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10,000 budgies swoop down to a water hole in Alice Springs

  • Wildlife photograph Steven Pearce has captured the moment a flock of 10,000 budgerigars find water hole
  • Budgies usually fly in flocks of up to 100, but after a dry spell they will form larger groups to seek out water
  • The incredily rare sight took place Friday outside of Alice Springs, after a tip from local bird watching guide

By Yael Brender For Daily Mail Australia

Published: 18:46 EDT, 12 October 2017 | Updated: 00:44 EDT, 13 October 2017

A wildlife enthusiast has snapped several once-in-a-lifetime photographs of more than 10,000 birds swooping down to an Alice Springs water hole on Friday morning.

Steven Pearce had less than ten minutes before the murmuration of budgerigars split up into smaller groups and dispersed, but in that small amount of time he managed to snap dozens of images.

He described the stunning view as 'rare [and] unique', and his photographs showcase the agility and the stunning contrast between the bright green feathers and the sandy desert.

A huge flock of thirst budgerigars swoop down to a body of water in the Alice Springs desert before quickly taking flight again
A huge flock of thirst budgerigars swoop down to a body of water in the Alice Springs desert before quickly taking flight again

A huge flock of thirst budgerigars swoop down to a body of water in the Alice Springs desert before quickly taking flight again

Budgerigars are highly nomadic and respond to heavy rain that brings grasses and abundant seeds, as well as place to drink
Budgerigars are highly nomadic and respond to heavy rain that brings grasses and abundant seeds, as well as place to drink

Budgerigars are highly nomadic and respond to heavy rain that brings grasses and abundant seeds, as well as place to drink

Budgerigars are social birds and are most often seen in small groups, although at times they will fly together in huge flocks
Budgerigars are social birds and are most often seen in small groups, although at times they will fly together in huge flocks

Budgerigars are social birds and are most often seen in small groups, although at times they will fly together in huge flocks

Budgies dart across the sky twisting and turning, and making a lot of noise so that they are usually heard before they are seen
Budgies dart across the sky twisting and turning, and making a lot of noise so that they are usually heard before they are seen

Budgies dart across the sky twisting and turning, and making a lot of noise so that they are usually heard before they are seen

Mr Pearce told The Guardian that over the course of the morning, he had seen more than 10,000 birds.

The event was all the more rare because it came after a rare dry spell, and a bird-watching tour guide had told Mr Pearce that a group of birds had been steadily building up in the wet area for days.

It only takes each bird a few seconds to re-hydrate before they fly away quickly to avoid becoming the prey of falcons or kestrels.

'Water is always the limiting factor for all life in the desert, and in dry conditions as the smaller water holes dry up, the budgies are forced to fly to larger water holes,' Mr Pearce explained.

As long as there is enough rain and water for them to drink, budgerigars tend to inhabit the interior of the Australian mainland
As long as there is enough rain and water for them to drink, budgerigars tend to inhabit the interior of the Australian mainland

As long as there is enough rain and water for them to drink, budgerigars tend to inhabit the interior of the Australian mainland

After a particularly heavy rainfall, photographer Steven Pearce was lucky enough to see a flock of up to 10,000 budgerigars
After a particularly heavy rainfall, photographer Steven Pearce was lucky enough to see a flock of up to 10,000 budgerigars

After a particularly heavy rainfall, photographer Steven Pearce was lucky enough to see a flock of up to 10,000 budgerigars

After a rare dry spell, thousands upon thousands of budgies formed a flock and all congregated around the same water hole
After a rare dry spell, thousands upon thousands of budgies formed a flock and all congregated around the same water hole

After a rare dry spell, thousands upon thousands of budgies formed a flock and all congregated around the same water hole

The sky was thick with bright green as waves of budgerigars flew to the water hole in Alice Springs early on Friday morning
The sky was thick with bright green as waves of budgerigars flew to the water hole in Alice Springs early on Friday morning

The sky was thick with bright green as waves of budgerigars flew to the water hole in Alice Springs early on Friday morning

According to the Australian Museum, flocks usually contain between three and 100 birds - making the group of 10,000 photographed by Mr Pearce a hugely rare occurrence. 

Budgerigars eat herbs and grass native to the Australian desert such as saltbush, and only gather in larger groups after abundant rainfall.

Mr Pearce saw a similar sight more than five years ago, when he caught the event on video.

Although it is rare, Mr Pearce has seen two occurrences of huge flocks drinking from a desert water hole after a big rainfall
Although it is rare, Mr Pearce has seen two occurrences of huge flocks drinking from a desert water hole after a big rainfall

Although it is rare, Mr Pearce has seen two occurrences of huge flocks drinking from a desert water hole after a big rainfall

Budgerigars  are common and the most numerous parrot species in Australia - they are usually heard before they are seen
Budgerigars  are common and the most numerous parrot species in Australia - they are usually heard before they are seen

Budgerigars are common and the most numerous parrot species in Australia - they are usually heard before they are seen

'It's also unique because budgies are not exotic, they are such as central part of our culture and even our lingo – budgie smugglers and so on – and this really is peak budgie, the most spectacular form you can see them in,' Mr Pearce said.

He added that larger groups are uncommon because it requires excellent communication and coordination skills to keep a flock of that size together.

Mr Pearce described to The Guardian the noise of thousands of birds swooping and diving in unions as the 'most spectacular' part of the event.

Budgerigars tend to flying flocks of up to a hundred, but do rarely form groups containing thousands if there has been rain
Budgerigars tend to flying flocks of up to a hundred, but do rarely form groups containing thousands if there has been rain

Budgerigars tend to flying flocks of up to a hundred, but do rarely form groups containing thousands if there has been rain

Each bird only drinks from the water hole for a few seconds before flying away again so they are not hunted by larger birds
Each bird only drinks from the water hole for a few seconds before flying away again so they are not hunted by larger birds

Each bird only drinks from the water hole for a few seconds before flying away again so they are not hunted by larger birds

The twisting, undulating motion of a flock of budgerigars is confusing to their predators, such as the falcon and the kestrel
The twisting, undulating motion of a flock of budgerigars is confusing to their predators, such as the falcon and the kestrel

The twisting, undulating motion of a flock of budgerigars is confusing to their predators, such as the falcon and the kestrel

Budgerigars shelter in trees hollows and bushes during the heat of the day, but they find food and water early in the morning
Budgerigars shelter in trees hollows and bushes during the heat of the day, but they find food and water early in the morning

Budgerigars shelter in trees hollows and bushes during the heat of the day, but they find food and water early in the morning

Mr Pear added that the sound made by the plethora of birds is the most unique part of the experience, considering that the middle of the desert is usually so silent.

And although the photographs make the event look synchronised and smooth, Mr Peace said that some of the birds inevitably crashed into each other. 

'It's a pretty unique place to be, not every bird species congregates like this – it requires good communication to gather in large groups,' Pearce said. 'They are cool little things for sure.'

It requires great communication and coordination for so many birds to all drink from the same water hole at the same time
It requires great communication and coordination for so many birds to all drink from the same water hole at the same time

It requires great communication and coordination for so many birds to all drink from the same water hole at the same time

Mr Pearce said that sometimes the budgerigars crashed into trees or each other, because of the sheer size of the huge flock
Mr Pearce said that sometimes the budgerigars crashed into trees or each other, because of the sheer size of the huge flock

Mr Pearce said that sometimes the budgerigars crashed into trees or each other, because of the sheer size of the huge flock

After they had their drink, the flock of birds flew away in unison but will soon disperse into smaller groups to find some shelter
After they had their drink, the flock of birds flew away in unison but will soon disperse into smaller groups to find some shelter

After they had their drink, the flock of birds flew away in unison but will soon disperse into smaller groups to find some shelter

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