Ross River waterbirds

A bike ride from home to the Palmetum yesterday rewarded me with sightings of many waterbirds and photos of some species I don’t see very often.

Magpie goose in flight
Magpie Goose in flight

The Magpie Goose, Anseranus semipalmata, is one of the largest of our waterbirds – not as big as the Pelican but bigger than our ducks and ibis and much heavier than our egrets. They seem to be coming  to the coast now as the inland dries out, like many other birds; certainly, I don’t usually see them along our Ross River parklands but there were lots yesterday.

Bird on waterlily leaves
Comb-crested Jacana on waterlily leaves

The Comb-crested Jacana,  Irediparra gallinacea, is a smallish bird with a chicken-like comb and the most extraordinary feet. Its lower legs are disproportionately heavy, and each of its toes is nearly as big as its shinbone, an adaptation which allows it to forage on floating vegetation in rivers and lagoons by spreading the weight over a large area. It is Australia’s only Jacana, although an Asian relative has been sighted in WA.

Dark birds perched on a branch
Fishing mates: Australian Darter (left) and Little Black Cormorant

The Australian Darter, Anhinga melanogaster, and Little Black Cormorant, Phalacrocorax sulcirostris, are relatively common along Ross River. These two, perched on a branch over the water, were obviously on the lookout for lunch.