Monday, August 6, 2012

Parrots Galore

Eastern Rosella
Recently I spent a few days photographing eight species of parrot as they begin their breeding season. A local lakeside reserve and surrounding suburb has proved to be popular with the parrots, as it provides suitable nesting hollows and close proximity to feeding grounds. By far the biggest number of breeding parrots were Scaly-breasted Lorikeets, followed by Rainbow Lorikeets. The other species photographed either at nesting hollows or searching for them, included: Eastern Rosella, Little Lorikeet, Large-billed Corella, Small
Corella, Galah and Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. The Musk Lorikeet is one species I hoped to photograph that is missing from the list even though it does occur in this area.
Rainbow Lorikeet
Photographing these birds at hollows has been a learning experience. Even though I stayed back a good distance all these species are obviously conscious of your presence and therefore modify their behaviour. In particular I found the larger species such as the Corellas to be particularly reticent to approach a their hollows if you are in close proximity. On the other hand there are a couple of species that appear to allow a much closer approach at least while they are preoccupied with hollow investigation. The Eastern Rosella and Little Lorikeets appear to fit into this category.

Scaly-breasted Lorikeet
Photographing birds that have their hollows high in a tree is going to present a few technical challenges to photography. The challenges that need to be overcome are a steep shooting angle, avoiding a boring blue sky background, light direction, depth of field requirements for a pair of birds, avoiding burnt out highlights on the bright Eucalypt trunks and getting a decent head turn and eye contact from a pair of birds.

Little Lorikeet

Given that you will probably want to maintain a reasonable distance from the birds, it is the birds themselves
that provide the solution to the steep angle. What you are hoping to achieve is a pose that has the bird/s leaning towards you. This creates the impression that the birds are closer to eye level. This is not as difficult to achieve when you consider most parrots are curious and will peer towards you. The other bonus in this situation is that if the bird is leaning towards the photographer the chances are the eye contact and head turn will also be acceptable.

To get a decent background involves moving around to line up a tree in the distance that can provide something other than sky in the background. The further away from the distant trees the creamier the background. Fortunately at this site, which is predominately open woodland there are plenty of large trees that can be used for the background. Personally I don't think you need a solid green background, but even a partially covered background works to break-up the one dimensional blue sky.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
For me one of the goals of photographing birds at a hollow is to capture a male and female to together. Again moving around the tree  to get the birds in the same plane will help. Also choosing a smaller aperture and shooting distance need to be considered. Getting the light direction and avoiding hot highlights is solved by knowing how sunlight behaves on the site. This will involve some planning, however in the end it means shooting when the light is not too harsh, which usually involves shooting in the first couple of hours after sunrise and the last couple of hours before sunset.
To get what I regard as decent images of these species I've made four different visits to the site, either in the early morning or late in the afternoon. To get all the elements to work together required a lot of time and images.

Little Corella

Please take into account that birds should not be unnecessarily disturbed during their breeding and nesting cycles. Be prepared to back away if a bird appears to be alarmed in any way.


  1. wonderful captures each one Gerard. I find the corella's somewhat comical..

  2. Fantastic images Gerard! I greatly enjoy reading your blog and viewing your beautiful images!

  3. Great bunch of images.... well worth the effort ! I think I like the Scaly-breasted Lorikeet shot best.

  4. Aren't they all spectacular? Your images are fantastic. I recently had a brief visit to an area with eastern Rosellas but failed to get close enough in my short visit. They were so stunning to see flying about the place though. I am more use to Pale-headed Rosellas which replace them in south-east Queensland. Some places are so rich in Australian talent, I hope we can preserve them carefully.

    1. All superb pictures! My favourite is the Eastern Rosella.

  5. Outstanding photos well done! Love that Eastern Rosella photo! Stunning!

  6. Fantastic photos and post. I've personally found Rainbow Lorikeets the most willing to let me near their hollows (near is still several metres of course) - usually happy to stand and pose near it for photos too.

  7. Beautiful Photos! I love the Eastern Rosella and the Little Corella upside down is fantastic- what characters they are!

  8. Gorgeous photography !!! You are capture really brilliant photographs . These are so beautiful photos , I like it .

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  9. WOW !!! these are lovely photographs , You have capture really nice shot and attractive photos .

  10. Great pictures of birds we can only dream about. Congratulations.