Lord Howe Island birds (part 2)

I posted about LHI birds before, with photos taken by friends Peter and Linda on their visit last year. This time I have a few photos of my own. I’ll just cover some of the land birds this time, and go on to sea birds later.

The woodhen (Gallirallus sylvestris) has spread throughout the island, to the extent of happily hanging around the lodges. It was once so scarce, due to its eggs being eaten by rats and adults and chicks attacked by domestic cats, that a captive breeding program was put in place. There are still rats, but cats (although not dogs) are now banned and the population is relatively healthy. This pair was scrabbling around in the leaf litter under a big banyan, and walked right up to me with no concern.

Woodhens flinging leaves aside to find worms and grubs

Another bird that’s much more common than it used to be is the buff-banded rail (Gallirallus philippensis). There are two theories on how it got to the island – one that it was blown or flew there, and the other that it escaped from an aviary in the 1950s. Whatever the reason, there are a lot of them scuttling about in the settlement area. It is the same species we have at home.

Buff-banded rail; photo by Duncan Wright, Wikimedia Commons

The blackbird (Turdus merula) is also very common in the settlement and lowland forests. This bird is common in south-eastern Australia, but not in our area. I grew up with them in South Australia.

Quoth the blackbird, "Nevermore". Blackbird in Lord Howe Island cemetary

The Lord Howe white eye (Zosterops tephropleura) is very like the mainland silvereye (Zosterops lateralis). It’s a fast-moving bird, flitting from place to place after insects.

Lord Howe white eye

The Lord Howe golden whistler (Pachycephala pectoralis contempta) is evolving its way to being its own species. Like the ones at home, they have charming and loud calls. They are very common on Lord Howe.

Male Lord Howe Island golden whistler

Here’s the female, much duller …

Female Lord Howe Island golden whistler

The Lord Howe Island currawong is another former mainlander on its way to full species-dom …

Lord Howe Island currawong

Land birds we in northern New South Wales share with Lord Howe are the emerald dove (Chalcophaps indica) …

Emerald dove rustling around on the palm forest floor

the song thrush (Turdus philomelos) …

Song thrush, common on Lord Howe

the rock dove (Columba livia), which was surprisingly scarce considering the numbers they usually get to around human settlements  …

The rock dove wasn't in its usual high numbers

the magpie lark (Grallina cyanoleuca) …

Magpie lark in the lodge grounds

and the welcome swallow (Hirundo neoxena) …

Welcome swallow at Ned's Beach, Lord Howe Island

There are other birds I didn’t get to see. It’s interesting how many land birds we share with Lord Howe. Seven hundred kilometres seems a long way out in the ocean, but east coast low weather systems provide powerful winds and birds often fly a lot farther than we give them credit for to find new territories.

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4 Responses to Lord Howe Island birds (part 2)

  1. Denis Wilson says:

    I attended a lecture by a Botanist talking about speciation of Lord Howe, Norfolk and the Kermadec Islands (North from NZ’s main islands). He talked about exactly the same features as you mention. Some “mainland” species, some locals, but not a great number. But the ones there were not what one would expect, such as Fantails (lousy fliers one would think).

    • Joy Window says:

      Someone on the island said they didn’t think the rails were good enough fliers to get to Lord Howe, but they are apparently on lots of islands. Mighty winds do blow occasionally.
      Once a pair gets there and breeds, the evolutionary pressures are different (often due to lack of the predators they once had) so that their descendents can evolve enough differences from the originals to form a new species over time. A flock of a dozen or so cattle cranes in breeding plumage flew in a week before we visited. A local naturalist said lots of birds blow in, then leave or stay: “All sorts of things turn up”.

  2. Pingback: Lord Howe Island birds (part 3) | A-roving I will go

  3. Pingback: The silence in the forest | A-roving I will go

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