Biodiversity and conservation student Jennifer Vu shares with us some of the beautiful flying creatures on our campus.
WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHS Jennifer Vu
If you ask any Macquarie student what some of their favourite things are about the campus, the grass and lush scenery will easily top that list. Fortunately, the Australian wildlife also seems to agree. If you haven’t noticed already, our beautiful campus is home to an array of birds. You would be surprised to learn exactly how many actually live on campus when the majority of them disappear by 9am.
We all know about the ibis and crows, but can you name others?
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1) Masked lapwing (Plover) Vanellus miles
If anybody has walked around campus and come across a bird with a yellow face, it was probably a Plover. These birds are native to Australia and are well known for their brazen behaviour. Their main form of defence is a manoeuvre humans refer to as ‘the swoop’. Duck your heads if you are in close proximity to a Plover nest as you’re most certainly at risk. An interesting fact about Plovers, as ground dwelling birds, is that they never sleep properly. They are always on alert which is why they can be heard calling at any time of the day.
2) Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio melanotus
For those of you who spend your spare time at the lake, beware of this undersized turkey. It’s not really a turkey. In fact, it is a Purple Swamphen. This bird is identifiable by its red bill, frontal shield and its ability to do really cute tail flicks. Much like the behavior of first year students, this bird is mute until greeted by members of their species. They make weird grunting noises and curl their heads backwards – possibly a display of acknowledging dominant birds.
3) Little Black Cormorant Phalacrocorax sulcirostris (left) and Little Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax melanoleucos (right)
The lake is home to an amazing array of life including sweaty uni students and beautiful birds. Out of the two, the Cormorant excels at bringing beauty to Macquarie’s campus. These birds are well known for their ability to dive underwater to fish for food. Their feathers are not actually waterproof so they are often seen drying off on rocks and jetties. They have special nictitating membranes which cover their eyes when underwater – like goggles for humans.
4) Dusky Moorhen Gallinula tenebrosa
The Dusky Moorhen is commonly mistaken for the Purple Swamphen because they both do really cute tail flicks. To differentiate the two, the Dusky Moorhen is identifiable by its red beak with a yellow tip and its loud kruk call. Unfortunately, they are often seen digging through rubbish tips in search of an easy source of food to support their omnivorous diet.
5) Australian wood duck or Maned Duck Chenonetta jubata
Wood Ducks are found throughout Australia as well as our campus. They are incredibly cute when they are ducklings. In the photo, the male is the adult with an all brown head with greyish wing feathers. The female has white stripes above and below her eyes and mostly brown wing feathers. Wood Ducks nest in trees and when the ducklings are ready to leave the nest the female will fly to the ground, followed by a leap of faith by the ducklings.
6) Muscovy Duck Cairina moschata
The Muscovy Duck is an unusual looking animal native to Mexico, Central and South America. Both males and females have pink or red wattles known to some students as ‘wrinkly stuff’ above their beak. They possess claws and can weigh up to a whopping 10 kilograms – making them Macquarie’s most menacing animal.
7) Eurasian Coot Fulica atra
The saying “as bald as a coot” was derived from the Eurasian Coot. The Eurasian Coot is a beautiful addition to Macquarie’s wildlife. If they want to get somewhere fast, they will run across the surface of the water, creating a lot of splashes. They often do this when they want to chase off territorial intruders.
8) White faced heron Egretta novaehollandiae
The Heron is usually found throughout Australia and fortunately for the people lucky enough to spot it, around university too. They are usually seen perching on fences, trees, telephone poles and roofs. To increase your chances of viewing such a beauty, spend your time around bodies of water and grasslands. If you are too lazy, then head to your closest zoo because Herons are worth viewing. The iris of their eyes can be grey, green, dull yellow or cinnamon.
Although most of these birds aren’t endangered, it is still important that we watch over them. Now that you know who you’re sharing your campus with, it’s time to take responsibility. These birds have been known to eat plastic, metals and anything small they can get into their mouth. So next time you walk around the lake or hear a bird call from a tree, appreciate that ‘owl’ university it is a shared environment.