Written by Bruce Belcher, Daintree River Cruises,
We look at birds and generalise, considering them as just feathered animals that fly. Then, once you get to know them and to understand the different kinds you find their idiosyncrasies quite fascinating. Take the Cassowary, for example. The male will incubate the eggs, about 6 of them for 2 months.That’s not all. He will also tend to the young, organising their security and generally doing all the housework!
Then there is the Black Butcherbird who, instead of just picking up food, prefers to catch
live food like frogs, snakes and lizards. He didn’t get his name for nothing. I’ve actually witnessed this bird jamming a frog into the fork of a branch and tearing it apart; hence its name.
Then there is the Bar – shouldered Dove; with its distinctive whistling sound it makes with
its wings as it flies off when startled. This is instinct in action! The sound is produced by the wing tips that have microscopic knife like blades that slice the air with infinite speed, thereby making the sound. This is done by the first bird when it senses danger. The rest just follow suit.
Then there are the 2 kingfishers (the Little and the Azure) that live only along the
watercourses. They perch on a branch looking intently into the water for fish and prawns, while bobbing the head up and down. I’m not sure why they do this but the best advice I’ve had is its way of getting a better dimensional view of the fish through the water.
Then there are the Frogmouths who sleep during the day, side by side, in a family group of 3. They look upwards into a position that is called the ‘cryptic posture’. By doing this they resemble broken tree branches.
Then there are the White – breasted Woodswallows that sit on a branch, side by side, as many as about 30 of them huddled together, jostling for position. I can only guess that it’s all about security, the one in the middle being the safest.
Then there is the male Victoria’s Riflebird who performs the most bizarre dance to impress the female. A male will perch in a tree, raise his wings over his head until his wing tips meet. He then rocks to and fro. He then opens his beak, arcs his head backward and sways sideways. A lot of work to impress the female!
Then there is the Welcome Swallow who gets his name form what seems like small flocks of these little birds welcoming the boats as they return to port. Now, this is a fisherman’s story and I believe it is true. Apparently, as the boat is moving forward, the air turbulence caused by the bow disorients the insects that we can’t see but the birds can. So, upon seeing the boats coming in the birds fly out to meet then for an opportunistic meal. Sounds like a good story!