Here are the rainforest birds of Gondwana – starting with the top of the tree canopy, and ending with the forest floor:
The call of the Pied Currawong echoes through the forest, loud musical wails and ringing notes, from way up on high. A swish of black-and-white wings, the gleam of a bright yellow eye.
Also booming through the forest is the Wompoo Fruit-dove’s call. Ghostly, it can sound like a person, from a distance. Wompoo is hidden high up in a fruiting tree, clambering around from branch to branch. If the bounty is great, she might stay up there all day, feasting.
Catbird is even shyer than Wompoo: and his green makes him hard to spy against the leaves. Until he cries out loudly like a baby, or a yeeowling cat. Then you might know he is there, even if you still can’t see him among all those shades of green.
Rose-crowned fruit-dove always sounds pleased, or maybe a bit amazed, with his ascending long enthusiastic “wooooop!”, and the softer, descending, kind-of awestruck “woooo-ooooo”. Perhaps a perfect greeting for that one special lady? He sneaks into our garden to feed on the native olive tree, and the rosy blush of his forehead is just like the olive-fruit when it is beginning to ripen.
Regent bowerbird is mythical, like the Pimpernel, you only ever catch a fleeting glimpse of him. Often when you least expect it. But no other bird has that regal golden-trimmed, black cape and that commanding gaze.
Satin Bowerbird is a garrulous jester, in the springtime he squeaks and squawks and whirrs, from the dense thicket of lantana where his bower is hidden. Featherbeak they call him, with the glittering lilac-turquoise eyes.
Early in the morning you can hear the ‘tink-tink’ of the Logrunner, from deep in the undergrowth, scratching the leaf-litter from side to side as she props herself up on her spiny tail. Sometimes you hear a chorus of Logrunners calling together – and who knows what concerts they are performing underneath the tangle of tree ferns and lawyer vine?
Riflebird gives himself away with a loud rasping hiss, and then falls silent for some minutes. If he smiles you’ll see the startling flash of his yellow mouth. But usually you’ll only glimpse shimmer of green-blue iridescent feathers against inky black.
Eastern Yellow Robin is a gleam of yellow in the gloom, a quiet still presence as she studies the ground for something to pounce on. She lands with an upwards-flick of her tail, she loves the grey misty, rainy days. Her piped whistle is halting, pensive.
But then in a flash of red, and shriek of joy, the king parrots come careening through the trees, darting between the tall pale trunks of the eucalypts. Their yellow eyes look perpetually startled, the pale flecks of green on their deeper-green wings suggest dappled sunlight, as they carouse and argue among themselves.
Crimson rosella is smaller and more retiring than her king parrot cousins. She chortles softly to her mate as the two of them feed together always, sometimes low on the weeds by the road, sometimes on fruits of the shrubs and trees. They sneak onto the feeding tray when no-one else is around, and all I hear from my window is a gentle de-husking of seeds.
Then Brush Turkey marches in, with neck outstretched and eye beady for an opportunity to sneak into the hen-house. If it is shut he will flap heavily on broad dark brown wings, up to the little seed tray, scaring away the rosellas and perching there awkwardly as he gulps the tiny seeds.
Lewin’s honeyeater is always smiling as she splashes in the bird bath or sips nectar from the banksias. The first to ring the alarm when danger is lurking, all other birds listen to her and duck for cover.
Little Yellow-throated scrubwren we’ve never seen in our garden, but his delicate hanging nests adorned the rainforest walks last spring. He hops along the dark forest floor, and like the robin, his yellow seems to shine through the gloom.
And lastly, and perhaps the master of disguise and dark places in the forest is Whipbird. So many times we hear his whip-crack cry (and his wife’s two-note response) but so seldom do we see his face. A pity, since he is dashingly handsome, with his black crest and white cravat.
These are only some of the many birds that inhabit the forests where I live, the far southern tip of the Beechmont plateau. It is embraced on three sides by Lamington National Park, which in turn is part of the Gondwana Rainforest World Heritage area which includes the mountainous areas that straddle the eastern part of the Queensland-New South Wales border, and also many rainforest areas of eastern New South Wales.
I have drawn close-up portraits of each of these birds so we can see something of their nature in their eyes, their expressions. I hope that in doing so, the birds become beings in their own right, personalities even, rather than just something to identify, something generic and samey as all the other glimpses of birds we might only see from afar.
If you would like to welcome these birds into your home, or bestow their portraits on someone else, I have a limited number of organic cotton tea towels and organic cotton tote bags which have been printed with the Gondwana Rainforest Birds design. Both items are made from Australian Certified Organic cotton and printed in Melbourne with eco-friendly inks by the Linen Press, which is a carbon-neutral company.