When I cleared out my whole nature blog and started afresh, my main aim was to set up a better index in the sidebar for both birds and plants (as well as the intermittent news on my apartment balcony garden), but inevitably I’ll also end up with the more dull and less interesting Australian birds.
This Apostlebird (Struthidea cinerea), photographed in Melbourne Zoo’s great aviary, is one of them.
The best way to describe this bird, usually found in more inner regions of eastern Australia, is DULL.
Body dull, lead-grey with a darker eye patch and dark brown wings. Tail long and black, wedge-shaped. Beak, dark grey, robust and almost triangular. Legs short, giving an awkward almost horizontal posture, with the tip of its long tail on the ground.
It flies low, with frequent glides. When feeding it hops, walks and runs actively and is often aggressive.
Not usually seen as far south as Melbourne where I live, but to be honest, I don’t think I could identify it in flight in the wild anyway, as its so similar to many other dark-coloured Australian birds, so was pleased to photograph it standing on a nearby branch at the Zoo.
The Cattle Egret (Ardea ibis) is large compared to other native birds, but is actually the smallest of the Egrets, and unmistakable in its breeding plumage with long yellow or ginger plumes on its head, neck , back and throat.
It’s frequently found feeding among grazing animals which is probably where the name came from (I presume).
The breeding adult is white, often rather scruffy, with yellowish beak and legs. Cattle Egrets are found in most coastal regions of Australia, not necessarily close to water, although it breeds in trees over water.
These photos were made in Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary and the images below gives you some idea of how large this space is.
While Melbourne Zoo, located to the north of the city and easily accessible via tram from William Street, is open 365 days of the year, there is the odd occasion when the Aviary is closed for maintenance, so if you’re visiting to specifically visit the Great Aviary, it might be worth a phone call before you leave home/hotel.
Another hint: Don’t go during the school holidays in Melbourne, as young children have a habit of running down the boardwalk and squealing excitedly, which kind of…… spoils the experience a wee bit…..well it does for me. Not that I have anything against young children enjoying themselves, but I really do think, for the enjoyment of other visitors, parents might try to discourage loud boisterous behaviour in this particular area. There are signs at the Aviary entrance requesting that children don’t run anyway.
I could easily spend 2 hours in the Great Aviary and have done so many, many times over the years.