Marianne CannonKingfisher, powerful owl & fairy martin

I spoke with ecologist Sue Stevens about the sacred kingfisher and fairy martin and with ecologist Dr David Bain regarding the Powerful Owl Project.

Sacred kingfisher with Sue Stevens

The sacred kingfisher (Todiramphus sanctus) is without doubt the best looking of the kingfishers because of that aquamarine plumage.

Sacred kingfisher [Photo: tatters:)]

Sacred kingfishers are found throughout most of Australia (except in the arid central deserts) and can be found in in forests, mangroves and in trees along river courses. Their nest is a burrow either into a sandy bank or termite mound.

They are, as all kingfishers a predatory bird, feeding usually on small reptiles and insects (grasshoppers, beetles) fish and crustaceans. Let’s find out more about them…

Keep a lookout for the sacred kingfisher. They are a watchful birds, perched high up in trees.


Powerful owls with ecologist Dr David Bain

Real World Gardener spoke with ecologist Dr David Bain regarding the Powerful Owl Project.

Powerful owl in Bouddi National Park [Photo: Doug Beckers]

Birdlife Australia is running the project and want to locate all the breeding pairs of powerful owls in the greater Sydney region, from Newcastle in the north to Kiama in the south and west to the Blue Mountains.

Birdlife Australia will be identifying where their nest locations are and recording the outcome of each nesting attempt at the end of the breeding season.

However they are keen for ALL sightings of powerful owls throughout their distribution – so in Queensland and Victoria as well.

You can help us learn more about the powerful owls by:

1. Letting Birdlife Australia know if you see or hear a powerful owl in your area.

Please fill in a survey here or email David Bain and Rod Kavanagh at to report your sighting; you can send in photos or recordings of their calls if you are unsure.

Tell Birdlife Australia where (address or GPS location) and when you saw or heard the bird and anything interesting you noticed about where it was or what it was doing.

2. If you are in Sydney – volunteer to be an Owl Observer.

Birdlife Australia will be looking for volunteers in 2012, 2013, who are willing to keep an eye on a breeding pair near them and submit a simple weekly report to us to let us know what is happening at their nest site.

You do not need to monitor at night (although some dusk visits may be required) and teams of Owl Observers will be set up for each nest to share the work.

All Owl Observers will attend a short training workshop before monitoring their birds. If you would like to register as an Owl Observer please email David at


Fairy martin with ecologist Sue Stevens 

Swallows and martins in the Hirundinadae family build mud nests close to overhead shelter in locations that are protected from both the weather and predators. Mud nesting species aren’t seen that much in areas of high humidity, which causes the mud nests to crumble.

Fairy martin [Photo: Jim Bendon]

Many cave, bank and cliff dwelling species of swallow nest in large colonies. Building mud nests is family affair with the male and female sharing the tunnel the excavation as well.

Fairy martins are more shy than other types of swallows and will not nest close to humans.

You might be lucky, like Sue, and see a fairy martin nest attached to the underside of bridges or other manmade objects such as pipes, buildings, and in culverts, so keep a lookout.

The fairy martin, sometimes known as the bottle swallow, is hard to spot because it flies around so fast catching insects. Even the call can be easily confused with other small birds. So what does it get up to? Let’s find out…

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Marianne Cannon

About Marianne Cannon

Marianne Cannon has been broadcasting as Real World Gardener on radio 2RRR 88.5fm in Sydney, since September 2009, and the program is now syndicated to radio stations around Australia. It's about growing your own, the abc of plants, and how to create sustainable gardens to fit into today's environment. Not just a show about plants; it has a strong green and ecological bent, with co-presenters addressing issues such as native animals and plants, water conservation, composting, reducing waste, protecting native species and more.

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