BOOBOOK Ecologists, like Craig Eddie and Richard Johnson, get excited as spring approaches. Not only does this time of year bring the reptiles back out of their winter hiding places, it is also usually brings an increase in birds and their songs throughout the Roma region. Some of the birds we see in our part of Outback Queensland have flown large distances to be here. Generally these ones stay a few months before turning around and flying back to where they came from.
The Eastern Koel, commonly known as the storm-bird or cooee bird, is one of these Migratory Birds. The Channel Billed Cuckoo, also commonly referred to as storm-bird is another. Both are in the cuckoo family and usually arrive in the Roma and wider Maranoa region early September.
They both come from Southeast Asia and Papua New Guinea and land mostly along the east coast of Australia to breed, however some will come as far inland as Roma. Beyond here they generally become much less common in the Outback. These birds don’t raise their own young. Instead they lay their eggs in the nests of other birds and are quite happy to let them do all the hard work raising their chicks. The Channel-billed Cuckoo usually lay their eggs in the nests of Crows, while the Koel commonly uses Magpie-lark (Peewee) nests. Not until around March do the adults look to depart, along with the new young birds, back to their winter haunts.
Both these birds are fruit eaters. They can sometimes be seen in parks or gardens that have fruiting trees such as mulberries, figs and white cedars. They are more often heard than seen: the Koel gives a high-pitched, repeated ‘koo-ee’ often heard at night, while the bigger Channel-billed Cuckoo has a harsh, raucous ‘kork ork ork’, mostly heard in the early morning.
The Rainbow Bee Eater is another migratory bird we see in the Roma region. This bird also arrives in the Spring to breed. They nest in burrows they dig out in sandy soil. Part of this population comes from Asia and the other part comes from Northern Australia.
The Rainbow Bee Eater is an extremely colourful small bird with a long pointed beak and a finely-pointed tail. During their migratory season they are quite common within town areas and along water courses all the way down to Southern Australia. Like the two cuckoos, in the Autumn (around March or April) these birds fly north again.
Spring also brings migratory waders, such as the Sandpipers and Snipe. These birds come from the other side of the world (Siberia, China and Japan). They come south to escape the harsh northern hemisphere winter. While in Roma they feed, rather than breed and love to eat tiny insects, shrimp, worms and other aquatic life. They use this food source to build up their body weight before flying back north, where they came from, to breed.
Most of these migratory waders congregate at large wetlands, especially on coastal mudflat at places like Broome and Shoalwater Bay. However, a few sometimes find their way to the Roma and the Maranoa region in Outback Queensland, where we can see small numbers locally at water sources such as Lake Neverfill and Railway Dam in Roma and even on some farm dams.