About 160 bird species can be found in Melton Shire, both exotic and native.
These range from the well known common garden birds to those that live in the wooded linear reserves fringing the creeks that flow through Melton, as well as the several woodland remnants around Melton. The native grassland remnants also have specific bird species of their own. Many of these birds can survive only in woodlands, so our woodland remnants must be protected of we will lose many of these endangered birds that still remain in Melton.
We are fortunate to be able to see three eagle species here. Wedge-tailed Eagles are large and unmistakable, with their wide wings and splayed out wingtips and distinctive long wedge-shaped tail. They are commonly seen soaring both above and around Melton. All three eagles species nest in Melton. Several of their huge nests can be seen in trees close to Melton. One of our most striking birds is the White-bellied Sea-eagle. These magnificent large eagles are frequently seen flying along the Werribee River as well as over Melton Reservoir. The sea-eagle is similar to the Wedge-tailed Eagle, but has striking black & white coloration, and no long wedge-shaped tail. However, when they are seen from above, instead of the dramatic black & white coloration, the back of its broad wings are a soft grey colour. This sometimes occurs when standing on the escarpment overlooking the reservoir & the sea-eagles can be seen flying low over the water, far below. The much smaller Little Eagles are also seen flying over woodlands & escarpments.
A large number of native birds lives and nest in tree hollows. The many tree hollows in our woodland remnants & along the creek reserves contrast with the lack of tree hollows in the surrounding urban and agricultural landscape, making these reserves of major importance as nesting sites. All parrots, cockatoos, owls, kookaburras & other kingfishers, as well as possums, all require hollows for either nesting or roosting. Without these nesting sites, birds such as parrots and cockatoos (and those with similar nesting requirements) will eventually decline in number and possible ultimately disappear from this region
Over sixty-five species of birds can be seen fairly regularly in and around the town of Melton.
The large proportion of gardens planted with native trees and bushes ensures a healthy population of native birds. When the vast majority of gardens consisted almost entirely on exotic plants a few decades ago, native birds were relatively uncommon. Now we have a great diversity of native birds in our gardens, due to this greater awareness of the value of native plants.
During a short walk through the streets you can see mixed flocks of galahs and corellas grazing in parks and playgrounds, several species of honeyeaters and brilliantly coloured lorikeets feeding on eucalypt flowers. Magpies can be seen feeding on lawns; cockatoos and crows fly overhead, not to mention a multitude of smaller garden birds. Surprisingly, eagles can also be seen in Melton, soaring high overhead. In warmer weather, Wedge-tail Eagles use thermals rising above the supermarket in Melton South to gain height before gliding off into the distance.
Many of the smaller birds such as blue wrens, thornbills & finches depend on low bushes (not just large trees) in which to find shelter for nesting & protection from cats. Revegetation works by Melton Shire and by various community groups have improved the habitat for small birds such as these in many areas, but more of this type of activity is needed as there are still suitable creek side reserves where these birds are absent due to the lack of such vegetation cover.
The many tree hollows along the creek reserves contrast with the lack of tree hollows in the surrounding urban and agricultural landscape, making these reserves of major importance as nesting sites. Without these nesting sites, birds such as parrots and cockatoos (and those with similar nesting requirements) will eventually decline in number and possible ultimately disappear from this region.
Honeyeaters are among the most prominent and visible birds in the garden. They are commonly seen in gardens, parks and in remnant vegetation along our creeks. These birds have become common in suburban gardens as more native trees have been planted. They are especially attracted to native plants such as eucalypts, grevilleas, bottlebrushes, banksias, eremophilas and those with similar honey-producing flowers. They are active and lively birds and their presence creates colour and movement in the garden. They are also easily attracted into gardens by the provision of water for drinking and bathing.
Melton is fortunate in having many areas of natural beauty, although these are often unnoticed or underrated. The natural vegetation that remains provides a refuge for a rich variety of native wildlife that would otherwise disappear from this region. The Melton area has a surprising amount of wildlife. Large numbers of kangaroos can be seen in the area around the forests to the north of Melton (extending from Toolern Vale to Bacchus Marsh, and also in Eynesbury Forest to the south, at Exford. Wallabies can also be seen occasionally (singly or in pairs) in the forests north of Melton, but are also sometimes seen in the narrow wooded fringes that line the local watercourses. Both kangaroos & wallabies can occasionally be seen along Toolern Creek, south of Melton. Brush-tailed Possums are common along the creeks within Melton that retain fringes of woodland remnants, especially large, old trees with hollows for nesting (especially Toolern Creek & Little Blind Creek).
The open grassy plains that surround Melton mainly consist of agricultural farmland. There are however, several surviving remnants of native grassland (although these are quite small and are rapidly being destroyed). Unfortunately, most people seem to regard native grasslands as useless and suitable for real estate only. The presence of natural grassland on properties is usually seen as a liability, (limiting land use options & sub-divisions) rather than an asset to be protected. Their continued survival prospects appear bleak.
Several patches of the original woodland also survive around Melton. These include Bush’s Paddock, Pinkerton Forest and Harkness Road/Gilgai Woodland. One of these, Eynesbury Forest, is the largest grey box woodland surviving south of the Great Dividing Range. These are also home to a considerable variety of wildlife, some of which are found only in this habitat. Many birds are restricted to a woodland habitat, and these are increasingly endangered. As these woodland remnants gradually disappear, so do the birds that depend upon them for their survival, Woodlands and grassland are the two most endangered habitats in Victoria and these survive now only in small remnants. We are fortunate in having a few of these endangered landscapes left in the Melton area, but their future survival depends upon our continued care and protection.
Melton gardens are the home for a large number of birds, both exotic and native. These range from the well known common garden birds to those that live in the woodland remnants fringing the creeks that flow through Melton. The Toolern Creek corridor ensures a healthy diversity of birdlife in Melton. The large proportion of gardens planted with native trees and bushes ensures a healthy population of native birds.
During a short walk through the streets you can see mixed flocks of galahs and corellas grazing in parks and playgrounds, several species of honeyeaters and brilliantly coloured lorikeets feeding on eucalypt flowers. Magpies can be seen feeding on lawns; cockatoos and crows fly overhead, not to mention a multitude of smaller garden birds. Surprisingly, eagles can also be seen within Melton, soaring high overhead. In warmer weather, Wedge-tail Eagles use thermals rising above the supermarket in Melton South to gain height before gliding off into the distance.
Many of the smaller birds such as blue wrens, thornbills & finches depend on low bushes (not just large trees) in which to find shelter for nesting & protection from cats. Revegetation works by Melton Shire and by various community groups have improved the habitat for small birds such as these in many areas, but more of this type of activity is needed as there are still suitable creek side reserves where these birds are absent due to the lack of such vegetation cover.
A large variety of native birds live and nest in tree hollows. The many tree hollows along the creek reserves contrast with the lack of tree hollows in the surrounding urban and agricultural landscape, making these reserves of major importance as nesting sites. Without these nesting sites, birds such as parrots and cockatoos (and those with similar nesting requirements) will eventually decline in number and possible ultimately disappear from this region.
Over sixty-five species of birds can be seen fairly regularly around Melton. There are many more that are seen less commonly or are seen in bushland habitats only. Over 120 species of birds have been observed in and around Melton, although many of these are seen but rarely, and many also are only to be seen in the bushland remnants that are scattered around Melton.
Honeyeaters are among the most prominent and visible birds in Melton gardens. They are commonly seen in gardens, parks and in remnant vegetation along our creeks.
Three species of honeyeaters are commonly seen in Melton gardens. These are commonly found in most urban areas in this region. These are the Red Wattlebird, White-plumed Honeyeater and the New Holland honeyeater. These birds have become common in suburban gardens as more native trees have been planted. They are especially attracted to native plants such as eucalypts, grevilleas, bottlebrushes, banksias, eremophilas and those with similar honey-producing flowers. They are active and lively birds and their presence creates movement in the garden. They are also easily attracted into gardens by the provision of water for drinking and bathing (preferably at least 1.6 metres from the ground to avoid cats)
The best way to attract honeyeaters to your garden is to have native plants. Even just a couple will attract some honeyeaters. Eucalypts, banksias, grevilleas, hakeas, correas & eremophilas all produce large amounts of nectar that attract honeyeaters. Other native plants will attract the insects that honeyeaters also need to as food. The more native plants there are, the more attractive the garden will be to honeyeaters. Aloes and similar plants are also attractive to these birds, as they feed from the long tubular flowers. Make sure these are out of reach of cats.
A container of water will also attract honeyeaters, especially in the hotter months. This should be out of reach of cats, as birds splashing in water often forget to be watchful for predators. Your sleepy looking cat can leap into the air up to about 1.6 metres, cart-wheeling head over heels to hook a bird in midair with a claw. They can do this from a standing start. A very impressive sight but with unfortunate consequences for the bird involved; not a good thing if we want to encourage birds to the garden. Hanging a water bowl over 1.6 metres from the ground prevents this happening. The cat will still try but will only terrify the bird with a near miss, hopefully educating it to be more wary of cats in the future.
The White-plumed Honeyeater is a small greenish-grey honeyeater, common in Melton gardens. It is one of the commonest birds in and around Melton. It is an active bird, and is very conspicuous by its fearless behavior. The white tuft on each side of the neck is a conspicuous feature. It is also common along local creeks with remnant vegetation and in local remnant woodlands.
New Holland Honeyeater
The New Holland Honeyeater is another small brightly coloured honeyeater, with bold black and white plumage, and bold yellow wing patches. A striking feature is the white tuft on either side of the neck, (hence its alternative name of Bearded Honeyeater). It is an active bird, and very conspicuous around Melton homes by its fearless behaviour and bright colours.
The Red Wattlebird is a large, conspicuous and easily recognised honeyeater, common and well known in Melton gardens. It is a large grey and white striped bird, yellow front and a conspicuous red wattle on each side of the neck. It is a noisy and fearless bird, dominating other smaller and similar sized birds. It is also common along local creeks with remnant vegetation and in local remnant woodlands. It is one of the commonest birds in and around Melton.
The Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater is rather like a smaller, drabber version of the Red Wattlebird, without the wattles on either side of the neck. It very occasionally appears in suburban gardens in Melton, (June to November) but doesn’t remain in the area for long.
The Noisy Miner is common in woodland along Toolern Creek, Hannah Watts Park and Darlingsford, also in Grey Box/Yellow Gum woodland in Harkness Road. It is an aggressive and noisy bird (hence its name). It is a light grey colour, with black face and yellow bill.
Rainbow Lorikeets are large noisy well-known lorikeets. They are distinguished from the other smaller lorikeets by their larger size, their bright blue heads, bright red beaks and reddish-yellow fronts. They have red underwings that are highly conspicuous as they fly overhead. Rainbow Lorikeets seemed to appear in Melton in early 2001. They have become regular conspicuous residents from that date, both in gardens and among large trees along local creeks within Melton, steadily increasing in number. Like all lorikeets, they are quite noisy, both in flight and while feeding. They can be attracted to return to gardens by providing fruit in a basket suspended in a tree (2 metres above ground to avoid predation by cats.)
Musk Lorikeets are conspicuous smallish green parrots that are seen feeding in Melton gardens on blossoms and fruit. They are distinguished by red on the forehead and through the eye to the ear, a blue cap and with a yellow streak above the shoulder. They do not have the conspicuous red underwings in flight, as do the Purple-crowned and the considerably larger Rainbow Lorikeets. Musk Lorikeets, along with Purple-crowned Lorikeets have been seen less often around Melton since about June 2003. They are still commonly seen around Melton, but less conspicuously so than previously, since the recent arrival of Rainbow Lorikeets. All lorikeets are quite noisy, both in flight and while feeding.
Purple-crowned Lorikeets, along with Musk Lorikeets, have been seen less often around Melton since about June 2003. They are still commonly seen around Melton, but less conspicuously so than previously, since the recent arrival of Rainbow Lorikeets. They have red underwings that are highly conspicious (like the considerably larger Rainbow Lorikeets) as they fly overhead. All lorikeets are quite noisy, both in flight and while feeding.
It is a surprise to see Scaly-breasted Lorikeets in Melton as these are birds of the tropical & sub-tropical east coast of Australia. Pairs have been seen by different people in Town Centre Park, & four birds were seen in a garden in Melton South. They are also seen feeding noisily with other lorikeets in the Yellow Gums in the back carpark at Woodgrove Shopping Centre.
They are larger than the smaller Musk & Purple-crowned Lorikeets, but smaller than the Rainbow Lorikeets (to which it is closely related). They are easily distinguishable from the larger, multi-coloured Rainbow Lorikeets. The yellow streaked breast, bright red beak & brilliant emerald green colouration are quite distinctive. The call is less harsh & loud than the raucous Rainbow Lorikeets. It is closer to the call of our ‘local’ Musk & Purple-crowned Lorikeets, although not quite as shrill. The Red Wattlebirds seem to single out the Scaly-breasted Lorikeets for attack, perhaps seeing them as soft targets due to their smaller size. The wattlebirds have leaned not to harasss the larger & more aggressive Rainbows Lorikeets.
A small well-known parrot that is often seeding in pairs or small groups of up to half a dozen, in open grassed areas, such as parks and sports fields. It has a habit of suddenly flying into the air, often only a few metres ahead of walkers, flying for a short distance then landing again, to repeat the exercise when closely approached again. The male is bright grass green, with a red rump (prominent when flying away), while the female is a dull olive green. When feeding on the ground they often make a soft warbling call.
A brilliantly coloured parrot that is possibly our most well-known parrot. It is one of our most conspicuous birds, commonly found in gardens, farmland, bushland and along creekside remnant vegetation. As well as feeding on grasses, it is also fond of visiting gardens to feed on fruit. it is also recogonised from the label on the famous ‘Rosella’ brand soups.
Swift Parrots are a threatened species that breed in Tasmania but migrate to the Australian mainland for the winter. Their survival is threatened mainly by habitat destruction. Although they are not lorikeet, they also feed on nectar.
Early in April 2007 five Swift Parrots were seen in Melton Gilgai Woodland in Harkness Road. They resembled lorikeets, although a little slimmer (rather like a Red-backed Parrot). When they flew into a tree they had a lorikeet-like appearance, with red underwings, However, they appeared a brighter shade of green (grass green rather than blue-green) like a Musk Lorikeet. They had more red on their faces, again more like a Lttle Lorikeet than a Purple-crowned Lorikeet. Their call was softer, more of a whistle than the shriek of a typical small lorikeet. Also, they had red under their tails, (quite prominent) which no other local parrot seems to have.
Later in April five Swift Parrots were seen in the Harkness Road woodland. They were feeding directly overhead in a Grey Box tree, & they were unmistakeably Swift Parrots, with bright red beneath the tails. Their tails were longer & sharper than lorikeet tails. The red on their faces did not extend to the eyes, & they also had red patches at their shoulders. Two of these had a duller shade of red under the tail (juveniles perhaps). They were very quiet, making the odd ‘budgie’ type murmuring; nothing at all like the noise created by feeding lorikeets. There were no flowers, but they were nibbling the flat surfaces of gum leaves. There was one Red-backed Parrot also in the same tree, providing a contrast with its more subtle shade of green. There were a few Musk Lorikeets feeding in a nearby tree, quite different looking birds. These were also nibbling the gum leaves. There were also many White-plumed Honeyeaters feeding in the foliage.
During a 20 minutes bird survey in May (conducted as part of an environmental studies exercise at Deakin University) four Swift Parrots were seen in Harkness Road woodland. They only stayed in the tree for a few minutes then moved on.
The White Cockatoo is a large conspicuous bird, often seen flying overhead in noisy flocks. It is often seen in pine trees feeding on pinecones. The call is a large harsh shriek
Long-billed Corellas are permanent residents in the area. They roost in trees along Djerriwarrh and Coimadai Creeks at Long Forest Road and Toolern Vale. They fly from here to feed in the surrounding countryside. They often graze in open grassland and parks, digging in the ground for tubers and Onion Weed bulbs with their inordinately long bills. They sometimes feed on pinecones within the town of Melton. They occur in small groups, often in the company of White Cockatoos and sometimes Galahs. They do not appear to associate with the large flocks of Little Corellas that have recently appeared in Melton during the colder months. Their very long bills and red “cut-throat” markings distinguish Long-billed Corellas.
Several hundred Little Corellas visited Melton as temporary visitors in the winter of 2002 feeding on cypress and pinecones. These flocks consisted of Little Corellas only (no Long-billed Corellas were among them). They roosted in tall Sugar Gum trees within Melton. Little Corellas do not appear to feed in the company of other cockatoos (as do the Long-billed Corellas). The Little Corellas returned to Melton in late March 2003, again feeding on pine and cypress cones, and walnuts. Their “normal” sized bills and the bare blue patch around each eye distinguish Little Corellas from the locally resident Long-billed Corellas.
Hybrid Corella / Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
The Galah is a common unmistakable bird, soft grey wings and back with pink front, commonly seen feeding in grassland or flying overhead in noisy flocks. The call is a shrill shriek. This is one of our most conspicuous birds around Melton.
Yellow-tailed Cockatoos are large distinctive black cockatoos (actually dark brown) with a long tail with yellow markings. These cockatoos are not commonly seen in Melton, but their large size and distinctive dark silhouette (with long wings and tail) bring them to notice as they fly overhead. They are more commonly seen among the timbered hills immediately north of Toolern Vale and around Gisborne. Several Black Cockatoos were seen sporadically during 2003, during the recent prolonged drought. They were seen in small groups of two to seven, feeding in pine trees in Melton Valley Golf Course, perched in eucalyptus trees on Toolern Creek and on the ground at McPhersons Park. Several small flocks or individual birds are sometimes seen from time to time flying over Melton. Their call is distinctive, the three syllables sounding somewhat like an opening gate, (with a rusty hinge).
The Welcome Swallow is a commonly seen and conspicuous bird in Melton. It has a bright royal blue back and an orange throat, with a deeply forked tail. It can been seen hawking for insects in open spaces (often following people as they walk through open paddocks, feeding on insects flushed from the grass and ground by the walkers’ feet). Their nests are seen under the eaves of buildings, especially of local schools, and under bridges
Fairy Martins (Richard Akers)
Fairy Martins are less conspicuous than Welcome Swallows, dark slatey grey above, with the back of the head a rusty orange colour. They are not as commonly seen in Melton.
There is a white rump and the tail has a barely perceptible fork. The nest is a long bottle shape, sometimes found under bridges. They formerly nested beneath the eaves at D J Cunningham kindergarten in Melton South in the 1980’s.
Tree Martins are also less conspicuous than Welcome Swallows, not likely to be seen in Melton. They are slatey grey above, including the head. They are sometimes seen among trees in riparian woodland along the Werribee River south of the Exford Bridge, and in similar areas of remnant woodland such as Pinkerton Forest/Bush’s paddock. Unlike the other two swallows, they nest in tree hollows.
The Skylark is a small sparrow-sized brown and white speckled bird commonly found in grassland and paddocks surrounding Melton. It is often heard singing loudly as it flies high overhead. The Skylark is one of several birds introduced here from Europe.
The Pipit is a small sparrow-sized bird that is commonly found in grasslands around Melton. It is often seen running along the ground, ahead of walkers
The Mudlark is one of our most well-known birds, with its distinctive black and white plumage and can be found in almost all Melton gardens. Their distinctive mud nests are also a common feature in trees around Melton. They are conspicuous by their habit of attacking their own reflections in windows and car mirrors during breeding season in spring.
White-winged Trillers are sometimes seen among red Gum woodland at Darlingsford (Town Centre Park) and in Pinkerton Forest / Bush’s Paddock grassy woodland in October/November, singing loudly. Often others can be heard calling but not seen. Male White-winged Trillers are highly conspicuous birds, with bold black and white plumage. The females are less conspicuous, with brown and white plumage.
Rufous Whistlers can be heard and seen in Grey Box woodland at Bush’s Paddock. They are not likely to be seen within Melton. The male has a bold black circular band from the beak, through the eye and then forming a conspicuous collar, with a white throat. The front is a rufous colour while the back is grey. The female is similarly coloured, but less boldly so. The voice is described as “ee-chong”.
The Blue Wren is a well-known and unmistakable bird, with its long upright tail energetic habit of hopping about on the ground and in undergrowth. The male is bright blue with bold black markings, while females and non-breeding males are brown in colour. These are common both along and adjacent to those Melton creeks with both native vegetation, and bushy undergrowth. Where there is no native understory, they rely on boxthorns for shelter. Blue Wrens are highly vulnerable to cats, so such cover is essential for their survival.
However, those areas that are lacking in an understory (even where other native vegetation is present) do not have Blue Wrens. Also, they are also not found in areas such as parks where re-vegetation has occurred but where there is no corridor of suitable vegetation linking these areas to areas where there are populations of Blue Wrens. Such areas are islands within built up or cleared areas, which these small birds are unable to cross. Blue Wrens have disappeared from many areas around Melton after removal of boxthorn bushes, along with the Red-browed Firetails, Zebra Finches and Yellow-tailed Thornbills.
Reed warblers are often heard in dense reed beds along the lower reaches of Arnolds Creek and among the dense cumbungi beds at Darlingsford (Town centre Park). They are small inconspicuous brown birds with a white front, more commonly heard than seen, having a loud trilling call.
Yellow-tailed Thornbills are small ground living birds. They have a bright yellow rump, which is conspicuous when they fly away. They are commonly seen in open areas and paddocks in and around Melton, either feeding on the ground or perched on fences or in boxthorns, tree violets and similar low prickly bushes. They are dependent upon a protective understory in which to hide from predators.
The Little Thornbill (also known as Yellow Thornbill) is a tiny inconspicuous bird that feeds in the outer foliage of trees. It is smaller and drabber that the more conspicuous Yellow-tailed Thornbill. It is quite common along creek side reserves although not commonly noticed
The Willy Wagtail is a common, unmistakable black and white bird, well known in Melton gardens.
Grey Fantails are small birds, rather like small, grey coloured version of the Willy Wagtail, with similar active habits. Grey Fantails can be commonly seen among remnant native vegetation at Melton Reservoir, Arnolds Creek, Toolern Creek, along the Werribee River and in local remnant areas of woodland. They are fairly common, and despite their grey coloration they are quite conspicuous birds. Apart from those areas immediately adjacent to creeks with remnant vegetation, they are not commonly seen in Melton gardens.
The Striated Pardalotes and Spotted Pardalotes are both tiny but brilliantly coloured birds that feed in the outer foliage of trees, often seen with the Little Thornbill.
The Spotted Pardalote is similar to the Striated Pardalote, and appears to have similar habits but its outer wings are conspicuously spotted (hence the name).
Silvereyes are small greyish-green birds, with a conspicuous white ring around each eye (sometimes also known as White-eyes). They can be seen in boxthorn scrubland along Arnolds Creek, Melton Reservoir and the Werribee River south of Exford Bridge. They do not move into the town of Melton, despite Arnolds Creek being immediately adjacent to suburban housing development (Brookfield Acres). They are usually seen in fast moving flocks, flying among among Boxthorns, Tree Violet and Lightwood Wattle. Their presence is usually advertised by their continuous piping calls.
The Yellow Robin is sometimes seen along the Werribee River at Exford, but not in or around Melton. It is easily recognized by its yellow front.
Flame Robins are brightly conspicuous, with a flame-red front and throat (extending to the bill) a dark slatey-grey back with a white dot above the bill and a white stripe on each wing. They are sometimes seen in grassland and woodlands around Melton. They are not seen in or close to the town. Flame Robins were formerly sometimes seen in grassland by Rees Road near Exford Reservoir in winter. However, they have not seen since the early 1990’s. They are distinguished from Scarlet Robins in that they have a red throat (extending to just below the bill).
Scarlet Robin (drawn by Flo Roche)
Scarlet Robins are also brightly conspicuous, with a bright scarlet front, a black back, head and throat, a white spot above the bill and a white stripe on each wing. Scarlet Robins were formerly commonly seen in grassland by Rees Rd near Exford Reservoir in winter. They are sometimes seen in grassland and woodlands around Melton. They are not seen in or close to the town. Flame Robins were formerly sometimes seen in grassland by Rees Road near Exford Reservoir in winter. However, they have not seen since about 1999. They can be seen in and near areas of remnant woodland and around Melton Reservoir. They are distinguished from Flame Robins by their black head and black throat (the red extending only as far as the top of the breast area).
Diamond Firetails are small brightly coloured finches with bold black front and sides, marked prominently with white spots, white throat and red rump. The female is less strikingly coloured, without the black and white markings. Diamond Firetail are sometimes found in remnant Grey Box / Yellow Gum grassy woodland around Melton. These birds depend on grassy woodland for their survival, and are considered as endangered as their habitat is rapidly disappearing. Melton is fortunate in having a population of these beautiful, but endangered birds.
White Ibis at Parwan (with Straw-necked Ibis at bottom left)
These Nankeen Night-herons were recently seen perched in a tree on the island in the ornamental lake at Eynesbury. The drab looking bird is a juvenile, indicating that the birds have been breeding in the area. These birds are usually quite cryptic & a seldom seen so it was a surprise to see them perched so conspicuously. The long crest feather trailing behind the head of the adult bird is a distinguishing feature.
Nankeen Night-herons are regularly seen along the nearby Werribee River so perhaps the birds may have nested here.
Many of these birds can also be seen in the wetlands of Melbourne Zoo
Mountain Ducks are often seen around Western Water Treatment Plant. They can sometimes in wet paddocks in the surrounding areas, but rarely around Melton itself.
They can be distinguished in flight by their large size and black and white wings.
Hoary-headed Grebes are permanent residents of a dam on the edge of the industrial estate, alongside the railway line between Toolern Creek and Bridge Road.
Darters are large diving birds similar to (and closely related to) cormorants. They can be distinguished by their longer necks and long pointed bill (without a hook at the end). Also, when they swim only their long neck and head can be seen protruding from the water (hence their alternative name of Snakebird).
Darters are frequently seen fishing in the deep waters of Melton Reservoir. They are frequently seen both fishing and roosting at Eagles Lookout. During the summer of 2003 several Darter nests could be seen in dead trees standing in Melton Reservoir when the water level was very low due to severe drought. These trees are usually covered by water. Each nest had sitting birds and fledgling young. They can also be seen roosting in the dead trees in the lake at Town Centre Park at Darlingsford, and occasionally in the adjoining Toolern Creek.
Little Pied Cormorant
Whiskered Terns are often seen over Melton Reservoir, flying singly and in pairs over water, skimming food from surface. These are the only terns to be seen flying over local freshwater waterways.
This tall glossy white wading bird is quite unmistakable, with its long legs & long spoon-shaped bill, both of which are black in colour. It can be found in wetlands & dams around Melton & also at the Railway Swamp at Rockbank when full of water. In May 2007 a Royal Spoonbill was seen on the island in the lake at Town Centre Park. It had a spotless white coat, glossy blue-back bill & legs, & long plumes about 3-4 inches long at the back of its head. They use their unusual bill to strain tiny animals from the water.
This bird is also quite unmistakable. It is similar to the royal Spoonbill, bit its bill & legs are yellow, rather than black. Also, most Yellow-billed Spoonbills seem to have a dirty appearance. They are found in similar places habitats to the Royal Sponnbill.
The Brown Goshawk is a large hawk easily recognised as it flies overhead by its relatively short rounded wings and long tail. When perched it can be recognised by its long legs and horizontal bars across its front. It is most often seen flying among trees in woodlands (rather than flying high overhead on long pointed wings as do the falcons). A fierce predator, it preys on birds and rabbits.
Over the Christmas New Year holiday period at the beginning of 2007, three Brown Goshawks were observed in the Harkness Road woodland in a couple of trees beside the road. One was obviously a young bird as it called incessantly. Nearby was what looked to be a large nest overhanging the road, possibly the goshawk nest, as the group stayed in close proximity to the tree. On the same branch as the largest goshawk, (probably the mother bird) a little more than a metre away, was a koala with a half-grown young koala clutched in its arms in front of it. The young goshawk was in the next tree about five metres away. The two mother animals glared at each other, each presumably anxious at the presence of the other animal & concerned for the safety of their respective young. The three birds remained in the vicinity for some weeks.
Peregrine Falcon is a large falcon, about the size of a crow, much larger than the more common Little Falcon. Peregrines are seldom seen within the town of Melton but can often be seen flying swiftly along the Melton Reservoir (either singly or in pairs. They often perch in dead trees overlooking the reservoir. A pair has nested in an old crow’s nest in a tall red gum beside the waters edge.
Little Falcons (also known as Hobbies) are best described as a smaller version of the Peregrine Falcon. These falcons, unmistakable as they sweep around the tall trees on their long pointed wings, resemble the larger Peregrine Falcon, however, the much smaller Hobby is about the size of a large pigeon. They are commonly seen in and around Melton. Two Little Falcons have for several years lived around Melton Railway Station, roosting in Sugar Guns in car park immediately north of station. Little Falcons are often also seen around Grey Box trees at the northern end of Woodgrove car park, often seen roosting in tree at eastern end of the line of trees.
Commuters travelling to work from the station at Melton South often are treated to a daily display of aeronautics by these falcons). These have been in residence here for several years, roosting at night in the stand of Sugar Gums immediately opposite the station.
The Hobbies are often seen giving magnificent aerodynamic displays as they swoop and dive among the trees. They sweep high into the air then swoop downwards through the trees or just above the cars in the carpark. All this is done at a breakneck speed. These displays are particularly spectacular in times of high winds, or stormy weather. Perhaps the windy weather gives them added speed as they make their long sweeping dives through the air.
Smaller birds take cover when the falcons are flying. When a falcon appears, they plunge into the trees, hoping to escape attention among the leaves. Occasionally a falcon can be seen swooping into the canopy of a tall sugar gum, to emerge the other side with a bird in its talons. Sparrows, honeyeaters and the smaller lorikeets are among their targets, but the starlings that fly about the station area in great numbers appear to attract particular attention.
White-bellied Sea-eagles have been sighted occasionally but regularly near Melton. One or two sea-eagles are sometimes seen flying over the Melton Reservoir, less than a kilometre from residential Melton South. They are also seen by people at the Western Water treatment plant at Surbiton Park, flying over the treatment ponds, or along the Werribee River, making their characteristic ‘croaking’ call. The White-bellied Sea-eagle is similar to a Wedge-tailed Eagle, but has striking grey & white coloration, and no long wedge-shaped tail. These birds are seen at various areas along the Werribee River, from the sewerage treatment works at Werribee, at Surbiton Park, & at various points along the Melton Reservoir. It is thought that there is a single pair of sea-eagles that makes the course of the Werribee River its home & territory.
A sea-eagle was seen fishing by the small island beside the iron railway bridge. It was flying slowly about 5 metres above the water, heading east toward the island. The island is now connected to the mainland due to the receding waters, forming a long promontory. It looked as though it was going to land on the mud flats adjacent to the island but it banked & did an about face. It flew low toward the water then extended its talons & plucked something from the water, presumably a fish. It was not a spectacular catch, about the size of its head. It then headed to a Red Gum opposite the island on the south side of the reservoir. As it flew toward the tree a Whistling Kite swooped from the sky toward it, possibly intent on piracy. As it approached the sea-eagle it suddenly veered away & soared back into the sky, presumably having thought better of the enterprise. The eagle seemed unconcerned about the kite’s presence. Despite its size the sea-eagle is surprisingly inconspicuous when seen from above, with its light grey wings providing an effective camouflage against the muddy water & the dark basalt escarpment.
In 2009 a pair of endangered White-bellied Sea-eagles was discovered nesting in Pinkerton Forest. White-bellied Sea-eagles have for several years been observed flying and fishing along the Werribee River, the adjacent Western Water sewerage treatment ponds and nearby Melton Reservoir. The White-bellied Sea-eagle is similar to a Wedge-tailed Eagle, but has striking black and white coloration, and no long wedge-shaped tail.
In early August 2009 two sea-eagles were observed resting in separate trees in Upper Pinkerton during the August quarterly survey by Bird Observation and Conservation Australia (BOCA). BOCA conduct quarterly bird surveys in Pinkerton Forest and Bush’s paddock, monitoring diversity of bird species (especially noting endangered species). In late August while burning boxthorns, Pinkerton Landcare and Environment Group (PLEG) members observed a Sea-eagle and a Wedge-tailed Eagle involved in a long aerial battle over Upper Pinkerton. The sea-eagle was very vocal, ‘honking’ frequently.
On Sunday 1st September a sea-eagle nest was discovered in a Grey Box tree in Upper Pinkerton by Peter Gibbon and Brett Whitfield while GPS mapping Grey Box saplings. Over the next couple of months the sea-eagles were observed and photographed discreetly by Nora Peters (PLEG photographer). In November Nora photographed the two adults and a chick at the nest. The eagles were observed taking food from various areas and taking it to the nest. By January the young sea-eagles were flying freely, but still being fed by the adult birds. Nora was able to distinguish between the two young birds as they were different in both size and colour.
In early January the sea-eagles were still active at the site around Upper Pinkerton and the dam. On one occasion we saw the juvenile and an adult in the trees beside the dam. While we were there an adult bird brought food to the juvenile twice. The dam was greatly reduced in area due to the hot weather, with several Grey and Chestnut Teal, and numerous ducklings. The adult first brought a bird in its talons to the young bird. It circled around for nearly five minutes before actually descending to the trees to feed the young bird, possibly uneasy at our presence. The young bird greeted it with a raucous, almost cackling honking, not like the deep honking call of the adults. An hour later the adult bird was observed swooping low over the dam, creating mayhem among the waterbirds. It was soon circling high over the trees once more, again with a bird in its talons, possibly a duckling. The ducks on the dam must be providing a ready food source. The proverbial sitting ducks! Again, it circled overhead for about five minutes before descending to the trees. A Whistling Kite was showing considerable interest in the activity, perhaps a cause for the adult bird’s caution in not immediately approaching the juvenile. The kite may have been interested in scavenging food from the young bird.
Usually one young bird survives to adulthood. The group is therefore justifiably proud that both young birds survived to become freely flying juveniles, easily recognized by their brown colouration (in contrast to the bold black and white plumage of the adults).
The successful raising of two juvenile White-bellied Sea-eagles was documented by local wildlife photographer Nora Peters in a hard cover booklet “White-bellied Sea-eagles of Pinkerton Forest”. This booklet shows photos taken of the nest and the birds over the entire nesting period (a period of there and a half months). These photos were taken from a vantage point over 300 metres away to avoid disturbing the birds. The dated photos and descriptions give a valuable insight into the successful rearing of these magnificent birds.
White-bellied Sea-eagles nest in Pinkerton Forest
In 2010 the Sea-eagles returned once again to the Pinkerton nest, this time successfully rearing one fledgling. Unfortunately the birds did not nest here again in 2011. However, they continue to be observed flying over and around Western Water property at Surbiton Park.
In 2013 a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles assumed ‘ownership’ of this area, presumably after having displaced the sea-eagles.
Wedge-tailed Eagles are large and unmistakable, with their wide wings and splayed out wingtips and distinctive long wedge-shaped tail. Wedge-tailed Eagles are often seen soaring around Melton, sometimes above houses in Melton itself. These majestic birds often soar above the Melton South shopping centre, slowly circling to a great height before gliding off into the distance. Perhaps they are taking advantage of warm air rising above the large roof of the supermarket. This may be creating thermals of warm rising air, which these huge birds use to lift them high into the sky, without the effort of flapping their wings. When they reach a suitable height they glide off toward their destination, again without the need to flap their wings. This way they can travel large distances without using too much energy. It can be surprising to see one or more large eagles circling high into the sky over the supermarket, before gliding off into the distance.
A pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles recently built a nest and raised a young bird at Pinkerton Forest in 2006, virtually on the edge of Melton. It was seen perched at the large nest and also flying around the neighbourhood, keeping frustratingly just ahead of observers. Both the Melton Telegraph and Express newspapers published an article and photo of the baby bird (which is surprisingly large and appears to have a wingspan of 1.5 metres). The baby was quite elusive once it was able to fly, but it was seen when it was lured from cover by the arrival of a parent bird carrying a rabbit. As the parent bird circled just above the trees, with the rabbit clutched in its talons, the baby bird followed the parent, calling loudly and incessantly to be fed.
In 2013 a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles nested beside Werribee River at Pinkerton Flat, beside the ruins of the old Pinkerton family homestead. By spring, a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles was noticed hanging around Pinkerton Forest and Bush’s Paddock woodland area. They seem to have assumed ‘ownership’ of this area, presumably after having displaced the sea-eagles. Throughout spring they were constantly observed in and around Pinkerton Forest and Bush’s Paddock woodland area. They were seen even more often in Werribee River Volcanic Gorge or flying from the gorge during restoration work.
Juvenile Wedge-tailed Eagles on beside river nest at Surbiton Park
In early October they were noticed in an old nest by the river. Photos taken by Nora Peters confirmed the presence of a young bird on the nest. A juvenile eagle chick was plain to see, sitting on top of the nest. In the sunlight fresh gum leaves could be seen lining the nest. After the presence of the juvenile Wedge-tailed Eagle on the nest was confirmed we avoided further disturbance.
In January 2014 the juvenile bird was immediately visible but on our arrival it hopped to the opposite side of the nest, obscured from our view by foliage. It was now resplendent in juvenile plumage, with golden shoulders and head, with the rest of the body, including the face, a dark chocolate colour. This was a contrast to the dark, almost black parents.
In Spring 2014 a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles occupied the old sea-eagles’ nest in Upper Pinkerton Forest
Again, the area around the nest side was declared off limits to maintenance work, so as not to disturb the nesting birds.
In July 2014 Wedge-tailed Eagles were observing courting & mating on the summit of Mt Cottrell by PLEG members while planting. There were two eagles on the sole remaining dead pine tree at the summit. They flew off as when approached but soon returned after we stopped & got out. They seemed oblivious to us for nearly two hours. The male bid kept taking off & giving an aerobatic display around the tree. It looked as though it were simply enjoying flying in the wind. After each display it would swoop low, almost the grass level then swoop upward then drop onto a branch. Then, after mating, they simply disappeared. The female bird was a young bird. The honey gold colouration looked rather like the female bird reared on the nest beside Pinkerton homestead in 2013-2014, although most of the time they were simply silhouettes against the dull skies. She spent most of the time perched in the tree.
In August a Wedge-tailed Eagle was observed by BirdLife Australia members on a regular quarterly bird survey, perched in a tree near the old White-bellied Sea-eagle nest tree. Eagles were regularly noticed in the sea-eagle nest precinct in Upper Pinkerton. They were also often seen perching in the vicinity or flying about the vicinity.
In September it was confirmated that the eagles were nesting in the old sea-eagles’ nest in Upper Pinkerton. Again, PLEG contacted the environmental contractors stating that the precinct was off limits for the duration of the nesting period. Probably for the rest of the year. In early November a large juvenile eagle was seen on the nest at Upper Pinkerton. It was mainly hidden within the nest but occasionally sat on top of the nest flapping its wings. it left the nest in December
This demonstrates the value of retaining areas of natural bushland and shows the foresight of both Melton Shire and Western Water in protecting such areas of natural beauty and significance.
Crested Pigeons are common in and around Melton, feeding in grassland and parkland. They appear most common where native trees are present, especially Grey Box. They also appear especially fond of perching and nesting in Buloke trees (and in planted non-indigenous sheokes that resemble Bulokes). Crested Pigeons appear to be spreading in their range and are becoming more common. They can be seen in various areas of Melbourne, including Deer Park, Sunshine and Williamstown.
Stubble Quail were often seen among grass and Patterson’s Curse in paddocks between Melton South and Melton Reservoir, usually in small groups of about 5-6. They have not been seen here for some years, possibly due to the lack of dense grass here during drought conditions.
Snipe are sometimes seen in long grass beside Ryans Creek in Town Centre Park. They are not seen until they explode into the air when approached, then swiftly flying off with their characteristic zigzag flight. It is this zigzag flight that identifies them as they are very rarely seen on the ground. Snipe are reputedly hard to shoot, due to their manner of flight, hence the term ‘sniper’ to refer to a sharpshooter.
Sacred Kingfishers are unmistakable with their brilliant blue backs. They can be seen in the riparian woodland along the Werribee River downstream from Exford Bridge. They can often be seen perched on the wires strung across the river, overlooking the water. They can also be seen in the riparian Red Gum woodland in the wetlands at the proposed Melton Botanical Gardens (Town Centre Park) and also the adjacent Toolern Creek.
Azure Kingfishers are like a smaller version of the Sacred Kingfisher, with brilliantly coloured azure back and a russet front. They have occasionally been seen in the riverside woodland along the Werribee River at Exford (south of the bridge at Exford). One was also seen some years ago by Toolern Creek beside the Melton Guide Hall in Yuille Street.
Pallid Cuckoos visit Melton in springtime only. The first Pallid Cuckoo call is often regarded as the beginning of spring. They are conspicuously mobbed by small birds (honeyeaters and wrens etc) while a second bird can often be seen surreptitiously moving among low bushes such as boxthorns and tree violets. Until recently they were conspicuous near the Melton railway station and also among low bushes along Rees Road (between Hume Ave and Melton Reservoir). However, no Pallid Cuckoos were seen or heard in Melton South in 2003. One was heard in Melton South on Grand Final day in 2004 but not since then. They are still sometimes heard along Arnolds Creek.
Pallid Cuckoos are still heard in the bushland remnants and reserves around Melton.
Horsfields Bronze-cuckoo can be seen along the Werribee River and in remnant woodland and among boxthorns. They are also sometimes seen along lower Arnolds Creek.
COMMON INTRODUCED BIRDS
The Starling is an unmistakable garden bird. It is common, fearless and aggressive. It nests in cavities in buildings and under roofs (often creating a fire hazard), also in tree hollows where it competes aggressively with native birds for nesting sites. It has different coloured plumage at different times of the year. During spring and early summer it has glossy plumage, while during the cooler months the plumage is mottled black and white.
The Mynah is similar, and closely related to, the Starling. Like the Starling the Mynah is an unmistakable garden bird, and similarly common, fearless and aggressive. Its nesting habits are similar to the Starling.
The House Sparrow is one of our most well known garden birds, common in both suburban gardens and shopping centres. The commoner House Sparrow is distinguished from the less common Tree Sparrow by its more robust build. The male House Sparrow has a grey crown and a large black ‘bib’ under the chin, throat and upper breast. The female of both species is a drabber version, without the distinctive black markings of the male. Both birds nests in similar sites to the Starling and Mynah, but they also build an untidy nest of grass in bushy trees on occasions.
The Tree Sparrow is similar to the House Sparrow. However, the Tree Sparrow has a
chestnut coloured head and crown, a prominent black patch on each cheek and a less prominent black patch under the chin. The Tree Sparrow is much less common than the House Sparrow and is a bird of gardens, rather than shopping centres.
The Goldfinch is perhaps our most beautiful introduced bird. The bright black and yellow bands on the wings are especially prominent as it takes flight, contrasting strongly against the tawny body. The crimson face, black and white banded head and white-tipped black tail are also prominent features. Its thin bill helps it feed on the seeds of thistles (and also marigold seeds).
The Greenfinch is like a slightly larger, and drabber, version of the Goldfinch (to which it is closely related). The overall colour is a drab olive-green, with the distinctive yellow bands on the wings. It is much less common than the Goldfinch, and rarely seen in gardens.
The Blackbird is a common, unmistakable introduced garden bird in Melton. The male is black (glossy, satiny black in spring with bright golden bill) while the female is a mottled brown. They have a loud and melodious song, especially at dawn and evening, in spring and early summer.