Fleeting sightings of several bird species thought to have been extinct or expected to vanish from the earth within the next few months have excited ornithologists across the nation.
South of Perth, in heavily timbered country on the main road to Margaret River, birdwatchers are fairly confident they’ve sighted the screeching big-clawed butt-ugly chicken hawk, scientific name Senatorius michaelia cashei (main picture from archives).
“Its screech was deafening and as for looks, it’s probably the ugliest bird of prey I’ve ever seen when it gets roused, what with its strange hairlike tuff above an ugly, bald face and nasty beak,” said one of the WA twitchers, Robert Stroud.
“I grabbed for my camera as the specimen bared its raptor-like talons as it flew past and sought protection behind a stand of white-board Eucalyptus native only to this area.
“Last week, and much further east of here, I saw what I believe to be the Christofferi pyneus, which most people may know by its common name, the mincing poodle bird (pictured).
“It’s got a liberal covering of blue feathers but like many species in the genus Moderatus adelaidii it is prone to being successfully attacked by bigger, louder, and more predatory birds.”
On Sydney Harbour, ornithologist Bert Mannoff said he was fairly confident he had captured images of the silvertailed preening toff – Malcolmerius turnbullus tophateii (pictured) – closely related to the peacock but also thought to have been extinct or at the very least on the critically endangered species list.
“To the untrained eye the silvertailed preening toff is often mistaken for the suntanned peacock, scientific name Andrewanker playboyus, which died out around the early 1990s,” Mr Mannoff said.
“Both species shared the ability to appear showy and imposing with their colourful feathering and throaty and mellifluous calls, while in reality being essentially weak birds with no stomach for a fight which is why they were always destined for extinction.”
Meanwhile in Canberra, dedicated birdwatcher Al Catraz claims to have sighted and photographed a pair of so-called counting birds (pictured), scientific name Spillius numberus.
“These birds form pairs with one free to strut around and put themselves forward as flock leader while the other is essentially confined to counting eggs in the nest,” Mr Catraz explained.
“The one that does the counting of the eggs before they hatch informs the other dominant bird of the total number by scratching on the ground.
“In the pair I photographed the counting bird (at right in the photograph) scratched 48 times although I could see far fewer eggs than that.”
Mr Catraz also captured on camera a flock of Conservatii rumpus (pictured).
“These birds, whose common name is right wingers, are unique because they use only their right wing no matter what the circumstances,” Mr Catraz said.
“Their left wing is totally immobile. They also have the ability to puff themselves up and pool their calls to give the impression that there are many more of them than there are in reality.
“Some believe they are related to lyre birds and others believe they face extinction as their habitat changes but they make no changes in their own behaviour to address it.
“They are known to live among closely related bird species but have a habit of shitting all over the others.”
All three twitchers are awaiting verification of their sightings from the National Bird Recognition Authority in Canberra.