Australia Bats and Birds
Bats. – Many species of bats, insectivores and frugivores are found in Australia: the small insectivorous species live everywhere, but especially in the warm parts of the north. The Eptesicus pumilus, just 40 mm. in length, however, it is common as far as Tasmania. Frugivorous species or flying foxes are sometimes found in large numbers and are very harmful to crops. Four species of bats are also known from the group of Phyllostomes (Rhynolophidae), a form that sucks blood, in Queensland (Macroderma), a genus, Nyctophilus, which includes several species exclusive to the Australian region.
Among the imported mammals we must mention the Indian water buffalo (Bubalus bufalus) which has settled in northern Australia and the domestic pig which lives in the wild in many regions of northern and north-eastern Australia, especially in swampy places. The dromedary is also spreading in the wild in inland Australia.
Birds. – Australia possesses an admirable bird life which includes some of the most interesting types in the world: birds with magnificent plumage and melodious song, birds with a surprising ability to imitate, others who build vast playgrounds, and a species that runs and flies as soon as it is born, are examples of this wonderful variety. The known species are 712 (with eleven families and 431 species peculiar to the region). It includes 48 species of regular migrant visitors from other regions: 18 from the south and 30 from the far north, as far as Siberia and Japan.
One of the most interesting birds, and certainly the most picturesque, is the emu (Dromaeus Novae – Hollandiae), resident of the plain or of open places, which is considered the most primitive bird in existence. The Australian cassowary (Casuarius australis), its kindred, with a kind of helmet on its head, is found only in the north. Another primitive species is the mallee fowl (Leipoa) which builds a heap of leaves and branches from 60 to 120 cm high for its nest. and with a circumference from 9 to 12 m. Other builders of similar nests are the Alectura and the Megapodius: the latter, which is the smallest, erects the largest constructions (work of numerous individuals for various seasons), up to three meters high and with a circumference of 21.
According to top-engineering-schools, there are abundant and beautiful species of pigeons, especially in the tropical regions of the east, and of water birds, among which are the Gallinago Hardwicki which nests in Japan and arrives every year in Australia flying over thousands of miles of water, the Burhinus, large bird similar to the plover, the great Australian octopus (Eupodotis), now almost disappeared, various cranes and ibis, the jabiru or black-necked stork, a beautiful bird almost m. 1.50, and herons with beautiful feathers (Egretta).
The black swan (Chenopsis atrata) is one of the most famous Australian birds: it is still found everywhere, even in very inhabited places, and it is probable, given the criteria that are spreading on the conservation of animals, that it will not disappear. Many species of ducks and some wild goose are found along inland rivers and lakes and in some coastal regions; their number varies according to the season: in periods of drought they could be believed to have disappeared forever, then, with the good season they reappear in large numbers. Pelicans (on inland lakes) and cormorants (Phalacrocorax) are also abundant. Akin to these is the Plotus or bird-snake, so called because of the long neck that only emerges from the water. Raptors are found throughout Australia, from the small kestrel (Cerchneis) 29 cm long, to the majestic eagle (Uroaëtus) which measures m. 2.50 and can sometimes take a live sheep away.
Australia is also the homeland of parrots (Psittaciformes), which meet there in wonderful species and varieties, partly exclusive to the region. In the great plains, small budgerigar (Melopsittacus) and the beautiful pink cockatoo (Cacatua roseicapilla) abound ; in the forests, countless small parrots and the great white cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) and black cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus) called “guardians of the forest” because they destroy the large woodworms.
The Alcedinidae, the Cypselidae and the Cuculidae are represented by various species. The magnificent lyrebirds (Menura) are found in the humid regions of south-eastern Australia and in Tasmania: they have extraordinary mimic powers, being able to perfectly imitate every noise or cry of the bush, the barking of the dog, the blows of the hatchets and the sound of human voices. The fly-catchers (Muscicapidae) are represented by over 350 species almost all exclusive to the region: the Sylviidae by over 80: the Meliphagidae or honey eaters, also characteristic of the region, also by a large number of species. The beautiful rifle bird (Ptiloris), which is the Australian equivalent of the bird of paradise, is found on the northern half of the east coast, while the related bower bird (Ptilonorhynchus) builds its admirable playgrounds, or pergolas, in the eastern and southeastern regions. Numbering just a few of the many seabirds would take up a lot of space: petrels (more than 20 species), the great albatross, terns and gulls roam the Australian coast. In the Bass Strait and on the vast expanse of the Great Barrier Reef, huge flocks of birds gather. On the southern coasts there are small penguins: one species (Eudyptula) also reproduces there in large numbers, others appear from time to time, coming from the Antarctic regions.