Readers’ wildlife photos

We have a new contributor today, so put your hands together and welcome aboard reader Bill Turner, who sends some photos from Oz.

We recently corresponded about the Talkeetna Airport cat and I promised to send you some wildlife photos. The attached are not the ones I intended (I have thousands from trips to the Galapagos, Africa, Alaska etc). However, I am sojourning in the centre of Australia so offer some very recent photos for your collection.
The first two are, respectively, of a male and female zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata), a species I have seen many times in captivity, but this is the first time I have seen them in the wild. As they live in a desert region, they congregate around ready water sources, in this case, water tanks used to reprovision hikers at Kata Tjuṯa (better known as the Olgas), in the Kata Tjuṯa-Uluru National Park.
The second series of photos were taken in the shadows of Uluru (formerly Ayers Rock). It shows very interesting behaviour. A pied butcherbird (Cracticus nigrogularis) flew onto a branch with a Gould’s Wattled Bat (Chalinolobus gouldii) in its beak.
The butcherbird then lodged the bat in a ‘v’ formed by two twigs and then proceeded to use that as a brace to strip the flesh off the bat. I believe that this behaviour is what gives the bird its name – butcherbird – as it uses the branch as a butcher’s hook.
In the first photo, you can see the bird stripping away the skin from a wing. In the second, you can see the now denuded wing. I add a third with prey and predator, for good luck.


  1. Posted September 23, 2017 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Very good! And interesting behavior of the butcher bird. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Posted September 23, 2017 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Would the butcherbird be considered a tool using animal because of its use of the tree as a “butcher’s hook”?

  3. Mark R.
    Posted September 23, 2017 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I’ve never heard of a bird eating a bat. That just seems strange to me, but I don’t know why.

    It seems the finches have a dimorphism that is opposite the norm in birds as the female appears more colorful and adorned.

    • Posted September 23, 2017 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      The zebra finch with orange cheek patch is the male.

      • Bill Turner
        Posted September 23, 2017 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

        Correct. Seems the good professor inadvertently changed the order of the photos I sent.

  4. Diane G.
    Posted September 24, 2017 at 2:04 am | Permalink

    Fascinating butcherbird series! I’m always amazed at what birds can accomplish with just their bills (and sometimes feet) that I’d be hard pressed to do with two opposable thumbs. Imagine being able to wedge the prey so tightly into a tree crevice as to be able to rip it apart. Kinda sad the way the bat’s cute little ears stand out in silhouette like that. 🙄

    Lovely finch portraits. At first I thought, oh, must be escaped invasives–then I remembered, oh yeah, this is Australia. 🙂

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