Australian Bush Birds
Common Bronzewing  -  Phaps chalcoptera
Common Bronzewing
Common Bronzewing foraging for seed on a sandy road in the Pilliga Reserve, NSW. The sunlight reflecting off the wing patch gives the bird its common name.
map map The Common Bronzewing - Phaps chalcoptera - is a large bird (reaching 20 to 36 centimetres long) with bulky body. Sexes slightly different in appearance. Crown is purple-brown; forehead is pale blue-grey in females and white with buff patch in males. White cheek stripe from beak, under the eye and curves down the side of the neck. Sides of the neck are blue in males, blending into pinkish-grey breast; females have much less blue along the neck while retaining the pinkish-grey breast. Back is dark olive-brown with pale edges to feathers. Wing upper surfaces are dark brown with patches of iridiscent green, bronze, violet, magenta or black; colours vary with the direction of the light and are brightest in direct sunlight. Underwings are rufous in colour.

There is considerable geographic variation which was formerly attributed to different sub-species but these are no longer recognised. Individuals in Tasmania are larger with brighter chestnut underwing; Central Australian birds are paler with cinnamon underwings; Kimberley birds are smaller and paler.

Lives in most land habitats but does not live permanently in treeless places and avoids dense rainforest. Most found in coastal and inland woodland, particularly where mulga or other acacias grow. Found over all of Australia, including Tasmania, except for Cape York Peninsula, treeless desert areas and dense forest in the east coat and tablelands. Remains common in most of the range possibly with an increase in numbers in southern Western Australia. Usually common over much of its range; locally nomadic.

Ground foraging pigeon; feeds by pecking on the ground for seeds. Lives solitary or in small groups, but most often in pairs. They roost and nest in trees and bushes but spend most of the day on the ground under a bush or in a low tree. Forages actively in the early morning and late afternoon and drinks before dawn, immediately after dark and sometimes during the day.

Common Bronzewings prefer to walk in scrub but fly close to the ground across open areas. If disturbed it takes off with noisy wings and flies up into trees.

Although the Common Bronzewing often lives in arid regions breeding is not determined by rainfall possibly because the bird relies on acacia shrubs which produce seeds year-round (except for very dry periods). Some breeding takes place all year round, even in dry periods, but the main breeding period is spring and early summer.

Common Bronzewing - page 2
The nest is a saucer, 250 mm across and up to 100 mm thick; made of fine twigs in the horizontal fork of thick branches or in a thicket 1 to 10 metres above the ground. Two eggs are laid, smooth, lustrous, white; ellipsoids about 33 by 25 millimetres. Incubated by both parents for 14 to 16 days.

female bronzewing
Common Bronzewing at Quilpie, Qld. The grey forehead and grey breast indicate a female, males have white foreheads and pink-blue on the breast.
male bronzewing
Common Bronzewing at Mildura, Vic. Judging by the mainly white forehead and the blue colouring on the side of the neck, this is a male bird.