9 February 2011
Cyclone Yasi has brought devastation to the Queensland coast and virtually wiped out Cassowary habitat in Mission Beach for the second time in a decade. So Australia’s first Eye-browed Thrush is a bitter-sweet jesture from mother nature.
Nevertheless, for those that found this extraordinary bird, it will be some consolation and help put some gloss on an otherwise dank memory.
Alan Gillanders of Alan’s Wildlife Tours was first alerted to the bird in the garden of Terry Heindenreich, who rang him describing a strange type of thrush, hopping quickly across the ground. Alan’s first attempt at seeing the bird was to no avail – this isn’t unusual. For those unfamiliar with Eye-browed Thrushes, they can be extremely skulking and secretive. Chances are, many have already been overlooked in Australia.
The bird was described as:
…having a yellow, dark-tipped bill, white belly with buffish flank markings and in flight, uniformly pale underwings with darker edging to some feathers. The bird is about the colour of a Bower’s Shrike Thrush but browner on the back. It has a long white eye-brow and dark ‘whiskers’ edged with white and a white throat…[for more detail, visit Alan's Wildlife Blog]
Eye-browed Thrush is a migrant bird that breeds in Siberia and winters in southern China and southeast Asia. So a record in Australia has been long-awaited. It is heavily migratory and disperses widely, even turning up every year or so in the UK. There is one confusion species … Grey-sided Thrush, though it’s rare within its range.
Eye-browed Thrush is by far the most likely, being generally abundant. The images shown here now confirm that the bird is indeed and Eye-browed Thrush. Pale tips to the wing coverts indicate that it’s a first year male … most vagrant birds tend to be immatures.
For those wishing to visit the site, it is on private property at 370 Stonehouse Road near Malanda. It belongs to Terry and Michelle Heidenreich. Alan advises “They are happy to have visitors, just call at the house or the flower packing shed for directions to where the bird has been seen”. Be prepared to spend considerable time trying to see the bird. Vagrants like this are not easy, unlike many that turn up on our shores. It took Alan two and a half hours to get just glimpses.