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Adventist Youth Honors Answer Book/Nature/Australian Birds

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Australian Birds
South Pacific Division


Skill Level Unknown
Year of Introduction: Unknown

Limited Availability



1. Explain the following:

a. Which is the largest of the Australian birds?

The Emu is the second largest bird in the world by height (after the ostrich)and is widely found in Australia. The largest emus can reach up to 1.5–1.9 m (4.9–6.2 ft) in height, 1–1.3 m (3.3–4.3 ft) at the shoulder. In length measured from the bill to the tail, emus range from 139 to 164 cm (55 to 65 in), with males averaging 148.5 cm (58.5 in) and females averaging 156.8 cm (61.7 in). Emus weigh between 18 and 60 kg (40 and 132 lb), with an average of 31.5 and 36.9 kg (69 and 81 lb) in males and females, respectively. Females are usually larger than males by a small amount, and are substantially wider across the rump.

However, according to this list of the largest birds, the Southern and Northern Cassowary are both on average heavier and larger than the Emu, but not always as tall. So the answer depends on how you define "largest".

Both the Emu and the Cassowary are known as Ratites, flightless birds without a keel on the breastbone for flight muscle attachment. Other Ratites include Ostriches, Rheas and Kiwis.

Dromaius novaehollandiae 9017.jpg Dromaius novaehollandiae 9019.jpg Casuarius casuarius 5276 W.jpg Casuarius casuarius 5279 W.jpg

b. Describe its nest, including number, size and colour eggs and how incubated.

Emu Gelege.jpg

Male Emu lose their appetite and construct a rough nest in a semi-sheltered hollow on the ground from bark, grass, sticks, and leaves.[3] The nest is almost always a flat surface rather than a segment of a sphere, although in cold conditions the nest is taller, up to 7 cm tall, and more spherical to provide more insulation. When other material is lacking, it can also use spinifex grass bushes more than a metre across, despite the prickly nature. The nest can be placed in open ground or near scrubs and rocks, although thick grass is usually present if the emu takes the former option. The nests are usually placed in an area where the emu has a clear view of the surrounds and can detect predators.

The pair mates every day or two, and every second or third day the female lays one of an average of 11 (and as many as 20) very large, thick-shelled, dark-green eggs. The shell is around 1 mm thick although indigenous Australians say that northern eggs are thinner. The number of eggs varies with rainfall. The eggs are on average 134 by 89 millimetres (5.3 in × 3.5 in) and weigh between 700 and 900 grams (1.5 and 2.0 lb),[49] which is roughly equivalent to 10–12 chicken eggs in volume and weight. The egg surface is granulated and pale green. During the incubation period, the egg turns dark green, although if the egg never hatches, it will turn white from the bleaching effect of the sun.

The male Eu becomes broody after his mate starts laying, and begins to incubate the eggs before the laying period is complete. From this time on, he does not eat, drink, or defecate, and stands only to turn the eggs, which he does about 10 times a day. Sometimes he will walk away at night; he chooses such a time as most predators of emu eggs are not nocturnal. Over eight weeks of incubation, he will lose a third of his weight and will survive only on stored body-fat and on any morning dew that he can reach from the nest.

Casuarius casuarius-Artis Zoo -Netherlands -male and chicks-8c.jpg

The male cassowary builds a nest on the ground; a mattress of herbaceous plant material 5 to 10 centimetres (2–4 in) thick and up to 100 centimetres (39 in) wide. This is thick enough to let moisture drain away from the eggs. The male also incubates the eggs and raises the chicks alone. A clutch of three or four eggs are laid measuring 138 by 95 millimetres (5.4 in × 3.7 in). They have a granulated surface and are initially bright pea-green in colour although they fade with age.

c. How fast can this bird run?

Emu can sprint at 50 km/h (31 mph). Cassowary are also fast runners, attaining speeds up to 48 km (30 mi) per hr. Both birds are flightless and run about the same maximum speed.

d. Which is the tallest 'flying' bird?

Sarus crane (Grus antigone) is a large non-migratory crane found in parts of the Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Australia. The tallest of the flying birds, standing at a height of up to 1.8 m (5.9 ft).

e. Can you name Australia's only native stork?

The Black-necked Stork is the only stork found in Australia. With black and white body plumage, glossy dark green and purple neck and massive black bill, it is easily identified from all other Australian birds. The legs are long and coral-red in colour. The female is distinguished by its yellow eyes while males have brown irises.

Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus -India-8.jpg

2. Are penguins found naturally in Australia and if so, where would you go to observe penguins?

At 30cm and just 1kg, the Little Penguin (Eudyptula minor), also called the Fairy Penguin, is the smallest species of Penguin in the world. It is also the only penguin native to Australia. Found primarily along the southern coast of Australia, there is a well-known small colony nesting in the St. Kilda Pier, near Melbourne, and a larger group on Phillip Island that “parade” at dusk when returning from a day fishing at sea. Below are images of juvenile Little Penguins, hiding in the St. Kilda Pier. Also, a map highlighting the range of all Penguin species (Penguins are only found in the south, not the north)

LittlePenguin 4444.jpg LittlePenguin 4437.jpg Penguin range.png

3. Explain the following:

a. Which bird is known as the "Laughing Jackass"?

The Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) is an Australian carnivorous kingfisher with a distinctive call (You can hear the call on this page [[1]]. They live in eastern Australia, nesting in tree hollows or termite nests. A similar species is the Blue-Winged Kookaburra, though its call is not nearly as "laughing" as that of its cousin. Note that the Laughing Kookaburra is pictured on the patch for the Australian Birds honor.

Dacelo novaeguineae waterworks.jpg Dacelo novaeguineae 8337.jpg LaughingKookaburra 4816.jpg Dacelo novaeguineae 9129.jpg

b. To which species does it belong?

Order Coraciiformes (Kingfishers and Rollers)

Family Alcedinidae (Kingfishers)

Genus Dacelo (Kookaburras)

Dacelo novaeguineae - Laughing Kookaburra Dacelo leachii - Blue-Winged Kookaburra

Dacelo novaeguineae 9122.jpg Dacelo leachii 9098.jpg

c. What is unusual about the family makeup of this bird?

Most species of kookaburra live in family units, mate for life, and both parents assist with incubation and feeding. In addition, the offspring help the parents hunt and care for the next generation of offspring. Now that is unusual in any species!

A juvenile Laughing Kookaburra, still in its pin-feathers. Dacelo novaeguineae 9141.jpg

4. Explain the following:

a. Name at least 2 birds who incubate their eggs in the ground.

Australia's Megapodes are mound-builders, making large nests from leaf litter to incubate their eggs. These include the Australian Brush-Turkey (Alectura lathami), the Malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata), and the Orange-Footed Scrub Fowl (Megapodius reinwardt).

The Australian Brush-Turkey Alectura lathami 8734.jpg

b. Describe how the nest is built and eggs are laid and incubated for one of these birds.

Australian Brush-Turkeys, and other megapodes, build their nests by scraping together large mounds of leaf litter. The eggs are laid in the mound and covered. Warmth is provided by the decaying vegetation, with the Brush-Turkey adjusting the temperature (which it measures by sticking its beak into the mound) by adding or removing brush as needed.

An Australian Brush-Turkey working on its mound. Alectura lathami 8691.jpg

c. What is the term which describes this type of bird?

The Megapodes are often also called Mound Builders or Incubator Birds.

5. Explain the following:

a. What does the Bower Bird use his bower for and what colour is the Satin Bower Bird known to 'steal' to decorate the bower?

A bower is large structure made of grass and bright objects, used by the bower bird during courtship displays to attract a mate. They prefer blue items.

Satinbowerbirdmale.jpg Ptilonorhynchus violaceus 8026.jpg Ptilonorhynchus violaceus 8045.jpg Ptilonorhynchus violaceus Bower 8018.jpg

b. Can you name a Bower Bird which lives in your state?

Check the ranges of the various bower bird species to find one that lives in your state. If no Bower Birds live in your state (you live outside the range of the bird), consider picking an Australian state and figuring out one that lives there.

The Satin Bowerbird, perhaps the best known, is found in at least three Australian states, from Queensland to Victoria. Below are the male and female Satin Bowerbirds.

SatinBowerbird 4183.jpg SatinBowerbird 4181.jpg

A partial list of Australian Bowerbirds by state:

  • Queensland:
    • Spotted Catbird (Ailuroedus melanotis)
    • Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris)
    • Tooth-Billed Bowerbird (Scenopoeetes dentirostris)
    • Golden Bowerbird (Prionodura newtoniana)
    • Regent Bowerbird (Sericulus chrysocephalus)
    • Satin Bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus)
    • Spotted Bowerbird (Chlamydera maculata)
    • Great Bowerbird (Chlamydera nuchalis)
    • Fawn-Breasted Bowerbird (Chlamydera cerviniventris)
  • New South Wales:
    • Green Catbird (Ailuroedus crassirostris)
    • Regent Bowerbird (Sericulus chrysocephalus)
    • Satin Bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus)
    • Spotted Bowerbird (Chlamydera maculata)
  • Victoria:
    • Satin Bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus)
  • South Australia:
    • Western Bowerbird (Chlamydera guttata)
  • Western Australia:
    • Western Bowerbird (Chlamydera guttata)
    • Great Bowerbird (Chlamydera nuchalis)
  • Northern Territory:
    • Western Bowerbird (Chlamydera guttata)
    • Great Bowerbird (Chlamydera nuchalis)

6. Where does the Lyre Bird get his name and what is special about his song?

The lyrebird's name came from an ignorant mistake, perpetrated in a famous painting. The male bird has a spectacular tail, consisting of 16 highly modified feathers (two long slender lyrates at the centre of the plume, two broader medians on the outside edges and twelve filamentaries arrayed between them).

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This happened when a superb lyrebird specimen (which had been taken from Australia to England during the early 19th century) was prepared for display at the British Museum by a taxidermist who had never seen a live lyrebird. The taxidermist mistakenly thought that the tail would resemble a lyre, and that the tail would be held in a similar way to that of a peacock during courtship display, and so he arranged the feathers in this way. Later, John Gould (who had also never seen a live lyrebird), painted the lyrebird from the British Museum specimen.

Although very beautiful, the male lyrebird's tail is not held as in John Gould's painting. Instead, the male lyrebird's tail is fanned over the lyrebird during courtship display, with the tail completely covering his head and back—as can be seen in the image below and also the image of the 10 cent coin, where the superb lyrebird's tail (in courtship display) is portrayed accurately.

Superb Lyrebird mound dance.jpg

A lyrebird's song is one of the more distinctive aspects of its behavioural biology. Lyrebirds sing throughout the year, but the peak of the breeding season, from June to August, is when they sing with the most intensity. During this peak they may sing for four hours of the day, almost half the hours of daylight. The song of the superb lyrebird is a mixture of seven elements of its own song and any number of other mimicked songs and noises. The lyrebird's syrinx is the most complexly-muscled of the Passerines (songbirds), giving the lyrebird extraordinary ability, unmatched in vocal repertoire and mimicry. Lyrebirds render with great fidelity the individual songs of other birds and the chatter of flocks of birds, and also mimic other animals such as koalas and dingos. The lyrebird is capable of imitating almost any sound and they have been recorded mimicking human caused sounds such as a mill whistle to a cross-cut saw, chainsaws, car engines and car alarms, fire alarms, rifle-shots, camera shutters, dogs barking, crying babies, music, and even the human voice. However, while the mimicry of human noises is widely reported, the extent to which it happens is exaggerated and the phenomenon is quite unusual.

The superb lyrebird's mimicked calls are learned from the local environment, including from other superb lyrebirds. An instructive example of this is the population of superb lyrebirds in Tasmania, which have retained the calls of species not native to Tasmania in their repertoire, but have also added some local Tasmanian endemic bird noises. It takes young birds about a year to perfect their mimicked repertoire. The female lyrebirds of both species are also mimics, and will sing on occasion but the females do so with less skill than the males. A recording of a superb lyrebird mimicking sounds of an electronic shooting game, workmen and chainsaws was added to the National Film and Sound Archive's Sounds of Australia registry in 2013.

One researcher, Sydney Curtis, has recorded flute-like lyrebird calls in the vicinity of the New England National Park. Similarly, in 1969, a park ranger, Neville Fenton, recorded a lyrebird song which resembled flute sounds in the New England National Park. After much detective work by Fenton, it was discovered that in the 1930s, a flute player living on a farm adjoining the park used to play tunes near his pet lyrebird. The lyrebird adopted the tunes into his repertoire, and retained them after release into the park. Neville Fenton forwarded a tape of his recording to Norman Robinson. Because a lyrebird is able to carry two tunes at the same time, Robinson filtered out one of the tunes and put it on the phonograph for the purposes of analysis. The song represents a modified version of two popular tunes in the 1930s: "The Keel Row" and "Mosquito's Dance". Musicologist David Rothenberg has endorsed this information.

7. Explain the following:

a. Which is Australia's largest bird of prey and what is its wingspan? Can you name another bird with the same wingspan?

Wedge-tailed Eagles use the updrafts of thermals or hillslopes to rise effortlessly rarely needing to flap their huge wings. They soar very high in great circles. Wingspan typically is between 182 and 232 cm (6 ft 0 in and 7 ft 7 in) with the verified record being 284 cm (9 ft 4 in). This is similar to the bald eagle.

b. What is different about the vision of birds of prey compared to other birds?

The Wedge-tailed Eagle have sophisticated binocular vision which enables them to accurately assess distances and pinpoint their prey. Their eyes also are equipped with bony rings which can squeeze and elongate the eyeball. This has the same effect as a telephoto lens on a camera. It enlarges the image seen by the bird. This is very unusual.

c. What is the fastest bird of prey? At what speed is it known to fly (dive)?

According to this list, the fastest bird of prey is the Peregrine Falcon with a maxium dive speed of 389 km/h or 242 mph! Now that is fast!

d. Name another bird, which is not a bird of prey, known for its fast flying.

The Grey-headed albatross is a very fast sea bird found in the Southern Ocean.

8. Which swan is native (not introduced) to Australia?

The Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) is the only swan endemic to Australia.

Cygnus atratus 3591.jpg BlackSwan 4311.jpg Cygnus atratus 8368.jpg

9. Where do the following birds get their name:

a. The Wattle bird?

Wattlebirds are honeyeaters characterized by their wattles, bare fleshy appendages, usually wrinkled and often brightly coloured, hanging from the cheeks, neck or throat, and presumably serving for display. The exception is the Little Wattlebird, which lacks wattles. A few other types of birds also have wattles, turkeys being the most well known example.

Below, on the left, is the Red Wattlebird (Anthochaera carunculata), with very visible red wattles. On the right is the Little Wattlebird (Anthochaera chrysoptera), which, as noted above, lacks wattles. Other wattlebirds include the Yellow Wattlebird and the Western Wattlebird.

Anthochaera caruncaluta 3185.jpg Anthochaera chrysoptera 8415.jpg

b. The Catbird?

The Catbird had a cat like cry.

c. The Butcher bird?

The butcher birds are insect eaters for the most part, but will also feed on small lizards and other vertebrates. They get their name from their habit of impaling captured prey on a thorn, tree fork, or crevice. This "larder" is used to support the victim while it is being eaten, to store prey for later consumption, or to attract mates. The shrikes are sometimes called butcher birds as well and exhibit similar behaviour.

So the name comes from the fact they essentially butcher their meals.

d. The Whip bird?

The bird has a long drawn out call - a long note, followed by a "whip crack" (which is the source of the common name) and some follow on notes - is one of the most distinctive sounds of the Australian bush. The call is usually a duet between the male and female, the male producing the long note and whip crack and female the following notes. Calls are most frequent in the early morning, though do occur through the day with small peaks at noon and sunset. Though male calls are consistent across the species range, a high degree of variation in female calls has been reported.

A sound file is available here [2]

The Eastern Whipbird (Psophodes olivaceus)

Psophodes olivaceus 8034.jpg Psophodes olivaceus 8060.jpg

10. The Greater Frigate Bird (male) has a throat pouch. What colour is it and what is it used for?

Male greater frigate bird displaying.jpg Both sexes have a patch of red skin at the throat that is the gular sac; in male great frigatebirds this is inflated in order to attract a mate. Groups of males sit in bushes and trees and force air into their sac, causing it to inflate over a period of 20 minutes into a startling red balloon. As females fly overhead the males waggle their heads from side to side, shake their wings and call.

11. Which bird is known as a "Christbird" and why?

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The Jacana is known for walking on water (lilypads and other vegetation actually).

12. Name the birds used in Australian emblems.

AustraliaSeal 8075 W.jpg

Area Coat of Arms Birds Official Bird
National Emu support, with Piping Shrike and Black Swan on shield Emu
New South Wales No birds Kookaburra
Victoria No birds Helmeted Honeyeater
Queensland Brolga Brolga
Western Australia Black Swan Black Swan
Tasmania none none
Australia Capital Territory Australian black swan, representing Aborigines, and European white mute swan, representing white settlers. Gang-gang Cockatoo
Northern Territory Wedge-tailed Eagle Wedge-tailed Eagle

More information about the Australian state flags and emblems can be found here. [3]

13. Which bird is famous for its dances?

Brolga-1-Healesville,-Vic,-3.1.2008 edit.jpg
Brolga (Grus rubicunda), formerly known as the native companion, also called the Australian crane. It is the official bird emblem of the state of Queensland.

Brolgas are well known for their ritualised, intricate mating dances. The performance begins with a bird picking up some grass and tossing it into the air before catching it in its bill. The bird then jumps a metre (yard) into the air with outstretched wings and continues by stretching its neck, bowing, strutting around, calling and bobbing its head up and down. Sometimes just one brolga dances for its mate; often they dance in pairs; and sometimes a whole group of about a dozen dance together, lining up roughly opposite each other before they start.

14. Besides sitting on their eggs or building a mound, there is one other method by which birds incubate their eggs. What is this method called and name one bird which uses this method.

Brood parasites lay their eggs other bird's nest. Most species of Cuckoo's get other birds to do the incubation for them.

15. How is the cormorant able to dive for food?

All 40 species around the world are fish-eaters, dining on small eels, fish, and even water snakes. They dive from the surface, though many species make a characteristic half-jump as they dive, presumably to give themselves a more streamlined entry into the water.

Under water they propel themselves with their feet, though some also propel themselves with their wings. Some cormorant species have been tracked diving to depths of as much as 45 metres.

Cormorants have less preening oil than many other waterbirds, so their feathers can become waterlogged. They are often seen drying their feathers with wings outspread after several dives.

Below are two of Australia's cormorants, the Little Pied Cormorant on the left, and the Little Black Cormorant on the right.

LittlePiedCormorant 4918.jpg LittleBlackCormorant 4919.jpg

16. Australia has a wide variety of native finches. Name 5 including at least one from your state. Describe your favourite and describe where you would go to look for it.

This website has a good list to work with in answering this requirement. http://ozanimals.com/wildlife/Bird/Finches.html

Another list is available here [4] Australian finches are commony kept and bred as pets.

To determine where you would look for your favourite consider the geographic area and type of habitat they prefer.

Red-Browed Finch

Neochmia temporalis 8044.jpg