Category Archives: Australian birds

Juvenile Cassowary visiting

Just before dark yesterday, we had an unexpected visitor: a juvenile cassowary emerged from the the forest,  near our veranda. It has probably walked along the creek in search of fallen fruits, mushrooms and, if it is lucky,  the occasional frog. cassowary March18.1

It is about 2/3 adult size, with clearly visible brown juvenile feathers on the thighs and tail, a bright blue neck and short, pink wattles, making it 1-2 years old.                                                                                                          cassowary March18.2

Wattles and casque still have a lot of growing to do.cassowary March18.3

It might be a young male, as the tail feathers seem longer than on a female.cassowary March18.22

The colouration along the neck is already quite vivid.cassowary March18.4

He was back this morning, pecking at some mushrooms, before wandering down to the creek and into the forest.


Leave a comment

Filed under Atherton Tablelands, far north Queensland, Australian birds, cassowary, tropical rainforest, wildlife



From 2017, we shall have a new cabin near Atherton: “ATHERTON TABLELANDS BIRDWATCHER’S CABIN”.

The cabin has already been completed and has been approved by the local “building inspector” (a young female cassowary made an unexpected appearance):

building inspector

May in May2016 2

cabin bcard

It is situated on our 35 acres (14 hectares) of forest, close to Mount Hypipamee National Park (“The Crater”), bordering onto Herberton Range National Park (in the Wet tropics World Heritage area), 25 minutes south of Atherton.

Our property shares a 250m boundary with the national park, and is the perfect place to enjoy peace and tranquillity.

The 1000m elevation makes it cooler and less humid than Kuranda.

The vegetation consists of tall open forest (‘Wet Sclerophyll Forest’) with the dominant trees being 30-40m high Rose Gums (Eucalyptus grandis), Red Mahogany (E. resinifera) and Turpentine (Syncarpia glomulifera). The diverse understorey contains many rainforest species, which also grow along the creeks.

forest 4

The transition zone (ecotone) between rainforest and tall eucalyptus forest supports an equally rich fauna:

There are more possum and glider species here than anywhere else in the world (10 identified on our property, including the northern subspecies of the Yellow-bellied Glider(YBG)), Lumholtz’s Tree-kangaroos, a number of ground-dwelling marsupials and more than 10 species of frogs. Leaf-tailed Geckos, Water Dragons and Boyd’s Forest Dragons are numerous.

The Rose Gums readily form hollows (perfect homes for all those tree-dwellers), Red Mahoganies are the favourite food trees for the YBG, which make incisions into the bark with their teeth to then feed on the exuding sap –and they are often joined by Sugar Gliders and Feathertail Gliders.

The gullies and creeks are corridors for rainforest plants and animals.

forest 5-our creek

Birds of the rainforest, like Victoria’s Riflebird and Superb Fruit-doves, can be seen as well as those at home in the drier forests, like Crimson Rosellas, Crested Shrike-tits, lorikeets, many flycatchers and honeyeaters.

The cabin’s veranda, orientated towards our small creek, is an ideal spot for watching wildlife. You may even be so lucky as to see a tree-kangaroo!

cabin 6

Tree-roo in distance

A bird list of the about 100 species, which occur on our property, will be on the “birds and birding” page of our soon to be established website.


Leave a comment

Filed under Atherton Tablelands, far north Queensland, Australia, Australian birds, cassowary, tall eucalyptus forest, Tree-kangaroo, wildlife

The (almost) invisible python

Loud scolding by several species of small birds late in the morning brought a 2 meter long Amethystine python (Morelia amethistina) to our attention.
It was making its way up along the frond of a large tree fern, and when it had reached the crown of the fern, it began to coil itself into ever tighter loops until it almost appeared to tie itself into knots! A short while later it had all but disappeared from sight.

amethyst python 1

( Can you see it? Just to the right of centre):

amethyst python 3_1

Soaking up the sunshine in its elevated position, it stayed there all day, but in the early evening started to travel down a fern frond, through a fig tree towards our bird feeder, which also attracts small native rainforest rodents during the night -the python probably detected their smell.

amethyst python 4.0_1

The following photo gives you an idea of the beautiful iridescent coloration of the Amethystine Python:

amethyst python 4_1

In this picture, you can see the heat-sensitive pits  along the lower lip, which is typical for pythons:

amethyst python 6

Yesterday  a rare visitor arrived: a juvenile Satin Bowerbird (Ptilinorhynchus violaceus). It spent all day opposite our front veranda, nibbling fruit. This is our first sighting of this species in Kuranda; Satin Bowerbirds usually occur above 600 meters in north Queensland.

Satin Bowerbird

The fruiting Pandanus  and palm trees, of which we have many, are attracting several Spotted Catbirds (Ailuroedus melanotis) and Victoria’s Riflebirds (Ptiloris victoriae). At present we can watch three brown (female or juvenile) and one adult black riflebird in our garden every day.

Victoria's Riflebird

A few weeks ago  the first of probably many (last year we had a flock of over 50) Chestnut-breasted Mannikins (Lonchura castaneothorax) arrived; they were joined yesterday by another pair with very demanding and vocal offspring in tow.

A rather enervating youngster, a juvenile Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) is keeping its parents busy regurgitating food with a constant, demanding wail.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo



Human activities and the survival of cassowaries are almost always mutually exclusive:

Unfortunately, last week the resident female was killed by a vehicle on Black Mountain Road . As Dad has not made an appearance over the last two weeks, our hope is  that he is currently sitting on her eggs, at least partly keeping her genes in the pool (they had been mating for the last few weeks). She had only replaced Dad’s partner of many years, “Missy”, last year, and was in the prime of her life. Missy is still in the area and will, hopefully, mate with Dad again.

“Wattle”, also known as “Harriet”, was easily recognized by her unusual wattles:


1 Comment

Filed under Australia, Australian birds, cassowary, tropical rainforest, wildlife

Cassowary Surprise

After mating throughout June our male cassowary (“dad”) disappeared, presumably sitting on a new clutch of eggs, while the local female continued to visit our garden infrequently.

She was here a few days ago, and after eating some palm fruits and lilly-pillies, made a deep, booming call. Shortly after that, there were two adult cassowaries drinking from our pond – dad was back!

Apparently he had been off his nest for a few days, abandoning it – maybe driven away by the pigs, which have been around recently.

Something looked strange about the female, and then we realized she was a stranger! She is at least as tall as “Missy”, our resident female, but with a taller casque and dark blotches on her two red wattles, one of which has two tips.

She might be the one who had a fight with Missy near “Cassowary House” recently.

Presently we are seeing dad always in the company of the new female, while Missy has been busy chasing the 10-month-old juvenile, which is, surprisingly, still visiting the area.

There does not seem to be a lot of ripe fruit available in the forest at the moment, but cassowaries also eat fungi and animals like worms, grasshoppers, mice and lizards.

Hopefully, dad will be able to put on enough weight to sustain him through another period of brooding. Male cassowaries sit on eggs for about 2 months without feeding.

dad and new female:

dad and new female,August2013

new female:

new female,August 2013_1

new female,August2013

juvenile cassowary:

juvenile cassowary July 2013

The September issue of the “National Geographic” magazine has an article on our ‘Big Birds’, with more photos of  Dad, Missy, and last season’s chicks.

Leave a comment

Filed under Australia, Australian birds, cassowary, tropical rainforest, wildlife

Cassowary Mating Season 2013

How wonderful to be living in a place, where  cassowaries do not only visit our garden almost daily for most of the year, but where one can even observe them mating (also see our blog from May 2012).

cassowary dad 14.06.2013

This year the local male cassowary raised three chicks, which were  7 months old when the female started to seek out his company at the beginning of May. Initially, he wasn’t interested in her advances, but by mid May the family had separated. We now have  a single juvenile, and the other two travelling together, visiting. The adults started courting and mating in early June. This morning they performed in our garden, unperturbed by the noisy truck on Black Mountain Road (our local council is presently repairing the road, and we do fear for the cassowaries, who are frequently crossing. The juveniles are not as wary of traffic as the adults).

Sometimes we can tell that cassowary mating has taken place, without having actually witnessed it. Have a look at theses skid marks:

cassowary mating tracks

Minutes after this morning’s mating, the adults had just disappeared into the forest (we could still hear one of them booming several times in the distance), the single juvenile showed up for its breakfast of palm fruits.  Several of our palm trees are providing a feast for wompoo  and superb fruit-doves, catbirds, spectacled flying- foxes, white-tailed rats and cassowaries.

cassowary juvenile June 2013

Leave a comment

Filed under Australian birds, wildlife

New Cassowary Chicks, December 2012

“Our” cassowary made an appearance, with his 3 two-month-old chicks, one week ago.
The chicks are inquisitive, yet still keep very close to dad.
They all look very healthy and well fed. Quite a few trees are fruiting; several species of figs and laurels, Black Palms (Normanbya normanbyi) and Kuranda Quandongs (Elaeocarpus bancroftii)- the latter two might still be a bit too  large for the chicks to swallow.
Unfortunately,”our” cassowary’s core territory , he had his nest there,  is under threat:
the 28 ha rainforest property between us and Kuranda National Park has been advertised for sale.
Without interest and support from governments we are trying to raise funds to purchase and conserve said property in perpetuity.cassowaries December 2012cassowaries December 2012.2cassowaries December 2012.3

new cassowary chicks

Leave a comment

Filed under Australian birds, wildlife

Finches and Termites, October 2012

After 12 weeks of mostly dry weather we finally had some welcome rain last night and today (25mm), which led to an interesting observation:

Red-browed finches (Neochmia  temporalis)  and chestnut-breasted mannikins (Lonchura castaneothorax) were hopping around in our driveway, picking up termite alates (winged termites), which had just swarmed from their mound, and even catching them in mid-air.

It was surprising to see such typical seed-eaters gorging themselves on insects – and performing some very acrobatic manoeuvres.

Maybe the female finches are stocking up on protein for the production of eggs.

We normally do not have finches on our rainforest property- the grassy areas are rather small. A few pairs of red-browed finches usually arrive in November to build nests, mainly in the palm trees, but then leave at the end of the wet season.

This year, two pairs decided to stay (possibly because we left a few patches of lawn to go to seed), and we put out some bird seed for them. This must have stopped a small flock of chestnut-breasted mannikins in their tracks (we never had them here before) – and they told their friends! We now have a flock of over 100 (they are really difficult to count, being very flighty).

red-browed (firetail) finch

one chestnut-breasted mannikin

many chestnut-breasted mannikins


We are eagerly awaiting dad’s return after he disappeared  more than 2 months ago.

He never brooded the clutch of 8 eggs he had in early July and abandoned that nest.

Hopefully, the female produced another batch for him.

She is still visiting every 5 to 15 days, looking a bit worse for wear, having lost the rich gloss of her plumage and rather threadbare thighs ( the male scratches her thighs with his claws, when she is sitting down, and he tries to get into mating position). So, presumably, she has been mating with another male.

1 Comment

Filed under Australian birds, wildlife