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long-tailed broadbill (Psarisomus dalhousiae)

long-tailed broadbill (Psarisomus dalhousiae)

The long-tailed broadbill (Psarisomus dalhousiae) is a species of broadbill that is found in the Himalayas, extending east through Northeastern India to Southeast Asia. It is the only bird in the genus Psarisomus. The long-tailed broadbill is about 25 cm (10 inches) in length and weighs between 50 and 60 grams. It can be identified by its shrill call.

The long-tailed broadbill is a forest bird that lives on insects. It is very sociable and normally travels in large, noisy parties except during the mating season. It builds a pear-shaped nest in a tree. The female usually lays between 5 and 6 eggs that are incubated by both sexes; both sexes also help to feed the young.

The scientific name commemorates Christina Broun, Countess of Dalhousie (1786–1839), wife of George Ramsay, 9th Earl of Dalhousie.

knob-billed duck (Sarkidiornis melanotos)

knob-billed duck (Sarkidiornis melanotos)

The knob-billed duck (Sarkidiornis melanotos), or comb duck, is an unusual, pan-tropical duck, found in tropical wetlands in sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar and south Asia from Pakistan to Laos and extreme southern China. It also occurs in continental South America south to the Paraguay River region in eastern Paraguay, southeastern Brazil and the extreme northeast of Argentina, and as a vagrant on Trinidad.

It is the only known species of the genus Sarkidiornis. The supposed extinct “Mauritian comb duck” is based on misidentified remains of the Mauritian shelduck (Alopochen mauritianus); this was realized as early as 1897, but themistaken identity can still occasionally be found in recent sources.

This common species is unmistakable. It is one of the largest species of duck. Length can range from 56 to 76 cm (22 to 30 in), wingspan ranges from 116 to 145 cm (46 to 57 in) and weight from 1.03 to 2.9 kg (2.3 to 6.4 lb). Adults have a white head freckled with dark spots, and a pure white neck and underparts. The upperparts are glossy blue-black upperparts, with bluish and greenish iridescence especially prominent on the secondaries (lower arm feathers). The male is much larger than the female, and has a large black knob on the bill. Young birds are dull buff below and on the face and neck, with dull brown upperparts, top of the head and eyestripe.

Immature knob-billed ducks look like a large greyish female of the cotton pygmy goose (Nettapus coromandelicus) and may be difficult to tell apart if no other birds are around to compare size and hue. If seen at a distance, they can also be mistaken for a fulvous whistling-duck (Dendrocygna bicolor) or a female maned duck (Chenonetta jubata). The former is more vividly colored, with yellowish and reddish brown hues; the latter has a largely dark brown head with white stripes above and below the eye. However, knob-billed ducks in immature plumage are rarely seen without adults nearby and thus they are usually easily identified too.

The knob-billed duck is silent except for a low croak when flushed.

There are two easily distinguished subspecies., in fact, some taxonomists consider them to be distinct species:

Knob-billed duck (Sarkidiornis melanotos melanotos) (Pennant, 1769) (also called nakta in South Asia[9]) or Old World knob-billed duck (Sarkidiornis melanotos melanotos) from the Old World
Larger; flanks lighter (light grey, in females sometimes whitish)
Comb duck (Sarkidiornis melanotos sylvicola) (Ihering & Ihering, 1907) from South America
Smaller; flanks darker (black in males, medium grey in females).
Uncertainty surrounds the correct systematic placement of this species. Initially, it was placed in the dabbling duck subfamily Anatinae. Later, it was assigned to the “perching ducks”, a paraphyletic assemblage of waterfowl most of which are intermediate between dabbling ducks and shelducks. As the “perching ducks” were split up, the knob-billed duck was moved to the Tadorninae or shelduck subfamily. In addition, Some taxonomists separate the two subspecies into distinct species.
Analysis of mtDNA sequences of the cytochrome b and NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 genes, however, suggests that it is a quite basal member of the Anatidae, vindicating the earliest placement. But its closest living relatives cannot be resolved to satisfaction without further study.

It breeds in still freshwater swamps and lakes in the tropics. It is largely resident, apart from dispersion in the wet season.

This duck feeds on vegetation by grazing or dabbling and to a lesser extent on small fish, invertebrates, and seeds. It can become a problem to rice farmers. Knob-billed ducks often perch in trees. They are typically seen in flocks, small in the wet season, up to 100 in the dry season. Sometimes they separate according to sex.

The knob-billed duck is declining in numbers locally, but due to its wide range it is not considered globally threatened by the IUCN. It is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds applies.

African birds breed during and after the rainy season and may not breed if the rain is scanty. Knob-billed ducks nest mainly in tree holes, also in tall grass. They line their nests with reeds, grass, or feathers, but not down.

Males may have two mates at once or up to five in succession. They defend the females and young but not the nest sites. Unmated males perch in trees and wait for opportunities to mate.

Females lay 7 to 15 yellowish-white eggs. Several females may lay in a single “dump nest” containing up to 50 eggs.

Red-shouldered Macaw (Diopsittaca nobilis)

Red-shouldered Macaw (Diopsittaca nobilis)

The Red-shouldered Macaw (Diopsittaca nobilis) is a small green South American parrot, a member of a large group of Neotropical parrots called Macaws. The species is named for the red coverts on its wings. It is the smallest macaw, being 30–35 cm (12–14 in) in length. It is native to the tropical lowlands, savannah, and swamplands[3] of Venezuela, the Guianas, Bolivia, Brazil, and far south-eastern Peru. It has two distinct subspecies, the Noble Macawand the Hahn’s Macaw, and a possible poorly distinct third subspecies that has longer wings, but is otherwise similar to the Noble Macaw. Red-shouldered Macaws are frequently bred in captivity for the pet trade, where they are sometimes described as mini-macaws.

Though wild populations of Red-shouldered Macaws have declined locally due to habitat loss, they are listed as Least Concern by IUCN. They are listed on Appendix II of CITES, trade restricted.

The Red-shouldered Macaw (Diopsittaca nobilis, Linnaeus 1758) is a member of the monotypic genus Diopsittaca (Ridgway 1912), one of 6 genera of Central and South American macaws. There are two distinct subspecies, D. n. nobilis (Hahn’s Macaw) and D. n. cumanensis (Noble Macaw), and some with longer wings might represent a poorly differentiated subspecies, D. n. longipennis, which intergrades with D. n. cumanensis in central Goiás, Brazil.[4]Previously the Red-shouldered Macaw was included in the genus Ara.

The Red-shouldered Macaw, at 30 cm (12 in) long and 165 gm (5.8 oz) weight, is the smallest of all the macaws. Like all macaws, it has a long narrow tail and a large head. It has bright green feathers on the body, with dark or slate blue feathers on the head just above the beak. The wings and tail have feathers that are bright green above and olive-green below. The leading edges of the wings, especially on the underside, are red. (These red feathers appear at puberty.) Their eyes are orange, and the skin around the eyes is white without feathers, just as in the larger macaws. This bare patch of facial skin is smaller in proportion to the head than the one seen in most larger macaws. The Hahn’s Macaw and Noble Macaw can be distinguished by the Hahn’s having a black upper mandible and the Noble having a lighter, horn-colored upper mandible.

Their natural vocalizations are more akin to screeches than they are to whistles.

Red shouldered macaws are very kind natured, and have similar characteristics of a conure.

The Red-shouldered Macaw nests in a hole in a tree. There are usually three or four white eggs in a clutch. The female incubates the eggs for about 24 to 26 days, and the chicks fledge from the nest about 54 days after hatching.

Fischer’s Turaco (Tauraco fischeri)

Fischer's Turaco (Tauraco fischeri)

Fischer’s Turaco (Tauraco fischeri) is a species of bird in the Musophagidae family. Fischer’s Turaco inhabits coastal and riverine forest and woodland in Kenya, north-eastern Tanzania and southern Somalia. In Kenya and Tanzania, it is frequent to common (Fry et al. 1988, Seddon et al. 1999)in coastal forests from Boni south to Tanga, inland along the Tana River, and up to 1,500 m in the Usambara Mountains (Fry et al. 1988) where a population of over 1,000 individuals is thought to reside (L. Borghesio in litt. 2010). The subspecies T. f. zanzibaricus, endemic to Zanzibar (N. Baker in litt. 1999), was thought to number only 25-50 birds (D. A. Turner in litt. 1999), but following surveys in June-July 2001 the population has been estimated at c.1,400 individuals (Borghesio and Ndang’ang’a 2003). In Somalia, there are now probably fewer than 50 individuals left (D. A. Turner in litt. 1999), all in the lower Jubba valley, where up to 80% of the riverine forest has been cleared in less than 30 years (Madgwick 1986, Ash and Miskell 1998); there is thus little hope that the species will persist there. The total population is unknown but assumed to be 2,500-9,999 individuals. Although a limited time series of data suggests the population is Eastern Usambara is stable (L. Borghesio in litt. 2010), the population as a whole is probably declining due to trapping and the clearance of coastal forests (del Hoyo et al. 1997).

They prefer humid forests areas, their natural habitats include subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests and moist montanes, and arable land. They can be seen in dry open savanna woodlands, farms, parks and suburban gardens – often near water.

The Fischer’s Turaco has a distinctive white and black tipped red crest. The red pigmentation also appears dorsal along the nape of the neck

They have violet-blue upper parts and measures approximately 40cm in length, beak to tail, and weighs between 227g and 283g.

Its diet is mainly fruit, like wild figs, berries, flowers and buds, leaves, termites and snails.

Lewis’s Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis)

Lewis's Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis)

The Lewis’s Woodpecker (Melanerpes lewis) is a large North American species of woodpecker which was named by ornithologist Alexander Wilson for Meriwether Lewis, one of the explorers who surveyed the areas bought by theUnited States of America during the Louisiana Purchase.

One of the largest species of American woodpeckers, Lewis’s Woodpecker can be as large as 10 to 11 inches in length. It is mainly reddish-breasted, blackish-green in color with a black rump. It has a gray collar and upper breast, with a pinkish belly, and a red face. The wings are much broader than those of other woodpeckers, and it flies at a much more sluggish pace with slow, but even flaps similar to those of a crow.

Lewis’s Woodpecker is locally common, dwelling mostly in open pine woodlands, and other areas with scattered trees and snags. Unlike other American woodpeckers, it enjoys sitting in the open as opposed to sitting in heavy tree cover. It ranges mostly in the western to central United States, but can winter as far south as the US border with Mexico and summer as far north as Canada. It has been seen in 3 Midwestern states Michigan,Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Lewis’s Woodpecker engages in some rather un-woodpecker-like behavior in its gregarious feeding habits. Although it does forage for insects by boring into trees with its chisel-like bill, the bird also catches insects in the air during flight, (typical insect hawking), a habit that only a few other woodpeckers, such as the Acorn woodpecker, the Red-headed Woodpecker and the Northern flicker, engage in. Lewis’s Woodpecker also feeds on berries and nuts, and will even shell and store nuts in cracks and holes in wood to store until winter. It will also feed at flat, open bird feeders where it might act aggressively toward other birds.

Lewis’s Woodpecker nests in a cavity excavated from a dead tree branch. The nest is constructed mainly by the male. The female will lay between 5 and 9 eggs, which are plain white in coloration. Incubation is done by both sexes – the female sitting during the day and the male sitting at night – and lasts approximately 12 days, after which the young will hatch. The young leave the nest 4 to 5 weeks after hatching.

Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus)

Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus)

The Eclectus Parrot (Eclectus roratus) is a parrot native to the Solomon Islands, Sumba, New Guinea and nearby islands, northeastern Australia and the Maluku Islands (Moluccas). It is unusual in the parrot family for its extreme sexual dimorphism of the colours of the plumage; the male having a mostly bright emerald green plumage and the female a mostly bright red and purple/blue plumage. Joseph Forshaw, in his book Parrots of the World, noted that the first European ornithologists to see Eclectus Parrots thought they were of two distinct species. Large populations of this parrot remain, and they are sometimes considered pests for eating fruit off trees. Some populations restricted to relatively small islands are comparably rare. Their bright feathers are also used by native tribes people in New Guinea as decorations.

The Eclectus Parrot is unusual in the parrot family for its marked sexual dimorphism in the colours of the plumage. A stocky short-tailed parrot, it measures around 35 cm (14 in) in length. The male is mostly bright green with a yellow-tinge on the head. It has blue primaries, and red flanks and underwing coverts. Its tail is edged with a narrow band of creamy yellow, and is dark grey edged with creamy yellow underneath, and the tail feathers are green centrally and more blue as they get towards the edges. The Grand eclectus female is mostly bright red with a darker hue on the back and wings. The mantle and underwing coverts darken to a more purple in colour, and the wing is edged with a mauve-blue. The tail is edged with yellowish-orange above, and is more orange tipped with yellow underneath. The upper mandible of the adult male is orange at the base fading to a yellow towards the tip, and the lower mandible is black. The beak of the adult female is all black. Adults have yellow to orange irises and juveniles have dark brown to black irises. The upper mandible of both male and female juveniles are brown at the base fading to yellow towards the biting edges and the tip.

The above description is for the nominate race. The abdomen and nape of the females are blue in most subspecies, purple abdomen and nape in the subspecies (roratus) and lavender abdomen and nape in the (vosmaeri) subspecies from the north and central Maluku Islands, and red abdomen and nape in the subspecies from Sumba and Tanimbar Islands (cornelia and riedeli). Females of two subspecies have a wide band of yellow on the tail tip, riedeli and vosmaeri which also have yellow undertail coverts. The female vosmaeri displays the brightest red of all the subspecies, both on the head and body.

The diet of the eclectus in the wild consists of mainly fruits, wild figs, unripe nuts, flower and leaf buds, and some seeds. Two favorite fruits are the pomegranate and the papaya (pawpaw) with seeds. In captivity, they will eat most fruits including mangos, figs, guavas, bananas, any melons, stone fruits (peaches etc.), grapes, citrus fruits, pears and apples. The eclectus has an unusually long digestive tract and this is why it requires such a high fiber diet. In captivity the eclectus parrot does benefit from a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, leafy greens such as endive and dandelion, as well as a variety of seeds, including spray millet, and a few nuts such as shelled almonds and shelled walnuts.

In its natural habitat, the Eclectus nests within hollows in large, emergent rainforest trees. Suitable hollows are at a premium and the hen will vigorously defend her chosen nesting site from other females (perhaps even fighting to the death), remaining resident at ‘her tree’ for up to 11 months of the year, rarely straying from the entrance to her hollow and relying on multiple males to feed her via regurgitation. Males may travel up to 20 km to forage and up to five males will regularly provide food for each female, each competing with the others for her affections and the right to father her young. Unlike other parrot species, Eclectus parrots are polygynandrous—females may mate with multiple male suitors and males may travel from nesting site to nesting site to mate with multiple females. This unique breeding strategy may explain the pronounced sexual dimorphism of the Eclectus, as it is the female which must remain conspicuous at the entry to the nest hole, (in order to advertise her presence at her hollow to males and rival females), but well hidden when in the depths of the nest, because the red color hides her well in the darkness. The male is primarily a brilliant green color, which offers camouflage amongst the trees whilst foraging. However, the plumage of both sexes appears spectacular when viewed in the ultraviolet spectrum, an ability which predators such as hawks and owls lack.

Two white 40.0×31.0 mm (1.5×1.2 in) eggs are laid, which are incubated for 28–30 days. Young fledge at about 11 weeks of age. Although Eclectus Parrots may reach sexual maturity earlier or later, they usually reach it between 2–3 years.

Eclectus hens have a strong maternal instinct, which is displayed in captivity where they will constantly seek possible nesting spaces, climbing into cupboards, drawers and spaces beneath furniture and becoming very possessive and defensive of these locations. An unpaired hen may go on to lay infertile eggs with little encouragement in the spring. It is often possible to place abandoned eggs from other parrot species beneath a broody Eclectus hen, which she will readily accept and then happily incubate to the point of hatching and even rearing the hatched chick to the point it is removed from the nest.

Adult females with poor nest hollows often commit infanticide on the male, if they produce both a male and a female chick. Inadequate nest hollows have a habit of flooding in heavy rain, drowning the chicks or eggs inside. This reported infanticide in wild pairs may be the result of other causes, since this behavior is not observed in captive pairs where the hen selectively kills male chicks.

Azuero Parakeet (Pyrrhura picts eisenmanni)

Azuero Parakeet (Pyrrhura picts eisenmanni)

The Azuero Parakeet (Pyrrhura picts eisenmanni), subspecies of the Painted Parakeet more commonly known as the Painted Conure in aviculture, is a species of bird in the Psittacidae family, the true parrots. Its taxonomy is highly complex, and has undergone significant changes in recent years. As here defined, it is restricted to forests in northern South America (north of the Amazon River) and Panama. Some of the taxa here included in the Painted Parakeet are highly endangered.

Traditionally, the Painted Parakeet included the Santarém Parakeet (P. amazonum), Bonaparte’s Parakeet (P. lucianii) and Rose-fronted Parakeet (P. roseifrons) as subspecies. Following a review in 2002, it was recommended treating these as separate species. In 2006, a study based on mtDNA confirmed that the “traditional” Painted Parakeet was polyphyletic, as P. p. picta was closer to the taxon emma (traditionally considered a subspecies of the White-eared Parakeet, P. leucotis) than it was to amazonum and roseifrons. The taxon lucianii was not sampled, but based on plumage and biogeography it likely falls between P. amazonum and P. roseifrons. In 2002 it had also been recommended treating the Azuero Parakeet (P. eisenmanni), Sinú Parakeet (P. subandina) and Todd’s/Perijá Parakeet (P. caeruleiceps) as separate species. Of these, only eisenmanni was sampled in 2006, where it, although with low bootstrap support, was found to be relatively close to P. p. picta, and arguably should be retained as a subspecies of the Painted Parakeet. Based on plumage and biogeography, caeruleiceps and subandina are likely also part of this group. Consequently, the South American Classification Committee voted for treating these as subspecies of the Painted Parakeet.

Nevertheless, the possibility that some of the above are separate biological species cannot be discounted at present. It has been suggested that auricularis should be considered a synonym of emma, but a recent review has suggested that auricularis is valid, and consequently it has tentatively been included here. Another taxon, pantchenkoi, has often been considered a valid subspecies or rarely even a separate species, but recent opinion is that it is a synonym of caeruleiceps.

The Painted Parakeet has a total length of approximately 22 cm (8½ in). As other members of the genus Pyrrhura, it has a relatively long pointed tail and a mainly green plumage. The rump, central belly and tip to the tail aremaroon-red, and the primary-coverts and outer webs of the primaries are blue. Except for subandina and some eisenmanni, adults of all subspecies have red to the leading edge of the wing, but this is often difficult to see (especially when perched). The feathers on the chest are dark with broad whitish-grey tips, resulting in a distinctly scaled effect. Depending on subspecies, the face and cheeks are dusky-maroon to maroon-red (sometimes with a bit of blue on the lowermost part), except in subandina where the cheeks are bluish-green. The ear-coverts are whitish to yellowish-buff. They have blue to the forecrown and nape, although the extent of this varies and blue to the foreground is typically barely visible in eisenmanni. The iris is generally reported and shown as being brown or dark, but at least eisenmanni and caeruleiceps can have light cream irides.

Overall, this species remains widespread and relatively common, and consequently it is considered to be of least concern by BirdLife International and IUCN. The situation for the taxa in north-western South America (caeruleicepsand subandina) and Panama (eisenmanni) is more problematic, as all have restricted distributions within regions with extensive habitat destruction, and are also threatened by capture for the parrot trade. The taxon eisenmanni is believed to have a population of a less than 2000 individuals, but it remains locally relatively common, and a part of its range is within protected areas. Living individuals of the taxon caeruleiceps were only photographed for the first time in 2007, and the only relatively well-known population (in Norte de Santander) has been estimated to consist of at least 55 individuals. Little is known about the status of caeruleiceps elsewhere, but in 2011 two previously unknown populations, likely numbering less than 120 individuals in total, were discovered in the Cesar Department. Despite surveys specifically aimed at finding the taxon subandina, there are no recent records and it is possibly extinct.

shoebill (Balaeniceps rex)

shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) also known as whalehead or shoe-billed stork

The shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) also known as whalehead or shoe-billed stork, is a very large stork-like bird. It derives its name from its massive shoe-shaped bill. Although it has a somewhat stork-like overall form and has previously been classified in the order Ciconiiformes, its true affiliations with other living birds is ambiguous. Some authorities now reclassify it with the Pelecaniformes. The adult is mainly grey while the juveniles are browner. It lives in tropical east Africa in large swamps from Sudan to Zambia.

The shoebill was only classified in the 19th century when some skins were brought to Europe. It was not until years later that live specimens reached the scientific community. However, the bird was known to both ancient Egyptians and Arabs. Traditionally allied with the storks (Ciconiiformes), it was retained there in the Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy which lumped a massive number of unrelated taxa into their “Ciconiiformes”. More recently, the shoebill has been considered to be closer to the pelicans (based on anatomical comparisons)[3] or the herons (based on biochemical evidence; Hagey et al., 2002).[4] A recent DNA study suggests they are part of the Pelecaniformes.[5]

The dispute has turned out to be mainly one of where to draw the boundary between Ciconiiformes and Pelecaniformes, or whether to draw it at all. Since cormorants and relatives are probably not actually Pelecaniformes, a solution adopted by some modern authors is to merge the “core” Pelecaniformes with the Ciconiiformes. The shoebill and the hammerkop (Scopus umbretta) are the “missing links” that connect pelicans and storks, and including the pelican lineage in the Ciconiiformes expresses this more adequately than other treatments do.

So far, two fossil relatives of the shoebill have been described: Goliathia from the early Oligocene of Egypt and Paludavis from the Early Miocene of the same country. It has been suggested that the enigmatic African fossil bird Eremopezus was a relative too, but the evidence for that is unconfirmed. All that is known of Eremopezus is that it was a very large, probably flightless bird with a flexible foot, allowing it to handle either vegetation or prey.

The shoebill is a tall bird, with a typical height range of 110 to 140 cm (43 to 55 in) and some specimens reaching as much as 152 cm (60 in). Length from tail to beak can range from 100 to 140 cm (39 to 55 in) and wingspan is 230 to 260 cm (7 ft 7 in to 8 ft 6 in). Weight has reportedly ranged from 4 to 7 kg (8.8 to 15.4 lb).[6][7] A male will weigh on average around 5.6 kg (12 lb) and is larger than a typical female of 4.9 kg (11 lb).[8] The signature feature of the species is its huge, bulbous bill, which is straw-coloured with erratic greyish markings. The exposed culmen (or the measurement along the top of the upper mandible) is 18.8 to 24 cm (7.4 to 9.4 in).[8] The sharp edges in the mandibles help the shoebill to decapitate their prey and also to discard any vegetation after prey has been caught. As in the pelicans, the upper mandible is strongly keeled, ending in a sharp nail. The dark coloured legs are fairly long, with a tarsus length of 21.7 to 25.5 cm (8.5 to 10.0 in). The shoebill’s feet are exceptionally large, with the middle toe reaching 16.8 to 18.5 cm (6.6 to 7.3 in) in length, likely assisting the species in its ability to stand on aquatic vegetation while hunting. The neck is relatively shorter and thicker than other long-legged wading birds such as herons and cranes. The wings are broad, with a wing chord length of 58.8 to 78 cm (23.1 to 30.7 in), and well-adapted to soaring

The shoebill is distributed in freshwater swamps of central tropical Africa, from southern Sudan through parts of eastern Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and western Tanzania. The species is most numerous in the West Nile sub-region and adjacent areas of the south Sudan; it is also significant in wetlands of Uganda and western Tanzania. More isolated records have been reported of shoebills in Kenya, the Central African Republic, northern Cameroon, south-western Ethiopia, Malawi. Vagrant strays to the Okavango Basin, Botswana and the upper Congo River have also been sighted. The distribution of this species seems to largely coincide with that of papyrus and lungfish. The shoebill is non-migratory with limited seasonal movements due to habitat changes, food availability and disturbance by humans.[8]

The shoebill occurs in extensive, dense freshwater marshes. Almost all wetlands that attract the species have undisturbed Cyperus papyrus and reed beds of Phragmites and Typha. Although their distribution largely seems to correspond with the distribution of papyrus in central Africa, the species seems to avoid pure papyrus swamps and is often attracted to areas with mixed vegetation. More rarely, the species has been seen foraging in rice fields and flooded plantations.
The shoebill is noted for its slow movements and tendency to remain still for long periods, resulting in repeated descriptions of the species as “statue-like”. They are quite sensitive to human disturbance and may abandon their nests if flushed by humans. However, while foraging, if dense vegetation stands between it and humans, this wader can be fairly tame. The shoebill is attracted to poorly oxygenated waters where fish frequently surface to breathe. Exceptionally for a bird this large, the shoebill often stands and perches on floating vegetation, making them appear somewhat like a giant jacana, although the similarly-sized and occasionally sympatric Goliath heron (Ardea goliath) is also known to stand on aquatic vegetation. Shoebills typically feed in muddy waters and, being solitary birds, forage at a minimum distance of 20 m (66 ft) from one another even where relatively densely populated. This species stalks its prey patiently, in a slow and lurking fashion. While hunting, the shoebill strides very slowly and is frequently motionless. Unlike some other large waders, this species hunts entirely using vision and is not known to engage in tactile hunting. When prey is spotted, it launches a quick, violent strike. However, depending on the size of the prey, handling time after the strike can exceed 10 minutes. Around 60% of strikes are successful in yielding prey. Frequently water and vegetation is snatched up during the strike and is spilled out from the edges of the mandibles. Occasionally, the activity of hippopotamus may inadvertently benefit the shoebill, as the huge mammals occasionally force fish to the surface of the water while they are submerged.

Shoebills are largely piscivorous but are assured predators of a considerable range of wetland vertebrates. Preferred prey species have reportedly included marbled lungfish (Protopterus aethiopicus) and Senegal bichir (Polypterus senegalus) as well as various Tilapia species and catfish, the latter mainly in the genus Clarias. Other prey eaten by this species has included frogs, water snakes, Nile monitors (Varanus niloticus) and baby crocodiles. More rarely, turtles, snails, rodents and small waterfowl have reportedly been eaten. There exists a single report of shoebills feeding on lechwe (Kobus leche) calves, although this would need confirmation. Given its sharp-edged beak, huge bill and wide gape, the shoebill can hunt large prey, often targeting prey bigger than other large wading birds. Fish eaten by this species are commonly in the range of 15 to 50 cm (5.9 to 19.7 in) long and weigh around 500 g (1.1 lb), though lungfish of as much as 1 m (3.3 ft) have been attacked. Snakes preyed upon are commonly from 50 to 60 cm (20 to 24 in) long. In the Bangweulu Swamps of Zambia, the main prey items fed to young by the parents consisted of the catfish Clarias gariepinus (syn. C. mossambicus) and water snakes. In Uganda, lungfish and catfish were mainly fed to the young.

Toucan Barbet (Semnornis ramphastinus)

Toucan Barbet (Semnornis ramphastinus)

The Toucan Barbet (Semnornis ramphastinus) is a distinctive bird found in humid forests growing on the west Andean slopes in north-western Ecuador and south-western Colombia. While it remains fairly common locally, it has declined due to habitat loss and trapping for the cage-bird trade.

In the past, it has been grouped with the other barbets in the Capitonidae. However, DNA studies have confirmed that this arrangement is paraphyletic; the New World barbets are more closely related to the toucans than they are to theOld World barbets. As a result, the barbet lineages are now considered to be distinct families, and the Toucan Barbet, together with the Prong-billed Barbet, is now placed into a separate family, Semnornithidae.

The Toucan Barbet is unusual among frugivorous birds in that it breeds cooperatively, with several helpers aiding the dominant breeding pair with incubation and raising the young.

The Semnornis barbets are fairly large barbets, measuring between 18–21 cm. The Toucan-barbet is larger than the Prong-billed Barbet and considerably heavier. They possess large, swollen bills and lack strong sexual dimorphism in their plumage. The plumage of the Prong-billed Barbet is orange-brown, and that of the Toucan-barbet is more distinctively patterned with black, red, grey and gold.

The Semnornis toucan-barbets are found in the Neotropics. The Prong-billed Barbet is restricted to the humid highland forests of Costa Rica and Panama. The Toucan-barbet is found in similar habitats in the western montane forests of Ecuador and Colombia. In addition to primary forest they may occupy forest edges and secondary growth. Neither species is migratory, and young birds do not appear to disperse very far after fledging; young Toucan-barbets only disperse 0.5 km.

The Semnornithidae are highly social, and may be seen either in small groups of up to five or six individuals, or as singles. They are active during the day and are early risers. The Prong-billed Barbet sleeps in communal roosts at night in the non-breeding season. As many as 19 birds may roost together in a hole, either a modified nest or the abandoned nest of a woodpecker. During the breeding season pairs roost in their own nests.

The diet of these two species are made up of fruits and insects. The ratio of the two is more similar to the toucans than other barbets and is predominated by fruits. A 1993 of the stomach contents of these two species found that in all the stomachs checked only fruit was found. Fruits may be eaten whole, held in the foot and broken and eaten, or crushed and only the juices eaten. Insects are more common in the diet of nestlings, and compose 40% of the food brought to the nest in Toucan-barbets. Toucan-barbets may also feed their chicks small numbers of vertebrates. They have also been recorded eating flowers.

Both species of toucan-barbet are monogamous breeders. The Prong-billed Barbets defend breeding territories from all others of their species. Toucan-barbets, on the other hand, have territories but are helped in raising the young by helpers

Galah /ɡəˈlɑː/ or Rose-breasted Cockatoo, (Eolophus roseicapilla)

Galah /ɡəˈlɑː/ or Rose-breasted Cockatoo, (Eolophus roseicapilla)

The Galah /ɡəˈlɑː/, Eolophus roseicapilla, also known as the Rose-breasted Cockatoo, Galah Cockatoo, Roseate Cockatoo or Pink and Grey, is one of the most common and widespread cockatoos, and it can be found in open country in almost all parts of mainland Australia.

It is endemic on the mainland and was introduced to Tasmania, where its distinctive pink and grey plumage and its bold and loud behaviour make it a familiar sight in the bush and increasingly in urban areas. It appears to have benefited from the change in the landscape since European colonisation and may be replacing the Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo in parts of its range.

The term galah is derived from gilaa, a word found in Yuwaalaraay and neighbouring Aboriginal languages.

Galahs are about 35 cm (14 in) long and weigh 270–350 g. They have a pale grey to mid-grey back, a pale grey rump, a pink face and chest, and a light pink mobile crest. They have a bone-coloured beak and the bare skin of the eye rings is carunculated. They have grey legs. The genders appear similar, however generally adult birds differ in the colour of the irises; the male has very dark brown (almost black) irises, and the female has mid-brown or red irises. The colours of the juveniles are duller than the adults. Juveniles have greyish chests, crowns, and crests, and they have brown irises and whitish bare eye rings, which are not carunculated.

Galahs are found in all Australian states, and are absent only from the driest areas and the far north of Cape York Peninsula. It is still uncertain whether they are native to Tasmania, though they are locally common today, especially in urban areas.[4] They are common in some metropolitan areas, for example Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne, and common to abundant in open habitats which offer at least some scattered trees for shelter. The changes wrought by European settlement, a disaster for many species, have been highly beneficial for the galah because of the clearing of forests in fertile areas and the provision of stock watering points in arid zones.

Flocks of galahs will often congregate and forage on foot for food in open grassy areas.

The Galah nests in tree cavities. The eggs are white and there are usually two or five in a clutch. The eggs are incubated for about 25 days, and both the male and female share the incubation. The chicks leave the nest about 49 days after hatching.

Like most other cockatoos, Galahs create strong lifelong bonds with their partners.

Aviary-bred crosses of galahs and Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos have been bred in Sydney, with the tapered wings of the galah and the crest and colours of the Major Mitchell’s, as well as its plaintive cry. The Galah has also been shown to be capable of hybridising with the Cockatiel, producing offspring described by the media as ‘Galatiels’. Galahs are known to join flocks of Little Corellas (Cacatua sanguinea), and are known to breed with them also.

“Galah” is also derogatory Australian slang, synonymous with ‘fool’ or ‘idiot’. Because of the bird’s distinctive bright pink, it is also used for gaudy dress. A detailed, yet comedic description of the Australian slang term can be found in the standup comedy performance of Paul Hogan, titled Stand Up Hoges. Another famous user of the slang “galah” is Alf Stewart from Home and Away who is often heard saying “Flaming galah!” when he is riled by somebody. The Stella angry bird is a Galah.