Ornithologist NEIL HERMES writes that summer is the time of migrant birds from near and far, and the bush and lakes are full of their displays and calls. It is also nesting time for our resident birds.
THE feelings of this joyful time of year are captured by Terri Guillemets’ reference to bird-chirping weather.
So which are Canberra’s standout summer birds? I have searched through the 300 or so species of birds that are known to use Canberra as home and have reduced my summer highlights list down to three that capture summer for me.
In Canberra we have dozens of birds that nest in the high latitudes of the northern hemisphere and then migrate thousands of kilometres to Australia for our summer. These remarkable birds have two summers a year and are the ultimate summer birds.
So my first summer bird is the king of these migratory waders, the Latham’s Snipe.
The Latham’s Snipe nests in Hokkaido in Japan in the middle of the year and then searches the swampy edges of Lake Burley Griffin during the summer. Latham’s Snipe never live through a winter. Of course, there is a price. This snipe flies 8000 kilometres from Japan to Canberra every year to enjoy this unending sunshine. Remarkably, 7000 kilometres of the journey is completed nonstop in three days. Not bad for a bird weighing about as much as an apple.
My second bird of the summer is the Eastern Koel. Hated and loved, this migrant cuckoo makes its presence felt right through summer with its loud and persistent calls. We have about 10 species of cuckoos that visit Canberra forests and gardens every year. They all lay their eggs in other birds’ nests. When they arrive, and right through summer, cuckoos proclaim their territories with distinctive and often mournful songs.
Not recorded here before 1946, koels summer arrivals started in earnest in the ’80s and have increased virtually every year since. It is now the most common cuckoo in Canberra.
Koels are not so popular with many people because of their monotonous and repeated calls. The most famous call is the loud “coee”, but other calls include a rapid “weoo weoo” and loud, shrieking “kik kik”. Koels often call right through the night.
My third and last summer bird is the Eastern Rosella. With us all year, the Eastern Rosella is very familiar to many Canberrans because it nests in tree hollows in our parks and woodlands.
Some Eastern Rosellas take up residence in nest boxes we provide in our gardens. Virtually every Canberra household where records are kept have a pair of these beautiful rosellas using the garden.
Summer for me is when the parent Eastern Rosellas launch their young on their first tentative flight from the nest box in my garden.
So, while none of my top three summer birds really chirp, summer is a time of the return of birds from summers past, intense breeding activity and a new generation of young birds.
Neil Hermes has been an avid birder since childhood. He has had more than 50 years’ association with the Canberra Ornithologists Group and written more than 20 books.
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