Noisy Miner (Manorina melanocephala)

With last year’s horrific loss of wildlife in Australia due to raging wildfires, and with the austral summer fire season rapidly approaching I felt compelled to break out of my comfort zone and do a painting in memory of the huge numbers of wildlife that were lost. The Noisy Miner, native to much of eastern and south-eastern Australia, is not what usually comes to mind when we think of Australia’s many unique wildlife species, nor the most endearing. They occur in large flocks and act aggressively toward other bird species, even to displacing them. They are one of about 75 members of an Australian bird family called “honeyeaters”, or Meliphagidae.  They are indeed noisy with a wide range of vocalizations. They are comfortable co-habiting with humans in parks, yards and gardens and degraded woodlands, especially if free of much vegetative ground cover and understory.

There are no jays in Australia but the Noisy Miner is jay-like in behavior and size, weighing in around 70 to 80 grams (2.5 to 2.8 oz.). They are gregarious, and their mood can be determined by display gestures including the degree to which they expose or cover the unfeathered yellow patch of skin behind the eye. With their numbers common, their ability to fly, however many perished in the fires, the species itself is not at risk.

In contrast is the other animal in my painting, the Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus).  I chose it not only because it’s range almost exactly mimics that of the Noisy Miner, and is the sort of thing a Noisy Miner might “check out”, but because it is a truly iconic species, well known around the world, well-loved, innocuous and may very well be at serious risk. Koalas are marsupials, also found only in eastern and south-eastern Australia, and while they were once killed in huge numbers for their pelts, they are currently a protected species, albeit one at risk to at least some degree, with very significant population declines in significant parts of their range. They, like the eucalyptus and Australian gum, acacia and other trees whose leaves they consume, evolved to cope with fire seasons, but the 2020 bush fires that inspired me to try to honor the species (to my limited ability at painting mammals) led to a NSW parliamentary committee report stating that the species could be wiped out from the entire state by 2050.

This oil painting is 24 X 18 inches on Russian birch; approximately life-size.

Barry Kent MacKay

Bird Artist, Illustrator

Studio: (905) 472 9731

Barry Kent MacKay

Bird Artist, Illustrator

Studio: (905) 472 9731

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