Birds in my new Townsville garden

Rainbow Lorikeets and Blue-faced Honeyeaters
Rainbow Lorikeets and Blue-faced Honeyeaters feeding on a palm flower

One of the reasons for the long gap in activity on Green Path was that we were moving house. We are still in Mundingburra, and still between Ross River and Ross River Road, but our new garden is quite different so it will attract different birds and insects.

The new garden is dominated by palms instead of huge mango, poplar gum and paperbark trees. Someone removed trees to plant a wide variety of palms at least twenty years ago, and some of them have been allowed to self-seed since then, so we have far more than we need – even after getting a dozen removed.

The under-storey includes Happy Plants (Dracaena Fragrans), Mock Orange (Murraya paniculata), Ponytails (Beaucarnea recurvata), Prickly Duranta (Duranta erecta), cycads and agaves; they all seem to be survivors of a garden which was replanted in the 1970s or 80s and but has been periodically neglected since then. Our neighbours have huge old mango trees and (variously) a Black Bean, a Jakfruit, a Burdekin Plum, eucalypts and more palms, so birds are not short of perches or nesting sites. On the other hand, the deficiency of shrubbery and native flowers makes the garden less welcoming to sunbirds and small honeyeaters.

So far we have seen …

  • Blue-faced Honeyeater
  • White-gaped Honeyeater
  • Little Friarbird
  • Feral pigeon
  • Peaceful Dove
  • Rainbow Lorikeet
  • Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
  • Figbird
  • Peewit
  • Mynah
  • Great Bowerbird
  • Magpie
  • White Ibis
  • Curlew
  • Sacred Kingfisher
  • Rainbow Bee-eater
  • Spice Finches

They are all familiar species and are already documented on this page of birds seen in our previous garden, so I will just add a few more photos to complete this post.

Australasian Figbirds
Figbirds (male on left, female or juvenile on right)

Nectar-feeders are attracted to the flowering of our palm trees but fruit-feeders like these Australasian Figbirds (Sphecotheres vieilloti) are attracted to the fruit.

Indian Mynahs
A flock (perhaps a family group) of Mynas feeding on the nature strip
Sacred Kingfisher
The washing line isn’t the most beautiful background, but it does remind us how small the Sacred Kingfisher is


poplar gum flowers
Poplar gum flowers

Around this time every year our huge poplar gum bursts into flower, producing a bonanza for the birds which come from miles around to feast on its nectar. We delight in the display, too, even while we deal with the mess the tree and the birds make. Thousands of flowers pop their caps, which litter the lawn like miniature caltrops, then the rainbow lorikeets arrive to squawk and squabble, Continue reading “Bonanza!”

A tree full of birds

bright green and orange bird
Rainbow Lorikeet

In the few days since my last post the poplar gum has come into full blossom and the birds are loving it. The Rainbow Lorikeets have become regular visitors again, squabbling over the flowers and foraging for insects in the foliage. I’m not sure what the one on my photo is up to – looking for beetles, or perhaps trying to clean his dirty beak?

black bird
Spangled Drongo

Drongos are insectivores but that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in a flowering tree. What, after all, do so many insects feed on? Nectar, of course, and the tree hosts a good number of bees, flies and butterflies.

brown bird
Juvenile Little Friarbird

I was going to call this post “Patience rewarded” to congratulate myself on getting better photos of the juvenile Little Friarbird I encountered a few days ago. There were at least two of them this time – “this time” being the forty minutes I spent sitting on our front steps yesterday, with my telephoto lens pointing up into the foliage to take all of these pictures.

grey bird
Female Leaden Flycatcher

Leaden Flycatchers are small, quick and quiet. I don’t know how long they frequented our garden before I first spotted one, but I have seen them quite regularly since then. As always, you’re more likely to notice something if you’re on the look-out for it.

Today is officially the first day of Spring. As I’ve said before, the four European seasons don’t have much relevance to our monsoonal tropical climate but we are – just – seeing signs that the season is changing. The humidity is up, and we even had a tiny shower or two overnight; one of our banana plants has decided to put out a bud; and temperatures, particularly overnight, have crept up enough to notice. We don’t expect any real rain until November but we’re now looking forward to our next Wet rather than backward to the one that failed.

Lorikeets and figbirds in North Queensland

parrot on red flowers
Rainbow Lorikeet on Umbrella Tree flowers

We regularly visit a “bush block” on Hervey’s Range, 40 minutes’ drive inland from Townsville. Six weeks ago we saw lots of Rainbow Lorikeets feeding on the bright red blossoms of the Umbrella Trees (Schefflera actinophylla) there, but when we returned a couple of days ago the flowers had become fruit and the lorikeets had shifted to a tall gum tree, 50 metres away, which had burst into blossom in the meantime.

A family of Figbirds (Sphecotheres vieilloti) had taken their place on the Umbrella Tree, feeding gregariously on the dark brown fruit. There was certainly plenty of it it to share!

brown bird on brown seed-head
Figbird on the mature fruit, early April
green and brown birds on the same flowers
The whole family feeding together

The Umbrella Tree is native to this part of the world and is not a problem here: it grows well but “has maintained a balance with other native species,” as this DAF page says. The page goes on to add, however, that “when it is grown in southern Queensland, this fast-growing invader out-competes local native species,” and this other Queensland government fact sheet simply calls it a weed (but has better pictures of it).

That’s unfair, since a weed is, when you come down to it, simply a plant where you don’t want it. Even Lantana, loathed up here, is not a weed everywhere.