When it comes to bird photography, a visit to Taronga Zoo feels very much like cheating. On a stroll through any of their aviaries, so many birds are so close and so conspicuous that it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. That said, the environments that Taronga provides are so close to natural that all the photographic challenges of lush foliage and deep shade still remain.
In the Palm Aviary we spotted Australia’s tiniest parrot, the Double-eyed Fig Parrot (Cyclopsitta diophthalma). These little guys have a stumpy tail and a disproportionately large head, giving them a cute, cartoonish look. An interesting fact about these birds is that unlike other Australian parrots that use existing tree-hollows to nest, the Double-eyed Fig Parrot will excavate its own hollow. They eat figs, berries, seeds and nectar, and also go for wood boring grubs (which we assume the guy below is doing):
An Eastern Whipbird (Psophodes olivaceus) scored a little grub or maggot:
In the Australian Rainforest Aviary, we saw Eclectus Parrots (Eclectus roratus). In Australia, they are only found in the extreme north, and their numbers are decreasing as their habitat is eroded by development. The male is the bright green one, the female crimson and blue.
A male King Parrot (Alisterus scapularis):
The Musk Lorikeet (Glossopsitta concinna):
The Noisy Pitta (Pitta versicolor) is a ground-feeding rainforest bird of the east coast of Australia, from about Newcastle all they way north to Cape Melville.
The Luzon Bleeding-heart (Gallicolumba luzonica) – sometimes called the Bleeding-Heart Pigeon, sometimes Bleeding-heart Dove – is native to the island of Luzon in the Philippines. These photos don’t do it justice: the subtle graduation of the red patch on the chest as it fades lower down the belly really does look like a spreading bloodstain. In full sun, the slate-grey upper-parts iridesce with purple and green highlights. A beautiful bird.
Another exotic pigeon: the Nicobar Pigeon (Caloenas nicobarica), mostly found in the Nicobar and Andaman Islands. It is thought to be the closest living relative to the Dodo!
Staying with the pigeons and doves, some of Australia’s beautiful rainforest doves… Firstly the Pacific Emerald Dove (Chalcophaps longirostris):
Next, the Rose-crowned Fruit Dove (Ptilinoptus regina):
And the similar Superb Fruit Dove (Ptilinoptus superbus):
An interesting fact about these Australian pigeons – and also the White-headed Pigeon (Columba leucomela) below – is that their meat was reportedly very tasty, and they were hunted to near extinction by early European settlers for food. However, all these fruit-loving birds quickly developed a taste for the Camphor Laurel (imported to Australia as an ornamental tree in 1822), which makes their meat taste terrible, thereby saving these species. A rare case of an imported plant doing some good.