Yellow Tailed Black

November 18th, 2013, 5pm

Bird Watching is a lot more challenging than many people might think. Species recognition looks pretty easy when you first study the beautifully drawn or carefully photographed specimens in a good Field Book guide. But out in the woods, swamps and deserts, you must often make your ID based on a five second glimpse. You must know instantly the one (or sometimes several) distinctive features that make positive identification possible: patterns of colouration, behaviour, calls, size, shape, flight characteristics, or silhouette.

Silhouette, indeed, is one of the most helpful features to rely on. For instance, in the image above, the bird is perched at least fifty metres from the observer, which means the bird is undoubtedly very large. The distinctive shape clearly cries out: “cockatoo” and for people who know the bird well, it says black cockatoo. If your eyes are good enough to spot the yellow pattern in the tail, then you have your definite ID. Here’s another silhouette that yields its secrets even though the bird is flying nearly a kilometre away. It’s size, the distinctive shape of tail, wing, and head, and the direct, non-meandering flight path gives an instant positive ID for anyone who knows their Aireys Inlet birds, even without being able to discern colour at that distance. This flying bird is also a yellow tailed black cockatoo like the one above.

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David Wade Chambers

Born in Oklahoma: 30 years in US. 6 years in Canada, 40 years in Australia. Academic field: history and philosophy of science. Currently, teach indigenous studies online at Institute of American Indian Arts (Santa Fe, NM) and Brandon University (Manitoba). Come visit our B&B on Australia's Great Ocean Road. Mate's Rates for Hi community! (

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