Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Bill Turner sent us some splendid bird photos, and his notes are indented:

The first two are of a white-fronted bee-eater (Merops bullockoides) eating, well, a bee. I understand that these guys normally hunt on the wing. I don’t know what the bee was thinking—making life so easy. These photos were taken during a work trip to South Africa in 2015.

I think you have featured the following bird before – a lilac-breasted roller (Coracias caudatus), but here is my version, shot in the Serengeti in 2011.

And, while we are on a bird theme, two from home, Australia, an Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) and a magpie (Cracticus tibicen). The emu was taken on a trip to Western Australia last year and the magpie on a fence on my front yard last Sunday. Magpies get their name from the English version, to which they have a passing resemblance, but their song is so much more beautiful and melodic. We have a family that comes in to get feed and they reward us with song. During mating season, they are fiercely protective and attack people, even injuring them (including blinding people). But they are also sweet and friendly and recent work has shown that they can identify and remember friendly faces. My wife and I are perfectly safe from the birds in our street.

 

25 Comments

  1. Lurker111
    Posted November 7, 2017 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    I’ve always wondered–do bee-eaters yank out the barb before eating the bee?

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted November 7, 2017 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

      @Lurker111

      Bee eaters are immune to the venom, but even so, the stinger is removed by beating the bee or wasp on a hard surface – also pressure is applied to extract the venom. The birds are careful to close their eyes while doing this!

  2. mordacious1
    Posted November 7, 2017 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    “This isn’t my lawn, but get off it anyway”, says the Magpie.

  3. BJq=
    Posted November 7, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    What phenomenal pictures, Bill Turner! You’re quite talented with the camera. I look forward to seeing more of your work.

    • Bruce Lyon
      Posted November 7, 2017 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      I spent a year being a field assistant on a study of white-fronted bee-eaters in Kenya. Bee-eaters do always hunt on the wing but when they land they typically swipe the insect’s abdomen across a branch several times to try to remove the stinger, and they often whack the animal on the branch repeatedly to stun it. They then toss it into the air to swallow the prey, which the lovely photo captures. Lovely photos!

      • Bill Turner
        Posted November 7, 2017 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        Thanks,BJq=. I take a lot of photos and manage to get lucky from time to time, I think.

        Bruce, in this case, the bee did actually fly into the bird’s grasp – I have a series of before photos that show it without the bee. In this case, I think it, and I, got lucky.

        • BJ
          Posted November 7, 2017 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

          Well you certainly have a talent, and I hope you send in more pictures. Also, what Bruce told us is just fascinating.

  4. claudia baker
    Posted November 7, 2017 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Stunning pictures Bill!

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted November 7, 2017 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      Agreed.

      • Bill Turner
        Posted November 7, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

        Thank you, both.

  5. rickflick
    Posted November 7, 2017 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    The lilac-breasted roller has a heck of costume. Thanks for posting these.

    • Bill Turner
      Posted November 7, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      You are welcome! 🙂

  6. Posted November 7, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Very good and enjoyable.

    • Bill Turner
      Posted November 7, 2017 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      Thank you.

  7. Terry Sheldon
    Posted November 7, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Lovely photos. Thank you!!

    • Bill Turner
      Posted November 7, 2017 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      You are welcome. Thank you. Glad you enjoyed.

  8. Posted November 7, 2017 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Stunning!

    • Bill Turner
      Posted November 7, 2017 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

      That is the birds doing! 😉

  9. Barbara Radcliffe
    Posted November 7, 2017 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Lovely photos. Regarding magpies swooping humans, it is the male that does so and allegedly only when there are young in the nest. There is an interesting article here http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/offtrack/the-secret-life-of-australias-marvellous-magpies/6750736 that describes the behaviour of these birds. We have a number who aerate our front lawn when looking for their breakfast! There is nothing like waking up to the carolling of a magpie.

  10. Mark R.
    Posted November 7, 2017 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Wow, these are splendid birds. Love the lighting on the magpie and all the bokeh backgrounds.

    • Bill Turner
      Posted November 7, 2017 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Mark. I love that you can see a bit of cobweb (I assume) on the maggie’s head.

  11. Posted November 7, 2017 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    This was a thrilling post to read. Thanks, Bill.

    • Bill Turner
      Posted November 7, 2017 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

      Thrilling! I am thrilled to get that! Thanks Smokepaprika!

  12. Posted November 7, 2017 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    I’ve heard that emus have muscle-less vestigial wings. Can anyone confirm or deny this?

    • Bill Turner
      Posted November 7, 2017 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

      They certainly have vestigial wings – very tiny and they do not appear to be functional in any way – they seem to just hang there. Wikipaedia claims that they flap them when running – not sure whether that is truly flapping or whether it is a result of the motion. If they do actively flap, then there would have to be muscles.


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