Eastern Whipbird - Psophodes olivaceus - Whip Bird

Eastern Whipbird

Psophodes olivaceus

Other Names: Whip Bird, (Coach-whip Bird, Psophodes crepitans, 19th Century)
Family:
Cinclosomatidae (Quail-thrushes and allies, 8 species in Australia)
Size: 25-30 cm
Distribution: Within about 200 km of the coast of NSW, Eastern VIC and Most of QLD except the north
Status: Common to mderately common
Habitat: Dense understories of rainforests, coastal scrubs, wet sclerophyll forests, riparian (near a stream) forest
References: Simpson and Day, Reader's Digest

The Eastern Whipbird is famous for its call which sounds like the crack of a whip. The call is actually made by two birds, the male makes the whipcrack, and if the female replies it is a sort of "choo choo choo" sound. It sounds truly amazing if you happen to be between the pair when they call. The whip sound is heard at the beginning of the theme song to "Skippy the Bush Kangaroo".

Eastern Whipbirds are heard much more than they are seen as they like to hide in dense scrub, from which they rarely emerge. They are also a drab colour which blends in very will with the background. The crest on their head is a distinguishing feature. The tail is fairly long and there is a light coloured patch on the lower side of the head. In the photo below this looks like a slightly lighter grey than the rest of the bird, sometimes it is lighter than this and the rest of the head is darker.

Eastern Whipbird - Psophodes olivaceus
Photo: Blaxland, Blue Mountains NSW

Eastern Whipbird - Psophodes olivaceus
Artwork: John Gould, 'The Birds of Australia', 1848. Original Scanned Image.

Some Birdwatching Resources

Nikon COOLPIX P1000 Super Zoom Camera - Eastern Whipbird - Psophodes olivaceus - Whip BirdNikon COOLPIX P1000 Super Zoom Camera

The Nikon COOLPIX P1000 is Nikon's longest zoom range camera, and probably still the longest zoom range of any camera in the world. For bird photography (and other wildlife photography) having a long zoom range is a massive help, since you don't have to be within a few metres of the birds/animals to get a good photo.

I'll write more about these super-zoom cameras soon as I have a loan of a Nikon COOLPIX P900, a slightly older model which also has a massive (though not as massive) zoom range as the P1000. The P900 can take photos of the rings of Saturn. It's basically a portable telescope with a camera built into it.

Most of the reviews from professional photography websites of the super zoom cameras complain far too much that their picture quality isn't up to that of a DSLR or other expensive modern camera. The problem here is that it's basically impossible to have a zoom anywhere near as long as the P900, P950, or P1000 on a typical DSLR with the "full-size sensor" that would keep the magazine reviewers 5-star-happy. To get things into perspective, with a full size (a.k.a. full frame) sensor of 35mm, the lens would need to have a physical focal length of 3000 mm (yes that is 3 metres). Even if made as a "mirror lens" where the light path can bounce back and forth once or twice, so that the lens can be physically shorter than 3 metres in length, it's still going to be something like almost metre long. And to have an aperture ratio of f/8 at the long end of the zoom range means the diameter of the aperture has to be 3000 divided by 8. Which equals 375 mm across. In other words, the diameter of the lens itself would have to be about 40 centimetres across (like a decent-sized telescope, which it literally would be). To carry your high optical quality 3000mm full frame lens, with a 40 centimetre wide end, made of heavy optical-quality glass, is probably going to require a vehicle of some sort. So that's what I mean by "basically" impossible to have a lens that zooms this close in a full size sensor type of camera. Incidentally, Nikon does make an actual 2000mm lens. It costs about $25-30,000 USD and weighs 18 kilograms. It's about 25 centimetres diameter across the front of the lens, and it's only f/11, which is smaller and dimmer (i.e. worse) than the f/8 of the Nikon P1000. But it would give you "full-frame sized sensor picture quality" (apart from the limitation of the aperture only going as big as f/11).

If you want to take photos of something small (e.g. a bird) from far away, these cameras are a truly new type of technological innovation — something which really did not exist before a few years ago. When, a few years ago, my mother saw one on a TV infomercial ad, and told me the P900 camera had an "83 times optical zoom", I honestly just assumed she had misheard and meant an 8.3 times optical zoom. The P100 has a 125x optical zoom, and can zoom in even further than the P900.

Purchase from Amazon.com.au

See Also

Australian Bird Field Guides

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