those of the swallow tribe. They huddle together to roost: selecting a flat round stump, round the edge of which they sit with their heads inwards, so presenting a singular appearance: or else they cling together to the number of thirty or forty on a branch like a swarm of bees. They were seen in every part of the interior over the whole of which they appear to range.
So called because of a black mark on the throat and cheek resembling a mask in some measure. The plumage of this bird is light, the breast of the male almost approaching to a white, for size and shape there is little difference between this and the last. Both are equally common, and are seen together, ranging the brushes at a great distance from water.
A white line over the eye is the distinguishing mark of this bird. One or other species of Artamus was found when no other birds were to be seen. They generally sat on dead branches, and their flight extended no farther than from the one to the other.
There are several species of this beautiful tribe of little birds, but the above was the only kind procured. The species under consideration occupies the higher branches of the gum-trees, and is so small that it is seen with difficulty.
This bird is somewhat larger than, and very much resembles a magpie, but the proportion of white is greater, and there is no metallic or varied tint on the black feathers as on the European bird. In South Australia it is a winter bird, and his clear fine note was always the most heard on the coldest morning, as if that temperature best suited him. All the species of this genus are easily domesticated, and learn to pipe tunes. They are mischievous birds about a house, but are useful in a garden. I had one that ranged the fields to a great distance round the house, but always returned to sleep in it.
This bird has the strong, straight, and hooked bill. He is an ugly brute in shape and plumage, but is a magnificent songster. His own notes ring through the wilds, and there is not a bird of the forest that he does not imitate. One of these birds regularly visited the camp at Flood Creek every morning to learn a tune one of the men used to whistle to him, and he always gave notice of his presence by a loud note of the most metallic sound. It breeds on the hills, and is generally found wherever there is shade and water.
This harmless bird, somewhat larger than a field-fare, is found near water, where the banks are muddy. It is common on all the river flats, and lives on insects. Its pied plumage is very pretty, but its note is a melancholy one. Very few were seen to the westward of the Barrier Range, and those always close to lagoons.
The colour of the plumage of this bird is that of slate, and it has a black throat. Its range is very extensive, but we did not see it in the distant north-west interior.
There were not more than six or seven of this bird seen during the progress of the Expedition, and that only at the Depot. They were exceedingly wild and wary, keeping in the centre of open plains and feeding on locusts and grasshoppers. They always kept together, and flew straight from and to the trees on the banks of the creek. This bird is long in shape, and has a peculiar rise over the rump. It is elegantly formed. The head and back are slate-coloured; the rump white, with scollops, as also is the breast; the wings and tail being black and long. It was with great difficulty that we procured any specimen of this bird from its shyness. It apparently came from the N.E. and departed in the same direction when winter approached.
An insectivorous bird, frequenting the brushes of the interior, and of wide range; visiting the southern districts in summer, but evidently being a bird of a warm climate. A species very similar to the present inhabited Norfolk Island.
The strong bill of this bird indicates its character as living on insects. It is common, and has been so often described as to require no notice here.
Similar in habits to the last; and is abundant in all parts of South America.
A bird of dull plumage, with the habits of a thrush, keeping in the bushes or young sapling gum-trees, near water, and living on insects of various kinds. Its note is sweet, and amongst Australian birds it may be considered a good songster. Its range is extensive. It was numerous on Cooper’s Creek, in lat. 27 1/2 degrees and long. 142 degrees
I found this bird common on the plains eastward of the Darling, and also in the western interior. It visits the south-eastern parts of the continent, and is common in South Australia; frequenting open forests, and betraying its presence by its monotonous notes. It is a strong built bird, with a dull plumage, but its crest adds much to its beauty, and it has a deep yellow iris.
This pretty little bird is, like our own native Robin, fond of woodlands, and is generally found amongst thick brush, issuing from it to perch on dead branches. Its breast is a fine bright pink; its plumage is otherwise black and white, and it has a spot of white over the nostrils. The range of this bird is extensive, and it is common to many localities.
Similar in shape to the last, and essentially with the same plumage, with this exception, that the feathers over the nostril in this bird are a fine deep red, as well as its breast. It is found in South Australia, and was not uncommon in the interior.
Similar in general appearance, but larger than either of the last; it is grey where it is black in the others, and is without any frontal mark. It has, like the others, a breast of red, approaching to a flame colour. This species is not common in the interior. None of the three described are songsters, and cannot therefore rival our own sweet bird in that respect.
This bird is considerably larger than the last described, and is an inhabitant of scrubs.
The note of this bird is generally heard when all the other birds are silent, during the heat of the day. Its range does not extend to the westward of the Barrier Range, or beyond 32 1/2 degrees of latitude.
This beautiful little warbler, so splendidly illustrated in the work of Mr. Gould, is common in South-Australia. There are six or seven species of the genus, all equally beautiful.
This beautiful description of Malurus, common in the brushes of South Australia, was frequently met with, particularly in scrubby places.
The habits of this bird are exactly similar to those of a wren. It delights in being on the top of bushes, whence after singing for a minute or two it flies into the centre and secretes itself. The rich-coloured males of this family are generally followed by a number of small brown birds, their late offspring. This peculiarity has been mentioned fully by Mr. Gould in his splendid work on Australian birds.
The general appearance of this beautiful little bird is very different from that of Australian birds in general. A few years ago a specimen came accidentally into my hands, and it was so unlike any bird I had seen that I doubted its having been shot in Australia, but concluded that it was a South American specimen. Two or three however were procured by the Expedition, in latitude 29 degrees, longitude 141 1/2 degrees.
This beautiful little bird was procured, both on the summit of the Barrier Range, and on the plains to the westward of it, generally inhabiting open brush. It was conspicuous amongst the smaller birds on account of its bright red plumage, but it was by no means uncommon. This bird evidently migrates from the north-west, and the second time, when it was seen so far to the westward of the ranges, it was most likely on its return from that point.
A small and common brush bird, and a good warbler, more remarkable indeed for the sweetness of its song than for the beauty of its plumage.
A good songster, and generally distributed over the country.
This is, I believe, the largest of its genus, and is a beautiful little bird. It was not seen to the westward of Stanley’s Barrier Range. Its range is, however, extensive, as it is found in most parts of New South Wales, as well as South Australia.
This pretty little bird is perhaps more numerous than any other in the interior of Australia. Never did its note fall on our ears there but as the harbinger of good, for never did we hear this little bird but we were sure to find water nigh at hand, and many a time has it raised my drooping spirits and those of my companions, when in almost hopeless search for that, to us, invaluable element.
The Amadina castanotus is gregarious, collecting together in hundreds on bushes never very far from water, to which they regularly go at sunset. They build in small trees, many nests being together in the same tree, and hatch their young in December. It was met with in every part of the interior wherever there was water, but hundreds must perish yearly from thirst, for the country must frequently dry up round them, to such a distance as to prevent the possibility of their flying to another place of safety. The hawks make sad havoc also amongst these harmless little birds, generally carrying off two at a time.
This is a bird of the great Murray belt, and was first shot by my very valued friend Mr. Gould, when in a bush excursion with me in South Australia. It is by no means a common bird, and is exceedingly wary.
This third species of Cinclosoma appeared at the Depot in latitude 29 1/2 degrees, longitude 142 degrees, during the winter months in considerable numbers, and a good many specimens were procured. Mr. Gould tells me this is the only new species procured during my recent Expedition, a proof, I think, of his indefatigable exertions in the prosecution of his researches. Indeed I can bear abundant testimony as to the perseverance and ability he displayed whilst with me, and the little regard he had to personal comfort, in his ardent pursuit of information as to the habits of the feathered tribes in the singular region where he was sojourning.
This Honey-eater, with alternate black and yellow plumage, frequented all the sand hills where Banksias grew, but as none of those trees are to be found to the westward of Stanley’s Barrier Range, so these birds were confined to the country eastward of it.
They are found both in New South Wales and in South Australia; and most probably came to the latter place from the eastward.
A larger Honey-eater, with grey mottled plumage, generally found on the Banksia, and not very common.
Seen in many parts of the country through which the Expedition passed, but more common in the settled districts of the colony. It is exceedingly mischievous amongst the grapes, and frequents the gardens in such numbers as to be formidable.
This is the smallest of the Cuckoo tribe, and is known by the metallic lustre of its wings. It is beautifully figured in Mr. Gould’s work. It was frequently seen in the interior.
This creeper was, with another Climacteris Picumnus, common in the pine forests and on the open box-tree flats all over the interior. It is not a showy bird in any way, but is very active and indefatigable in its search for insects. It is remarkable that no Picus has been found in Australia.
This beautiful warbler is common in south-eastern Australia, wherever there are reeds by the banks of the rivers or creeks, but where they were wanting its voice was silent. On the banks of the Murray and the Darling its note was to be heard during the greater part of the night, almost equal to that of the nightingale, and like that delightful bird, its plumage is any thing but brilliant, it is however somewhat larger, and although its general shade is brown, it has a light shade of yellow in the breast that makes it brighter in its plumage than the European songster.
A common species inhabiting scrubs.
A small bush bird, common to the belts of the Murray and other similar localities.
This little bird has a varied note, indeed it is not a bad songster. It inhabits grass beds and scrubby lands, but its range does not extend beyond the 32 degrees parallel. The Barrier Range appearing to form a limit to the wanderings of many of the smaller birds.
A small bush bird of brown plumage on the back, with a reddish spot over the rump.
This bird is similar to the last in every thing but the colour of the feathers over the rump, which in the present specimen is yellow. Very common on the plains and open glades of woods.
It is singular, as Mr. Gould relates in his work, that this bird should not have been known or procured until he shot it, almost on the steps of Government house in Adelaide. It was occasionally seen in the interior, but not to the westward of the Barrier Range. It keeps generally on the ground. Mr. Gould has distinguished it in consequence its having a front of white. It is short and compact in form, and like the preceding bird keeps a good deal on the ground.
This bird is smaller than the regular lark, and differs from it in many respects: indeed it more resembles the tit lark than the sky lark, and altogether wants the melodious song of the latter. It is a very common bird all over such parts of Australia as I have visited; frequenting open ground.
This bird, both in its habits and song, resembles the Bunting of Europe, rising like it from the top of one bush, with a fine full note, and descending with tremulous wing to another. Its range, as far as I can judge, is right across the continent, since we fell in with it at our most distant northern points. It is much larger than the above, has a stronger bill, and a dark breast. This bird is good eating.
This is also a good songster.
This bird has a dirty black plumage, excepting a white bar across the wings. It is generally seen in groups of six or seven, flying from tree to tree, and is widely distributed all over the continent.
This bird approaches somewhat to the raven. Its plumage is black and glossy, its neck feathers like a cock’s hackle, and the iris white, the latter peculiarity giving it a singular appearance. Many of these birds remained with us at the Depot after we had been deserted by most of the other kinds, and served to fatten an old native who had visited the camp, on whose condition they worked a perfect miracle. I suppose indeed that there never was such an instance of an individual becoming absolutely fat in so short a time, from a state of extreme emaciation, as in that old and singular savage, from eating the crows that were shot for him, and which constituted his chief, I might say, his only food.
A bird that frequented the cypress and pine forests; running along the branches of the trees like rats, and chasing each other from one to the other. This bird is about the size of a thrush, but is very different in other respects. It has dark brown plumage, with a rufous breast.
A bird very similar in plumage and habits to the last, but smaller and quicker in its motions. I shot these birds on a former expedition to the eastward of the Darling, and both are figured in my former work, page 219, vol. II.
A bird common amongst the honey-suckles (Banksias), in the sandy rises or mounds in the neighbourhood of the Darling. It appears in South Australia in similar localities, and has all the characters of its genus in the curved bill, pencilled tongue, and other points.
This bird is about the size of a chaffinch, and was first killed by me on the Darling.
This Honey-eater is remarkable in having a narrow lilac skin on the cheek, with a light line of yellow feathers beneath it. It is long both in the body and tail, and is of graceful form. Its colour is grey, but the breast is of a lighter shade and is slightly mottled. First shot by Mr. Gould in South Australia, from whose searching eye, and persevering industry, few things escaped. It was not common in the interior, but was occasionally seen in favourable localities.
Frequents Banksias, and is common wherever those trees are to be found. The Anthochaera carunculata is the largest of the wattle birds in South Australia. It has a grey plumage, mottled with white, and is by no means inelegant in its shape, being a long, slender, well proportioned bird. The whole of the Honey-suckers have curved bills and pencilled tongues.
This Honey-eater is of very limited range, and was so seldom seen during the progress of the Expedition up the Darling, that it may almost be said to be confined to the located district of South Australia. Its range, however, is as far as to the parallel of 30 degrees, beyond which point, as the majority of the honey-bearing trees cease, the larger Honey-suckers are not to be found. Like all the birds of the same genus, it is quick in its movements.
This bird is distinguished by its black throat, and a white lunate mark on the nape of the neck. It is to be found in most places where honey-bearing flowers or trees are to be seen. The general plumage is a dull green.
This species partakes of all the characters of the genus, but is much smaller.
The range of the Honey-eaters does not extend beyond the 28th parallel — towards the N.W. interior, or Central Australia; as there are few honey-giving trees in that desert region. They are found all along the summits of the Barrier Range, however, in considerable numbers; and are always known by their loud wild note.
A very sociable and tame bird. Its range is over the whole of south-eastern Australia, and we saw nests of these noisy birds at Fort Grey, in 29 degrees. The general colour is grey; their bill, and some portion of the head being yellow. They are fond of being near habitations, and frequent the trees round a stock station in great numbers.
A creeper, with a black head, and grey brown plumage. Not very common, though often seen in the interior. It is larger than the S. Chrysoptera.
This Cockatoo, the most common in Australia, is snow-white, with the exception of its crest, which is of a bright sulphur. It is also the most mischievous of Australian birds, and not only plays sad havoc amongst the wheat when ripe, but soon clears a field that has been sown. They are in immense flocks, and when in mischief always have sentinels at some prominent point to prevent their being taken by surprise, and signify the approach of a foe by a loud scream. They build in the hollows of trees, and in vast numbers in the Murray cliffs, making them ring with their wild notes; and in that situation are out of reach of the natives. They are abundant along the line of the Darling as high as Fort Bourke, but do not pass to the westward of that river, nor do they inhabit the interior.
This beautiful Cockatoo is, like the first, of white plumage, with a light red shade under the wings. He has a large sulphur and scarlet crest, which he erects to the best advantage when alarmed. This Cockatoo frequents the pine forests near Gawler Town, and is seen wherever that tree abounds; but he is not common, although widely distributed over the interior; his range extending to the latitude of Fort Grey, in 29 degrees; far beyond where any pinetrees were to be found
This is a smaller bird than either of the preceding; it is also of white plumage, with a light red down under the feathers; and, although it has the power of erecting the feathers on its head, it may be said to be crestless. This bird succeeded Cacatua galerita, and was first seen in an immense flock on the grassy plains at the bottom of the Depot Creek, feeding on the grassy plains or under the trees, where it greedily sought the seeds of the kidney bean. These cockatoos were very wild, and when they rose from the ground or the trees made a most discordant noise, their note being, if anything, still more disagreeable than that of either of the others. They left us in April, and must have migrated to the N.E., as they did not pass us to the N.W., nor were they any where seen so numerous as at this place.
This beautiful bird, seen in the depressed interior in such great numbers, has a slate-coloured back, wings and tail, whilst its breast and neck are of a beautiful rose-pink colour. It has a trifling crest, but not one like the two first described cockatoos. We carried this bird with us to the farthest north, as high up as the 25th parallel. There were several nests at Fort Grey, from which the men procured several young; one of which I brought alive to Adelaide. They hatch in the end of October, and build in the hollows of the box-trees. A flock of these cockatoos, turning their red breasts together to the sun in flying, look very beautiful.
This cockatoo is very like Cacatua sanguinea in colour and shape. It is white, with a dirty shade of yellow under the wing. The upper mandibula is much longer than the lower, overhanging it considerably. This it uses to grub up roots and other things on which it lives. These cockatoos were very numerous on the Murray, and are altogether distinct from the genus to which I have compared them; but their note is very similar, and, excepting to a naturalist, the difference is difficult to observe. The skin round the eye of both species is much larger than the cere round that of the common cockatoo.
This fine bird was widely distributed over the brushy land of the interior, but was never seen in any considerable numbers. Its plumage is black, and the broad feathers in the tail are of a light yellow underneath. There is a supposition that when these cockatoos fly across the country uttering their hoarse note, it is a prelude to rain; but unfortunately I can bear testimony to the contrary, having often seen them so fly over my head when I would have given my right arm for water. I am not aware that the Black Cockatoo will survive captivity, I believe they always pine and die.
The Murray Parrot, with a bright yellow body and neck, the feathers at the back of the neck having a greener tinge. The long feathers of the wing are of a blue black, as also the tail, but in the wings there are three or four desultory red feathers. This bird visits the valley of the Murray in great numbers in the summer months, where its young are taken in great numbers, and easily tamed in cages. I was unable to make out where this bird comes from, or the point to which it migrates. Their place of abode during the winter is entirely unknown. It is a beautiful and a showy bird, making a noise something like the Green Leak, and was first shot by me on my return up the river, in 1836.
This fine bird is found in the Murray Belt as well as in other localities, and is thence termed the parrot of the Murray Belt. It is one of the most beautiful of the parrot tribe, has a generally blue-green plumage on the back and neck, with a yellow crescent on the breast, and a purple below. This family are all distinguished by having long tails.
This fine and beautiful bird is common in South Australia, where it usurps the place of the Lory (Platycercus penantii) in New South Wales, and does equal mischief to the stack-yard. Its general plumage is yellow, but it has a dull red head, and blue cheeks. Its wings and tail, which is very long, are also blue, the longer feathers being almost black. Its back is marked with black scollops, and in size exceeds many of the Platycerei.
This Parroquet is a bird of the interior, and was spread over the whole of it in greater or less numbers. Always numerous where box-trees were growing in the vicinity of water. The Psephotus haematogaster is essentially a bird of the central parts of Australia, or else its range is confined between the 24th and 30th parallels of latitude. It is not a bird of bright plumage; it is distinguished by a bright crimson belly. It has likewise feathers of a peculiar bronze and yellow on the wings; the rest of the plumage being a dull blue green, excepting that over the bill it has some light blue feathers.
This is a bird of the interior, and was found on the most distant creeks, amongst the gum-trees. It was, however, fond of being on the ground, from whence it would rise and hide itself on being alarmed. It is a wild bird, and a noisy one. It colours are generally dull.
This beautiful Euphema is seen in great numbers on the sea-skirts of the plains of Adelaide, feeding on grass seeds. It was in course of migration when we were at the Depot in lat. 29 degrees 4 minutes; but after the other birds, and remained stationary for some time. It was never seen by us in the day time, but came regularly to water night and morning, when it was so dark that they could hardly be seen. The plumage of this bird is very beautiful. Its back and neck are green, as well as the crown of the head; its wings blue black; the breast and under tail feathers are of a bright yellow, with a blue and yellow band in the front.
This elegant little bird was also a visitant at the Depot, and remained throughout the winter; keeping in the day time in the barren brushes behind the camp, and coming only to water. The approach of this little bird was intimated by a sharp cutting noise in passing rapidly through the air, when it was so dark that no object could be seen distinctly; and they frequently struck against the tent cords in consequence. This Euphema has a general dark plumage, but with a beautifully delicate rose-pink shade over the breast and head, by which it will always be distinguished.
Called “Bidgerigung” by the natives. This beautiful little Euphema visits South Australia about the end of August or the beginning of September, and remains until some time after the breeding season. It is perhaps the most numerous of the summer birds. I remember, in 1838, being at the head of St. Vincent’s Gulf, early in September, and seeing flights of these birds, and Nymphicus Novoe-Holl. following each other in numbers of from 50 to 100 along the coast line, like starlings following a line of coast. They came directly from the north, and all kept the same straight line, or in each other’s wake. Both birds subsequently disperse over the province. The plumage of this bird is a bright yellow, scolloped black, and three or four beautiful deep blue spots over each side the cheek.
One of the most graceful of the parrot tribe, coming in, as I have stated above, with the Melopsittacus, and remaining during the summer. The general plumage is grey, with a white band across the wings. It has also a sulphuryellow patch on the cheek, in the centre of which is one of scarlet. It has also a long, hairy crest, which it keeps generally erected. Both birds passed the Depot in migrating, and Nymphicus was the last bird we saw to the north of the Stony Desert, in lat. 24 1/2 degrees and long. 138 degrees, on its return to the province in September.
This pretty bird has a green plumage, but is distinguished by a deep blue patch on the crown of the head; from which it derives its name.
This bird was only twice seen in the interior, but on both occasions in the same scrubby and salty country it is known to frequent in New South Wales and other places. A specimen was shot by Mr. Stuart, in the bed of a salt lagoon in 26 1/2 degrees of latitude, and 14 1/2 degrees of longitude, but none of these birds were seen to the west of that point. It has dark green plumage mottled with black, and has a patch of dull red over the bill.
This fine pigeon, so well known in the located parts of the continent, was also generally spread over the interior. Its habits are peculiar, insomuch that it goes to water at so late an hour that it is almost impossible to see them. They were rather numerous at the Depot, but very few were shot there. In the more distant interior, when we should frequently have been glad of one of these birds to give a relish to our monotonous diet, they were equally as difficult to be shot, and although we sat at the edge of any pond near which we happened to be, and watched with noiseless anxiety, they would get to the water, and the sharp flap of their wings in rising, alone told us we had missed our game. The natives of the Murray set nets across any gully down which they fly to water on the banks of the Murray, and so catch them in great numbers. The Bronze-wing is strong in his flight, and is a plump bird, and capital to eat. Its general colour is brown lightly mottled, it has a dirty-white crown, and the wing feathers are a beautiful bronze.
This is much smaller than the above, and not so common. It inhabits close brushes, and is flushed like a woodcock, there seldom being more than two together. Its plumage is darker than Phaps chalcoptera, nor is there any white about it except on the crown of the head, the secondary wing feathers being of a bronze colour, without any shade of blue and green, so prominent in the first described of these birds.
This beautiful pigeon is an inhabitant of the interior. Its range was between the parallels of 31 1/2 degrees and 26 degrees, but it was never seen to the south of Stanley’s Barrier Range, if I except a solitary wanderer on the banks of the Murray. These birds lay their eggs in February, depositing them under any low bush in the middle of open plains. In the end of March and the beginning of April, they collect in large flats and live on the seed of the rice-grass, which the natives also collect for food. During the short period this harvest lasts, the flavour of these pigeons is most delicious, but at other times it is indifferent. They feed on the open plains, and come to water at sunset, but like the Bronze-wing only wet the bill. It is astonishing indeed that so small a quantity as a bare mouthful should be sufficient to quench their thirst in the burning deserts they inhabit. They left us in the beginning of May, and I think migrated to the N.E., for the farther we went to the westward the fewer did we see of them. This bird has a white and black head, the crown being white, and its back is a rusty brown, the long feathers of the wings of a slate colour, with a white spot at the end of each as well as at the end of the tail feathers; the belly being a beautiful deep slate colour. See page 83, vol. II.
It was on the return of the party from the eastern extremity of Cooper’s Creek, that we first saw and procured specimens of this beautiful little bird. Its locality was entirely confined to about thirty miles along the banks of that creek, and it was generally noticed perched on some rock fully exposed to the sun’s rays, and evidently taking a pleasure in basking in the tremendous heat. It was very wild and took wing on hearing the least noise, but its flight was short and rapid like that of a quail, which bird it resembles in many of its habits. In the afternoon this little pigeon was seen running in the grass on the creek side, and could hardly be distinguished from a quail. It never perched on the trees, but when it dropped after rising from the ground, could seldom be flushed again, but ran with such speed through the grass as to elude our search. The plate, to which I may refer the reader at page 83, vol. II. in which he will see it figured, will supersede the necessity of any description. The Geophaps plumifera was found, I believe, in considerable numbers on the Lind and the Burdekin by Doctor Leichhardt, during his journey from Moreton Bay to Port Essington.
The locality of this beautiful pigeon is always near water. It is a bird of the depresed interior, never ascending to higher land where there are extensive marshes covered with the polygonum geranium. In river valleys, on the flats of which the same bramble grows, the Ocyphaps lophotes is sure to be found. It was first seen by me on the banks of the Macquarie, in lat. 31 degrees during my expedition to the Darling, but there is no part of the interior over which I have subsequently travelled where it is not, and it is very evident that its range is right across the continent from north to south. The general colour of this bird is a light purple or slate colour, and its form and plumage are both much more delicate than that of the Bronze-wing, but it is by no means so fine a bird, its flesh being neither tender nor well-flavoured.
This bird is figured in my former work, page 79, vol. I. It has a crest, and is marked on the back and wings very similar to Geophaps plumiferus. This bird builds in low shrubs in exposed situations, and lays two eggs on so few twigs that it is only surprising how they remain together.
All that we read or imagine of the softness and innocence of the dove is realised in this beautiful and delicate little bird. It is very small and has a general purple plumage approaching to lilac. It has a bright red skin round the eyes, the iris being also red, and its wings are speckled over with delicate white spots. This sweet bird is common on the Murray and the Darling, and was met with in various parts of the interior, but I do not think that it migrates to the N.W. Two remained with us at the Depot in latitude 39 degrees 40 minutes, longitude 142 degrees, during a greater part of the winter, and on one occasion roosted on my tent ropes near a fire. The note of this dove is exceedingly plaintive, and is softer, but much resembles the coo of the turtle-dove.
This bird, somewhat larger than the preceding, is not by any means so delicate in appearance. The colour of its plumage is similar in some respects, but has close black scollops on the breast and neck without any spots on the wings. This bird also frequents the banks of the Darling and the Murray, but is not so common as Geopelia cuneata. I first heard it on the marshes of the Macquarie, but could not see it. The fact is that it has the power of throwing its voice to a distance, and I mistook it for some time for the note of a large bird on the plains, and sent a man more than once with a gun to shoot it, without success. At last, as Mr. Hume and I were one day sitting under a tree on the Bogan creek, between the Macquarie and the Darling, we heard the note, and I sent my man Fraser to try once more if he could discover what bird it was, when on looking up into the tree under which we were sitting we saw one of these little doves, and ascertained from the movement of its throat that the sound proceeded from it, although it still fell on our ears as if it had been some large bird upon the plain. I have therefore taken upon me to call it the “Ventriloquist.”
This singular bird, in plumage and habit so like the Quail, was first discovered on the plains of Adelaide by Mr. Gould, where it appeared in considerable numbers in the year 1839-40. It was afterwards procured by a persevering collector in that colony, Mr. Strange, who is now in Sydney. Although in many respects resembling a Quail, this bird has long legs like a Bustard, but has a hind toe which that bird has not. We fell in with several in the N.W. interior, but they were all solitary birds. How far therefore we might conclude that they migrate northwards may be doubtful, although, it is impossible to suppose they would proceed in any other direction. The Pedionomus is a stupid little bird, and is more frequently caught by the dog than shot. Its general colour is a light brown, speckled with black like a quail. Its neck is white, spotted thickly with black, and has a white iris.
This bird is the prettiest of its tribe, and is very common in many of the located parts of south-eastern Australia, but is not a bird of the interior, and was not observed beyond the flats of the Darling, where it was occasionally flushed from amongst the long grass.
This bird is very common on the better description of plains in South Australia, and two or three specimens were shot during the early progress of the Expedition, but it was not seen to the north of Stanley’s Range. It is to be observed, indeed, that few quails of any kind were seen in the interior. This variety is a very pretty bird, with bright brown plumage, mottled like that of the ordinary quail, and is characterized by a black spot on the breast.
Synoicus Australis is a smaller bird than those just described, but the colour of the plumage is much the same. It is generally found in marshes, or marshy ground, and frequently in bevies.
This beautiful little quail is generally found in marshes, or in high rushy ground. It is not a common bird. In size this quail is not larger than a young guinea fowl that has just broken the shell. It has dark plumage on the back and head — a deep purple breast and belly, and a white horse-shoe on the upper part of the neck. The female has general dark plumage, speckled black.
This noble bird ranges over the whole of the continent, although we did not see any to the north of the Stony Desert. A good many were killed by the dogs at Fort Grey. They travel many miles during a single night to water, as was proved by a pack of thirteen coming down to the Depot Creek to drink, that we had seen the evening before more than 12 miles to the north. Those we saw in the distant interior did not differ from the common emu.
This fine and erectly walking bird is also common over the whole of the interior, migrating from the north in September and October. Several flights of these birds were seen by us thus migrating southwards in August, passing over our heads at a considerable elevation, as if they intended to be long on the wing. I have known this Otis weigh 28lbs. Its flesh is dark and varied in shade. The flavour is game and the meat is tender.
This bird is most abundant over all south-east Australia, on plains, marshes, and rivers, its cry and flight are very like that of our Peewit at home, and it adopts the same stratagem to draw the fowler from its young. It is a pretty bird, with bright yellow eye and a singular wattle coming from the bill along the cheek. It is also remarkable for a spur on the shoulder which it uses with much force in fighting with any crow or hawk.
There are few parts in the located districts of Australia in which this bird is not to be found. Its peculiar and melancholy cry, ran through the silence of the desert itself, and wherever rocks occurred near water they were also seen but not in any number. We caught a fine young bird at Flood’s Creek, but as it was impossible to keep it, we let it go. This bird very much resembles the stone Plover of England, but there are some slight differences of plumage.
This bird is remarkable for a small red wattle protruding from the bill, with a grey back and wings. It takes its name from its black breast.
This singular bird like several others of different genera, made its appearance in 1841 suddenly on the plains of Adelaide, seeming to have come from the north. It occupied the sand hills at the edge of the Mangrove swamps and fed round the puddles of water on the plains. This bird afforded my friend Mr. Torrens, an abundant harvest, as they were numerous round his house, but although some few have visited South Australia every year, they have never appeared in such numbers as on the first occasion. The plumage is a reddish brown, with a dark horseshoe on the breast. It has a full eye, and runs very fast along the ground, Mr. Browne and I met or rather crossed several flights of these birds in August of 1845, going south. They were in very large open plains and were very wild.
Much smaller than the preceding. A pretty little bird with a plaintive note, generally seen in pairs on the edge of muddy lagoons. Its plumage is a mixture of black, white, and brown, the first colour predominating on the head and breast. It runs with great swiftness, but delights more in flying from one side of a pond to the other.
This singular bird, with legs so admirably adapted by their length for wading into the shallow lakes and sheets of water, near which it is found, is in large flocks in the interior. It was in great numbers on Lepson’s Lake to the northward of Cooper’s Creek, and on Strzelecki’s Creek was sitting on the water with other wild fowl making a singular plaintive whistle. It is semipalmated, has black wings, and a band of brown on the breast, but it is otherwise white. Its bill is long, straight and slender, and its legs are naked for more than an inch and half above the knee.
The present bird is about the size of Chladorhynchus pectoralis, and in plumage is nearly the same. This bird was not found in the distant interior but in the shallow basin and round the salt lagoons of Lake Torrens.
A bird very much resembling the British Dunlin. General plumage, grey with a white breast. A quick runner, and fond of low damp situations as well as open plains. Common on the banks of all rivers and lagoons.
Considerably larger than the Snipe of England. Common in South Australia but very scarce in the interior. In the valley of the Mypunga there are great numbers of snipe which build there, but it is only in such localities, where the ground is constantly soft that they are to be found. Their flesh is delicate and their flavour good.
This beautiful bird was also very scarce in the interior, having been seen only on one occasion. It is not a common bird indeed any where. Some three or four couple visit my residence at Grange yearly, and remain in the high reeds at the bottom of the creek. As they are with us during the summer they doubtless build, but we never found one of their nests. They lay basking in the shade of a tree on the sand hills during the day, and separate when alarmed. It is full as large as Scolopax Australis, but its plumage is black-banded on the back with a general shade of green. Its head is black and brown. It has a black horse-shoe on the breast, the belly being white, and the quill feathers are grey with a small brown spot on each.
This large sized Crane is common near the waters of the interior, but he is a wary bird, and seldom lets the fowler within shot. When seen in companies they often stand in a row, as they fly in a line like wild fowl. Their general plumage is slate colour, but they have a red ceres or skin on the head. One of these birds was tame in the Government domain at Paramatta in 1829, and a goose used daily to visit it and remain with it for many hours. I have frequently seen them together, and the goose has allowed me to approach quite close before he flew. At last I suppose the poor bird was shot, as he suddenly ceased to visit his friend, and the Native Companion died some little time afterwards.
This beautiful Heron is common all over the inhabited parts of the Australian Continent, and is seen at a great distance in consequence of its snow-white plumage. It was not however seen in the interior, although it was frequently seen on the line both of the Darling and the Murray.
A Night Heron with a nankeen-coloured back and wings, and white breast, with a black crown to the head from which three long fine white feathers project. It is altogether a bird frequenting water, building in trees as the Heron does. It is about the size of a well grown young fowl, but is not good eating.
Is well known with its dark brown mottled plumage and hoarse croaking note. These birds are very numerous in the reedy flats of the Murray, whence they call to one another like bull frogs. It is a higher bird than the above, with a ruff down the neck, which behind is naked. He has a fine bright eye, and darts with his bill with astonishing rapidity and force.
This bird was very numerous at the Depot Creek, remaining during the day in the trees in the glen. There was, as the reader may recollect, a long sheet of water at the termination of the Depot Creek distant about thirty miles. It was the habit of these birds to fly from the glen across the plains to this lower water, where they remained until dawn, when they announced their return to us by a croaking note as they approached the trees. They collected in the glen about the end of April, and left us, but, I am not certain to what quarter they passed, although I believe it was to the north-west, the direction taken by all the aquatic birds. This bird had a black body, and white neck with a light shade of yellow, and speckled black.
This bird is very common on the Murray, where birds of the same kinds have such extensive patches of reeds in which to hide themselves. Although dark on the back their general plumage is a fine blue, and their bills and legs are a deep red as well as the fleshy patch on the front of the crown. It was not seen by us to the westward of the Barrier Range, nor is it an inhabitant of any of the creeks we passed to the N.W. This Coote is of tolerable size, but is not fit to eat, its flesh being hard, and the taste strong.
This bird, like the Eudromias Australis or Australian Dottrel appeared suddenly in South Australia in 1840. It came by the successive creeks from the north, fresh flights coming up to push those which had preceded them on. It was moreover evident that they had been unaccustomed to the sight of man, as they dropped in great numbers in the streets and gardens of Adelaide, and ran about like fowls. At last they increased so much in numbers as to swarm on all the waters and creeks, doing an infinity of damage to the crops in the neighbourhood. They took the entire possession of the creek near my house, and broke down and wholly destroyed about an acre and a quarter of wheat as if cattle had bedded on it. These birds made their first appearance in November, and left us in the beginning of March, gradually retiring northwards as they had advanced.
The plumage of this bird is a dark dusky green, and it has a short black tail which it cocks up in running. Its bill is green and red, and it has all the motions and habits of a water rail, and although it has visited the province annually, since its first visit, it has never appeared in such vast numbers as on the first occasion.
The line on which this bird migrates seems to be due north. It was never seen at the Depot or on any of the creeks to the west excepting Strzelecki’s Creek, and a creek we crossed on our way to Lake Torrens, when on both occasions they were migrating southwards.
This bird could hardly be distinguished from the English rail in shape and plumage. It is admirably adapted for making its way through reeds or grass, from its sharp breast. There are numbers of this rail on the Murray, but not many on the Darling; the natives can easily run it down. It was seen on two or three ponds in the interior and must have considerable powers of flight to wing its way from the one to the other as they successively dry up.
There are two varieties of this beautiful goose, one bird being considerably larger than the other, but precisely the same in plumage. In the colony they are called the wood duck, as they rest on logs and branches of trees, and are often in the depth of the forest. They have an exceedingly small bill characteristic of their genus, and a beautifully mottled neck and breast, the head and neck being a light brown. The smaller species is very common all over South-eastern Australia, but the larger bird is more rare. Three only were shot during the progress of the Expedition. Their range did not extend beyond 28 degrees.
A description of this bird is here unnecessary. I may merely observe that the only swan seen on the waters of the interior was a solitary one on Cooper’s Creek. They frequently passed over us at night during our stay at the Depot, coming from and going to the N.W., being more frequently on the wing when the moon was shining bright than at any other time.
This beautiful duck, the pride of Australian waters, is a bird of the finest plumage. He is called the Mountain Duck by the settlers, and may be more common in the hills than the low country, since he is seldom found in the latter district. This bird builds in a tree, and when the young are hatched, the male bird carries them in his bill down to the ground. Strange, whose name I have already mentioned, had an opportunity to watch two birds that had a brood of young in the hollow of a lofty tree on the Gawler; and after the male bird had deposited his charge, he went and secured the young, five in number, which he brought to me at Adelaide, but I could not, with every care, keep them alive more than a month. This bird is very large as a duck; his head and neck are a fine green in colour, and he has a white ring round his neck, as also a white band across his wings. It is not a good eating bird, however, as is often the case with the birds of finer plumage.
Unlike the preceding, this bird is one of the finest eating birds of Australia, being the wild duck of that continent. It is a fine bird in point of size, but cannot boast the plumage of our mallard. It is a bird of dark, almost black plumage, with a few glossy, green, secondary feathers, characteristic of the genus. It is spread over the whole of the interior, even to the north of the Stony Desert, but was there very wild, and kept out of our reach.
Not quite so large as the wild duck, but extremely good eating. This bird is not common in the interior, and was only seen once or twice amongst other ducks. Its plumage is a dark brown, and it has a light dull blue band across the wing. It takes its name from its peculiar bill, and may be termed the Shoveler of Australia. The specimens we procured in the interior are precisely the same as those of the southern coast of the continent.
A beautiful duck, of delicate plumage, but little fit for the table. It is very common on most of the Australian creeks and streams, and is called the Whistling Duck. This duck is rather larger than our teal. It has a grey head, with a brown tinge, and is mottled in the breast something like the woodcock. Its eye is dark and clear, and it has a line of rose-pink running longitudinally behind it.
Somewhat larger than the English Teal, and equally good for the table. The plumage of this little bird is dark, like that of the wild duck, from which, in this respect, it hardly differs. It is the most numerous of the water birds of the interior, and was sure to be in greater or less numbers on any extensive waters we found. A pair had a brood on one of the ponds in the Depot Glen; but the whole were taken off by a kite, Milvus affinis, that watched them land and then flew at them. So long as they kept in the water they were safe, but on land soon fell a prey to the kite.
This new and fine bird was first shot on Strzelecki’s Creek by Mr. Browne; and was subsequently seen by me in considerable numbers on Cooper’s Creek. Its range was not to the westward, nor was it seen north of the Stony Desert. I believe I am wrong in stating that the first was killed at the place above mentioned; for, if my memory does not deceive me, we had already secured a specimen at the Depot. In its general plumage it is of a light brown, with a mottled breast and neck. It has long white feathers crossing the thighs, with a fine black line along them, and altogether it is a handsome bird. Under ordinary circumstances we might have fared well on this duck at Cooper’s Creek; but it was so wild as to keep out of our reach, being evidently hunted by the natives of the creek.
This ugly bird was common on the Murray, and was seen by me in hundreds on Lake Victoria; but it is seldom seen on the Darling — never to the westward of Stanley’s Range. It is an Oxford grey in colour, with a light shade of brown; he flaps only, not being able to do more than skull along the top of the water. It trusts therefore for its safety to diving; and is so quick as to be shot with difficulty. The peculiarities of this bird are two-fold: first its strong, musky smell, and secondly the large appendage the male bird has attached to the under part of the bill.
This bird was seen only on Cooper’s Creek in lat. 27 degrees, long. 102 degrees; where three or four were sitting on some rocks in the middle of the water, and far out of gun’s reach. They appeared to be similar to the English gull, with a slate-coloured back and wings, and white breast. On firing a shot, they rose and followed the ducks which rose at the same time up the creek, and when flying they seemed exactly to resemble the common gull. The only swan we saw was on this sheet of water, with eight or ten cormorants.
The only specimen seen during the Expedition, was shot by Mr. Stuart on Strzelecki’s Creek. It was flying up and down the creek, plunging into the water every now and then. This light and airy bird had a slate-coloured back, with black neck and breast; the crown of the head was black, delicately spotted white.
Of a fine dark glossy green plumage; common on all the creeks and rivers of the interior. These birds were very numerous at the Depot, and were constantly coming in from, and flying to the N.W. But although we afterwards penetrated some hundreds of miles in that direction, we never discovered any waters to which they might have gone.
Like the swans, these birds frequently passed over us, coming from, and going to that point to which all the aquatic, as well as many of the ordinary birds winged their way. We sometimes saw them low down, sweeping over the ground in circles, as if they had just risen from the water; but in neither instance could such have been the case. On several occasions we might have shot them, but they were useless, and would have encumbered us much.
The common Diver; frequenting the pools and rivers of the interior: of dark brown plumage and silver-white belly. There are two or three varieties of this bird, that I have seen on other occasions; but none, with the exception of the present specimen, during the recent Expedition.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00