Oriental Pratincole and other recent sightings

Subject: Oriental Pratincole and other recent sightings
From: "Quentin Paynter" <>
Date: Mon, 6 Nov 2000 10:20:06 +0930
I was just south of the Finniss River on Wagait Aboriginal Land 
(about 2 hrs drive south-west of Darwin, NT and about 40 mins west 
of Wangi Falls, Litchfield Park) last Friday and spotted a large flock 
of Oriental Pratincoles. A lifer for me, although goodness knows how 
many I've overlooked in the previous two years!

I go to this area quite frequently because the landowners are 
conducting a very successful campaign against the invasive weed 
Mimosa pigra, which I am studying. The general area around the 
study site consists of wetlands infested with mimosa thickets, 
reclaimed wetlands, a big billabong (with crocs) and 
riverside/Melaleuca forest. It is becoming quite a haven for birds - I 
saw a pair of Star finches here a couple of weeks ago - apparently 
they don't get seen close to Darwin as often as they used to. 

Perhaps the most exciting recent find was a potential Masked owl 
(sighting being considered by the NT vetting committee). When I 
arrived at the camp I flushed a Tyto owl from a tree, which flew a 
short distance to a large fig tree. Knowing how hard they can be to 
identify I made copious notes. I didn't think it was a barn owl - I've 
seen plenty of them in the past. However, it was definately not a 
grass owl - legs did not extend beyond tail in flight, wasn't dark 
enough above, didn't have the 'long face & beady eye' look. 
HANZAB proved very helpful. According to HANZAB the northern 
race of Masked owl 'kimberli' is small and pale. Indeed it was similar 
to a barn owl - it didn't look all that massive compared to most 
pictures of masked owl in field guides. Key features were: a 
conspicuous thick black edge to a roundish (not heart-shaped) 
facial disc. Very large eyes, that looked even larger due to dark 
feathering around them. Fairly heavy spotting on side of neck and 
underside. Legs feathered all the way down and massive feet that 
looked like boxing gloves in flight!   

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has experience with this 
race of Masked owl. Regarless of whether this record is accepted 
I'd encourage anyone to take a closer look at any barn owls in this 
part of the world!


Dr Quentin Paynter
CSIRO Entomology, Tropical Ecosystems Research Centre
PMB 44 Winnellie NT 0822

PH (61)(0)8 8944 8420
FAX (61)(0)8 8944 8444

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