Partridge Pigeons - Darwin River

To: Birding Aus <>
Subject: Partridge Pigeons - Darwin River
From: Denise Goodfellow <>
Date: Sun, 22 Dec 2013 21:48:47 +0930
When we moved to Darwin River, 80 kms sw of Darwin, in May this year, I
already knew there were Partridge Pigeons in the area.  I'd seen the birds
while researching "Birds of Australia's Top End" and the previous owners
mentioned that a flock lived on the property.

For the first month or so a pair would bathe under the sprinklers near the
house.  Then they disappeared.  On walking around the property  I'd glimpse
one or two, but only occasionally.  My birding clients generally had to be
satisfied with regulars such as Northern Rosella, Red-winged Parrot and
Varied Lorikeet. 

And then in late September the Pigeons suddenly appeared - at least
seventeen of them, crossing the road from our place to a neighbour's drip
system.  Now I see them daily; they troop past the house to some acres of
native grassland in the middle of our property.

The birds feed on grasses at head height, appearing to strip the seed head
through their beak.  Although I've set a telescope up I can't discern
exactly what they're eating - the grassland contains several species that
are presently seeding.  Given their method of feeding, one candidate appears
to be Paspalidium rarum, but there are several small Eriachne spp plus other
genera that could well feature in their diet.

Partridge Pigeons appear to be declining in Kakadu National Park - I've
certainly found them increasingly difficult to see there, and other birders
I've met in the Park have had similar problems.  So I want to do our best to
ensure our little flock stays safe.  Hence we've made great efforts to
ensure the diversity of grasses on the property stays high by ridding the
property of Gamba and Mission Grass, and changing burning practices.
However, there seems to be little research to guide us.

Because of the amount of grassland we have here I keep hoping that snipe or
Zitting Cisticola or even a flock of Chestnut-breasted Mannikins, will turn
up.  No luck so far - the only other regular grass feeders are Plumed
Whistling-ducks.  Still one never knows - it's early days yet, for the Wet
Season.  But even if our grassland stays species-poor (birdwise, that is), I
can't complain, not with my personal flock of Partridge Pigeons to watch.


Denise Lawungkurr Goodfellow
PO Box 71,  Darwin River,
NT 0841
043 8650 835

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