Sad bird in fog


Well, probably not that sad, really. Katoomba birds are used to living in a cloud (as are Katoomba people).

They still look all damp and miserable, though, which may or may not increase the amount of seed they manage to scam from us.

Taken through a window with the C6.

Birdies in motion

Here's the cockatoo video I briefly linked to the other day. I think it's a boy; apparently the only visible difference is that females have red-brown eyes, and males have darker brown. I'll call it "he", anyway.

This clip serves as a pretty good test of the VPC-C6's exposure control. White bird against bright sky isn't as bad as black bird against bright sky, but it's not much easier.

Note also that when there's very little background noise, you can clearly hear the C6's autofocus ticking away to itself. The zoom's completely silent, though.

Crest action!

As I mentioned before, they walk like policemen with their hands behind their backs.

They're quite noisy eaters, at least when they've got seed to crunch.

Note that there's also no guarantee that a seed that makes it into the beak will subsequently go down the gullet.

I think that may be why they do this. Grab beak with foot to keep seed in place while you crack it.

They certainly don't need foot assistance to actually crack the seed; parrots in general have beak strength to spare, as many people who have stuck their finger through the wire of a cage that has a sign on it saying DO NOT STICK YOUR FINGER THROUGH THE WIRE will be able to confirm.

This is a Crimson Rosella (another male - Rosellas are easier to tell apart).

In an act of staggering audacity, this Rosella is considering eating some of the seed, too.

(The sun comes out from behind a cloud at the end of this clip, and the bright white cockatoo is gloriously overexposed. This was because I'd set the C6 to ISO 100 while fiddling with it. Setting it back to auto-ISO allowed it to compensate for the extra light.)

The cockie was nervous about me standing there, and had hopped off the table to peer at me from further away. Now he's back, engaging in more foot-assisted eating, and ignoring the Rosella completely.

When the cockie thinks he might actually miss out on some seed, though, things change.

Anybody with a bird feeder cannot escape the disappointing realities of bird behaviour. They may look all soft and colourful and pretty, but they by and large do not get on. Even within one family group, most birds seem to spend a lot of time trying to make sure other birds don't get anywhere near the food. I've watched one parrot guard food diligently for minutes on end, with the result that nobody gets to eat any - not even him.

(Or her. They all do it. And yes, maintenance of the pecking order does involve quite a lot of pecking.)

Remember, all of that tweeting and chirping actually means "This is mine! This is mine! Bugger off! Bugger off! Wanna root? Wanna root?"

After he'd finished eating, the cockatoo repaired to the trellis again, and I pestered him some more. Make funny noises at cockies and they'll usually oblige you with some neck-bending.

This was shot from maybe four feet away; he didn't let me get really close.

Seeding frenzy

Cockatoos breakfasting

No wonder the seed disappears so fast.

(There were actually seven of them hanging around, but no more than five could cram in around the seed tray.)

Kookaburra visit

The other day, for no immediately obvious reason, there was a kookaburra sitting on our railing.

Fluffed up kookaburra

(A Laughing Kookaburra, by the way, not the less common and less cuddly Blue-Winged version.)

Birds, we get plenty of. Kookas, we don't, because we don't put out the right food.

There's a house further up the street that always has a kooka or three sitting on the power lines outside. My Holmesian deductive skills lead me to believe that the people who live there feed the kookas.

That's easy enough to do; just put out bits of meat and kookaburras, who are happy to eat pretty much anything that's not a boring old plant, will gobble them up.

Kookas do not do well on a diet heavy in the steak-bits that humans like to feed them, but occasional meals of pretty much any live or dead animal go down nicely.

Kookaburra portrait

This one had decided to try our house out instead. It was a female, I think, on account of the lack of blue colouration on wings and tail.

Anyway, I first went out there to snap some shots of the bird with my old-ish 100-300mm. That wasn't as successful as I'd hoped.

Oh, I took pictures of the bird just fine. But the minimum focus distance for the 100-300 is 1.5 metres, and I had some trouble getting that far away from this kookaburra. She seemed happy enough with the lens more or less clinking up against her beak.

It wasn't really a normal bird-lens kind of situation.

So I switched to my cheap Phoenix macro.

Kookaburra eye

Yeah, that's better.

Many kookaburras have been hanging around people long enough that they'll eat out of your hand.

Kookaburra beak

It's up to you to decide whether that's a good idea.

I took a lot of pictures of this kooka, then figured I ought to say thank you with at least a bit of food. Nothing in the pantry really screamed "kookaburra food", but there was some cat food with fish chunks, which looked like a decent bet.

Kookaburra having a snack

It met with her approval.

I initially tried offering her a spoonful of it. I only just managed to get the spoon back.

Kookaburra snack

Kookaburras aren't really built to eat cat food, even the lumpy kind. So a significant amount of the fish ended up just messing up her beak. And the railing.

Kookaburra shaking head

That was because kookas instinctively beat their food on hard objects, to make sure it's dead. They do this with any food you give them, which means you'll get sprayed with tiny bits of fish if you give them cat food.

Kookas also, like other birds, have a nictitating membrane, or "third eyelid", which they deploy to protect their eyes when they're doing something dramatic, like bashing their food.

Kookaburra monster

The translucent membrane gives the bird a dead-eyed zombie look.

Cats have third eyelids too, but they at least have the decency to close their outer eyelids before they close the membrane, so you usually only see a bit of it retracting away as a sleepy cat opens its eyes. If you see a cat with its eye mostly open and the nictitating membrane clearly visible, then it is probably not a healthy cat.

The kookaburra hasn't been back for another feed. I presume whatever they're getting up the street is better.


We put out bird seed on the table on the deck at the back of our house. This has resulted in

1: Bird crap all over the deck
2: Bird seed sprouting into grass all over that area, crowding out some pot plants
3: Birds.

Decorative rosellas

Most of the birds that turn up are Crimson Rosellas, along with...

King parrot silhouette

...a selection of King-Parrots. Male King-Parrots have the reddest-looking feathers in the universe, because they've actually got a bit of Day-Glo orange mixed in there. Rosellas are brightly coloured birds, but they look downright dowdy compared with King-Parrots.

Fairly often, though, there is a great beating of small-to-medium-sized wings followed by a sound vaguely suggestive of pterodactyls. Because the Sulphur-cresteds have shown up.

Crest exercises

The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo is, like the smaller parrots, common pretty much everywhere on the populated Australian coast. They're still impressive buggers, though, with an average weight of more than 800 grams (Urban pigeon: 200 grams. Bald eagle: 4000 grams) and a tourist-startling screech (MP3) roughly as loud as a chainsaw. Fortunately, they only visit our little bird feeder in single-digit numbers, or they'd have dismantled the whole back of the house by now.

Smaller parrots (cockatoos are not technically parrots, but they're very similar) walk as if their feet are on little wheels going round and round. Sulphur-cresteds are big enough that they walk like policemen with their hands behind their backs.

It is my theory that a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo flips up its crest whenever it has a thought.

They have a lot of thoughts when they're trying to deal with the weighty issues raised by the presence of a seed bell and of a person taking dodgy photographs of them through the living room window.

Eh, eh, know what I mean, nudge, nudge?

Sometimes they remind me of Eric Idle.

When Sulphur-cresteds are a bit chilly and aren't eating, they fluff up their facial feathers and completely change their expression.

Cockies and parrots

Combine face-fluffing with the bendy stretchy crest-flicky stuff they do when they're staring down a human being, and you get endless entertainment.

Cockie stretching

Fun Fact: Commercial seed blocks for birds - and, probably, for rodents and other such creatures - are held together with ordinary PVA glue.