Welcome to the News section of the iNSiGHT Ornithology website (
www.simoncherriman.com). This blog contains updates about various things I've been up to, interesting environmental issues and observations I make regularly while going about my day. It is designed to be fun AND educational, and inspire you about our wonderful natural world. Happy reading!

Sunday, 16 February 2014

A Jar in the Night

Many of my blog posts are written to emphasise the huge variety of creatures we share our land with, and especially to alert people to how they can act to conserve them. A line I often use is "take care when driving and keep a sharp eye on the road for wildlife". Tonight's story provides yet another example where this line is relevant.

I was returning from a meeting in Toodyay earlier this evening and getting close to home in Mundaring. A smashed glass bottle on a bend in the road distracted me enough to think that the shape which I saw just after the broken shards must've been a larger fragment of glass. In the split second before my car whizzed over it I realised it was a nocturnal bird sitting in the road, and my gut wrenched as I realised I had probably just killed it.

However, returning to investigate further, I found the bird still intact, still sitting in the middle of the left lane, and still very much alive. To take a closer look at the nightjar on the road and make sure he wasn't injured, I reached forward and grabbed him gently. What was it?

This moment provided an opportunity to show you one of our very secretive and (in the Perth area) quite rare birds. It is 'Yoodjyn' (pronounced 'you-chin'), as the local Aboriginal Noongar people called it. Or as many other people know it as, the Australian Owlet Nightjar (Aegotheles cristatus). This species is a nocturnal bird with a rounded face but not closely related to owls at all, much more similar to the Tawny Frogmouth. Unlike owls it has tiny feet, pretty useless for catching prey with, but like the Frogmouth, it has a large beak, an excellent tool for trapping insects. It's mouth is made extra wide by a series of bristles, rigid feathers that help divert an insect meal straight down the hatch. You can just make out these bristles in the picture below - they look a bit like long moustache hairs!

You won't see Owlet Nightjars during the daytime, unless you happen to tap on a tree with a small hollow in which one is sleeping. They require hollow-bearing trees for both roosting and nesting, yet another reason to maintain natural bushland. Anyone who has seen a nightjar can relate to the experience of hearing scratching noises inside a branch, looking up to a hollow entrance and seeing that gorgeous face peering right back down at you!

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