We’ve all been a little cooped up of late. Lucky for me I live in this amazingly beautiful place called the Blue Mountains and I am fortunate enough to have a little space of tranquility in my backyard complete with some native Australian birds! In this time of not being able to get out and about socialising like I usually would, my camera has kept me sane.
I started putting seeds out for the Blue Mountains birds during the unprecedented catastrophic fire season of the 2019-2020 summer. The volume of bushland burned and burning created a shortage of food supply for the local fauna. While I’ve never particularly thought of myself as a bird person, I quickly became fascinated by watching them, and photographing them. And I’m happy to have any excuse to share my photos!
So when you pay a visit to the Blue Mountains, keep an eye out and you might be lucky enough to see some of these colourful characters!
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Birds you may see on your Blue Mountains trip
There’s no mistaking this species of Australian native parrot which is common along the east side of Australia.
I have a soft spot for these bright birds, despite the slightly evil appearance cast by their red eyes. I have a memories of family holidays to Queensland as a child where the birds are so familiar with tourists they land all over your head and arms. I am sure there is a photo of this somewhere. They are usually in pairs and very vocal, almost constantly chattering away at each other. This pair visit me for seed on most days, and had clearly claimed my backyard as their own territory given how promptly they saw off other pairs that ventured down, but recently I’ve had as many as sixteen. I’ve no idea how to tell them apart as there are no characteristics by which to separate the males and females, but I have named them Harry and Sally – if you were a teenager or adult in the 90’s you should get the pop culture reference!
They make me giggle to watch them moving around on the ground, there is something about their body that looks slightly off balance like they are missing tiny front legs like a T-rex! They also tend to jump rather than move their legs individually.
I’ve been lucky enough to catch them hanging out preening each other in the native bottlebrush tree in my yard, which is super cute!
And one more, just because I love the detail in this photo and they are such photogenic little birds!
Australian King Parrot
Now these guys are my favourite! They don’t visit me as often as I would like, usually because I am inundated with Cockatoos and the King Parrots don’t seem to fancy them much, whereas the Lorikeets don’t care.
Larger than the Lorikeets, they are also found on the eastern side of Australia. They have also become the most comfortable with me.
One day when I was outside hanging up my washing a male flew to the nearby Frangipani and sat watching me. I thought it might be worth a go, so I put some seed in my hand and held it up to him and was delighted when he ate from my hand. After a while I sat by my pond, still holding out the seed. He flew to several spots around me and chirped down at me, never taking his eyes off me. And then he flew down to land on my hand. It was so unexpected that I didn’t even have my phone on me!
The next time it happened I had a whole group of them in the tree, and the Cockies were eating the seed from the ground. So I tried it again.
The females are the boldest, and several of them flew down with little hesitation and rotated while the others watched from the patio roof nearby. One or two females appeared dominant and would send the others off to hog their time with the seed in my palm. At one point I had both a male and female on my arm and hand.
The adult males have a distinctive red head, while the juvenile males and females heads are green. It can be difficult to distinguish between the females and the juvenile males given their similar colouring, however the beak of a female is dark and the iris of the males eye is yellow.
Recently I was outside when one of the females landed nearby, so I turned around to head inside for seed. The instant she saw this she flew to the roof near the step where I always sit to feed them and waited. She flew down to me the instant the seed was in my hand. She remembered! She even followed me into the backyard later, and hopped onto my finger from her branch when I held it up. She lost interest pretty quick when there was no food involved though!
Though you can’t really do much about telling them apart I am pretty sure she visited with another female a few days later, and when I went inside they flew to the chair near my kitchen window where they could wait and watch me coming. They are clever birds!
While they initially visited me in a small group, I now more frequently see them solo, or two females rather than as a pair. The little girl above has been visiting solo for a few days. You would think the reddish tinge to the chest feathers would indicate her as a juvenile male, however she is missing the orange beak and yellow iris of the males, evident in the juvenile male pictured below.
Between the Lorikeets and King Parrots in size, the Rosella’s tend to be a little more timid than their fellow parrots, and while I saw plenty when I first started putting seed out, once the Cockatoos discovered it they haven’t visited as often. Frequently when they do it is on the tail of the King Parrots, which they commonly socialise with.
You would need to get up close to tell the difference between the males and females, the males being larger in size and having a bigger beak. Juveniles however, are quite easily distinguished by the olive green coloured feathers. They will grow into their vivid crimson feathers. I managed to catch this one in the background of another shot.
These bright birds don’t get along much with the Lorikeets, and I’ve never seen them around with the Cockatoos either. They are found on the eastern side of Australian and down into Tasmania.
I recently saw an Eastern Rosella, unusual enough that I had to look it up! I’m on a mission to capture one next!
The distinctive screech of the Sulfur-crested Cockatoo resounds through Australian bushland and suburbia alike. You can’t miss them, they are noisy, and they are massive.
Despite being a royal pain in the proverbial, I can’t help but really like these birds, also a species of Australian Parrot. They are incredibly clever and do the heck as they please. If a bird could flip you the bird, you can guarantee it would be a Cockatoo!
They are also incredibly destructive. Have you seen the video of one ripping down the bird spikes installed on a mountains building? Check it out.
See, they are bloody clever and ever so cheeky! I used to sit outside with my coffee at a mates in the mornings and a Cockatoo would perch on a branch nearby and tear off pieces of the branch and throw them down at me while staring right at me. I swear it was the same bird every time. These guys strut around on the ground like a high school jock with his chest puffed out, confident of the dominance that comes with their size. They can live upwards of 20 years in the wild and apparently the mature females eyes are brown coloured rather than black, though I think you’d have to get pretty up close and personal to see it!
I wish I got less of these to be honest, I’ve been trying to put the seed out at different times to discourage them but they seem to have a radar for it. There can be no sign or sound of a single one and within moments of me throwing out seed the whole flock has arrived. While I don’t dislike them, they deter the other bird species, such as the Kings, from coming down. I am not game to attempt feeding them by hand, although my dad has. I don’t want to be on the receiving end of a nip from those beaks!
If you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of their cousins, the Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo. In my life I have only ever seen them in the distance but hear their calls far more often. Their cries hold a place in Australian folklore as heralding the coming of rain.
Warning: Parrots in the Blue Mountains have recently been found to have Parrot Fever or Psittacosis, caused by a bacterium which can cause serious illness in humans. Wild parrots should not be handled and care should be taken when exposed to bird droppings.
Another bird with a firm place in Australian folklore, the Magpie is the reason that you may see people walking around shielding their heads or riding with cable ties sticking out from their bicycle helmets during the Spring.
The male is notorious for swooping passersby to protect the area in the vicinity of their nests. It’s only happened to me once, walking across my university campus. I didn’t take that shortcut again.
This juvenile visited a couple of times with mum (or dad), and solo on the day I took these shots. As it ages the mottled feathers on the chest will change to match the black of the wings. I think this may be a female, given the grey feathers at the base of the back of the head evident in the photo above. These feathers are pure white on the male.
Australian Magpies are known for their intelligence, and ability to recognise faces. They are more interested in a tidbit of mince meat than seed and once they know you are friendly they will remember you. I can vouch that feeding them a bit of meat encourages them to not swoop you. I now have a nesting pair in my neighbors yard that come down every morning to take food from me, and tap on my back door when they want attention. They’ll even sing at me! The male is undoubtedly the king of the yard, he’ll even swoop the Cockatoos. Finally I have something that deters the Cockies!
They are also curious and bold. This one had no reservations strolling right up for a closer look, I was worried about my lens getting pecked!
I have to say I was pretty chuffed it wasn’t afraid to come check me out for a closer look! I’d love to know if this is the same bird now nesting nearby. If it is, this is how she looks as an adult.
And here is the adult male, you can see why they look pretty scary!
Magpies are common throughout Australia and if you have spent any time near bushland you will definitely have heard their distinctive and beautiful song.
Next to the Cockatoos, these guys are my most regular visitor, and until recently I didn’t even know what they were!
The Common Bronzewing is a variety of native pigeon, so named for the colours on their wings that flash brightly in the sunlight. A number of them have clearly decided to call my backyard home, at any time of day I can poke my head out the door and there will be several pecking around for food or sitting in the sun. I started with three, and have had as many as eight. There does seem to be more males than females though, so perhaps my yard is the local bachelor pad!
The males are identifiable by the brown forehead. One particular male is larger than the others, and has clearly appointed himself boss of the property given how often he is chasing the others away from where he is eating. The Bronzewings will stay out of the Cockies reach, but they don’t much mind eating at the same time.
The Bronzewings are pretty at home on the ground, but are timid and will take flight quickly when spooked. They will stay close to water, of which I have a few sources in my yard.
As long as it has access to water, the Bronzewing can live in most habitats.
These guys aren’t a regular, but do pay me the occasional visit. They don’t mind hanging out with the Bronzewings and are similar in having a number of colours in their wing feathers. However they are grey in colour and have a black crest on their head. They are one of only two Australian pigeon’s that have an erect crest. They are found throughout Australia and it is almost impossible to distinguish the males from females.
Not to be confused with the introduced Indian Minor, the Noisy Minor is an Australian Native.
I was woken by the doorbell one Saturday morning, on what had already been a rather strange weekend. When I opened the door a woman I didn’t know was standing there. She explained she was a Wires carer and a few days prior someone had found two baby birds in their nest in the middle of the road, obviously blown out of a tree. I had actually seen the post on Facebook but not realised it was my street. Since my house was the nearest to where they had been found she wanted my permission to put the cage with the surviving baby bird on my lawn to see if the family would accept it back.
We watched from a safe distance across the road as the adult Minor’s ventured closer and closer to the cage, landing on it to chirp at the chick inside. We continued to watch as she took it out of the cage and put it in the lavender bush nearby. If the adults didn’t feed the chick, it wouldn’t survive and she would have to take it with her.
The adults flew in and out of the bush, and eventually we were able to catch a glimpse of the adults feeding the chick. That day piqued my interest in birds, as I found myself watching the adults interact with the chick throughout the rest of the weekend. I’m sure I saw it a few times after that day, but I couldn’t tell the difference anymore, though I am sure the family that frolics in the trees in my backyard is the same one. These days they flit around so fast I can’t get a good photo!
The Noisy Minor is a member of the honeyeater family found in eastern and south-eastern Australia. As the name suggests it makes quite a racket!
Another Australian icon, the Kookaburra is a noisy member of the Kingfisher family. Given I have a fish pond in my backyard, that explains their occasional visits!
They are distinct from the larger Laughing Kookaburra, whose laugh is a definitive soundtrack to the Australian bush.
The males of the species have a blue tail to match their wings. This one is a female.
And they do sit in Gum trees, just like the song!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into my backyard!
The majority of my photos were taken with an old Olympus Em10 Mark I which is a fabulously compact interchangeable lens camera. Check it out at Camera House if you’re in Australia, or Amazon for US/UK readers.
Where to stay in the Blue Mountains
Check out the Airbnb’s on offer below.
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