Birdwatching

What birds you can expect to see in the Hay Shire

Hay Shire is located on the Riverine Plain in south-western New South Wales and includes portions of the floodplains of the Lachlan and Murrumbidgee Rivers. Contrary to popular belief the 'Hay Plain' supports a diverse range of vegetation communities and these communities contain numerous bird species.

Birds of the Saltbush & Cottonbush Shrublands
This community covers large portions of the shire to the north and south of Hay. The following bird species maybe found with the community: Emu, Stubble Quail, Blue-winged Parrot (non-breeding season, ie April-September), Orange Chat, Richard's Pipit, Brown Songlark.

Birds of the River Red Gum Forests & Woodlands
This community is predominately found along the floodplains associated with the Murrumbidgee and Lachlan Rivers. Small remnant patches of River Red Gum are found scattered across the Shire and are usually associated with old drainage lines that contain water intermittently. This community supports a diverse range of birds including: Bush Stone-curlew, Wedge-tailed Eagle, White-bellied Sea-Eagle, Whistling Kite, Yellow Rosella, Brown Treecreeper, Striated and Spotted Pardalotes, White-plumed and Brown-headed Honeyeaters, Varied Sittella, White-winged Triller and Rufous Songlark.


Yellow Rosella

Birds of the Black Box Woodlands
This community is found on the higher portions of the floodplain, along drainage lines and within wetlands on the plain that only fill following above average rainfall. When these systems fill with water then they may also support large numbers of water birds. Bird species found within this community include: Australian Hobby, Brown Falcon, Peaceful Dove, Australian Ringneck, Red-rumped Parrot, Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo, Superb, Variegated and White-winged Fairy-wrens, Western Gerygone, Southern Whiteface, Red-capped Robin, and Pied Butcherbird . Waterbirds may include: Pacific Black Duck, Grey Teal, Australasian Shoveler, White-faced Heron and Black-tailed Native-hen.

Birds of the Boree and Cypress Pine Woodlands
Boree woodlands are restricted to remnant stands in the south–eastern portion of the shire while Cypress Pine woodlands are restricted to sandy rises scattered across the plains. Many of the species found in the other woodland communities may also be found in this community. Additional species may include: Nankeen Kestral, Crested Pigeon, Blue Bonnet, Chestnut-rumped and yellow-rumped Thornbills, Yellow-throated Miner, Ground Cuckoo-shrike, Black-faced Woodswallow and Little Raven.

Birds of the Wetlands
A wide range of wetland types are found within the Hay Shire, including Lignum and River Red Gum wetlands of the Lowbidgee and Reed dominated wetlands within the Great Cumbung Swamp on the Lachlan River. These wetlands support some of the largest breeding colonies of waterbirds within New South Wales. Species recorded within wetlands in the Hay Shire include: Freckled Duck, Blue-billed Duck, Pink-eared Duck, Australasian Bittern, Buff-banded Rail, Spotless Crake, Painted Snipe, Black-winged Stilt, Red-necked Avocet Whiskered and Gull-billed Terns and colonies of Great and Intermediate Egrets, Little Pied Cormorants, Nankeen Night Heron, Straw-necked and Glossy Ibis, Yellow-billed and Royal Spoonbills.

Rick Webster
Environmental Consultant

Spot a wedgie Australia's largest living bird of prey


Aquila audax - Wedge-Tailed Eagle

The Wedge-tailed Eagle is Australia's largest living bird of prey and one of the largest eagles in the world. The Hay plains is an ideal habit for this bird and they can often be seen by the roadside feeding on road kill or resting on a fence post. During drier periods they frequent the roadside, feeding off dead carrion, especially when other food is hard to find. Similar to other large birds they are quite slow in their take –off, so allow these birds more time if you sight them on the road, while driving.

The Cobb highway particularly between Hay & Deniliquin or Hay & Booligal are where you are most likely to sight an eagle. As you drive further north on the Cobb Highway the chances of you sighting an eagle increase dramatically.

FACTS

Wingspan: It reaches 0.85-1.05m in length and has a wingspan of 2.3m.

Size: Females are larger than males, averaging 4.2kg in weight and occasionally reaching 5.3kg. Males usually weigh about 3.2kg but may reach 4.0kg.

Young: Wedge-tailed Eagles are mid-brown in colour with reddish-brown heads and wings. They become progressively blacker for at least the first ten years of their lives.

Features: Adults are mostly dark blackish-brown. Adult females are generally slightly paler than their mates. There are no other plumage differences between the sexes. The bill is pale pink to cream, the iris brown to dark brown, and the feet off-white. The Wedge-tailed Eagle has long wings, a characteristic long, wedge-shaped tail, and legs that are feathered all the way to the base of the toes.

Food & feeding: Wedge-tailed Eagles eat both live prey and carrion. Their diet reflects the available prey, but the most important live items are rabbits and hares. Rabbits usually make up about 30-70% of the diet, but may be up to 92%. Other food items include lizards, birds (weighing over 100g) and mammals (usually weighing over 500g). Wedge-tailed Eagles will kill lambs, but these make up only a small percentage of their total prey. Carrion is a major food source. Road kills and other carcasses are readily eaten.

Breeding: Wedge-tailed Eagles are monogamous and apparently mate for life. If one bird of a pair is killed, the survivor will find a new mate. Established breeding pairs are territorial and live in the one area throughout the year, defending the area around their nest sites from other Wedge-tailed Eagles. (They are also known on occasion to attack intruding model airplanes, hang gliders, gliders, fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters). Breeding takes place between April and September, with most of it occurring in July.

Both parents share in the duties of nest building, incubation and feeding of the young. A clutch consists of one to three, usually two, 73 x 59 mm white eggs with varying amounts of reddish brown spots and blotches. Habitat: Eagles can be seen perched on trees or poles or soaring overhead to altitudes of up to 2000m. Wedge-tailed Eagles build their nest in a prominent location with a good view of the surrounding countryside

For further information visit www.austmus.gov.au/birds/factsheets/wedgetail

REFRENCES
Cupper, J. and Cupper, L. 1981. Hawks in Focus. Jaclin, Mildura.
Hollands, D. 1984. Eagles, Hawks and Falcons of Australia. Nelson, Melbourne.
Marchant, S. and Higgins, P.J. (editors). 1993. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Vol 2. Oxford University Press, Sydney.
Olsen, P., Crome, F. and Olsen, J. 1993. The Birds of Prey and Ground Birds of Australia. Angus and Robertson, and the National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife, Sydney.
Walter Boles
Scientific Officer (Ornithology)