In the open woodlands not far from Broome we regularly encounter Jacky Winters–Microeca fascinans pallida. Jacky Winters are widespread across much of Australia apart from where there are no woodlands and are one of the plainer birds in Australia. Jacky Winters are paler in their colouring in the north of Australia compared to the south and flit about as they chase insects making them hard to photograph. The Jacky Winter had been named Brown Flycatcher until 1926 when it was changed on the Checklist of the Birds of Australia by the RAOU. The name Jacky Winter evokes a bit more mystery than Brown Flycatcher, even if the original name was more descriptive! A lot of Australian bird names are descriptive and so when you hear of a Brown Honeyeater, Red-headed Honeyeater, Paperbark Flycatcher or Red-winged Parrot you immediately have an image of what you might be looking for. Although the name was changed from Brown Flycatcher to Jacky Winter there still appears to be some conjecture as to the reason for the change, but it seems that the chattering sound of “jacky-jacky-winter-winter” is to blame! In fact Jacky Winters are very good at mimicking other birds, so an odd sound in the woodlands is always worth checking out! In flight the white edges to the tail feather of the Jacky Winter distinguish it from the similar Kimberley Flycatcher-Microeca flavigaster tormentii, which can be found in the same habitat and looks quite similar.
This week we were bush-walking when we had a typical encounter with a pair of Jacky Winters. They swooped in a circle from one stick and landed on another stick as they chased insects among some flowering melaleucas. They rarely sit still for long as they are continually chasing insects, but on this occasion there was a minute or two when I could take some photos.
The Jacky Winter may well be one of the duller birds in our local environment, but it is still lovely watching it flit around in tight circles chasing insects under a warm blue July’s winter sky. The name is intriguing and next time you flit through the Australian Bird Guide stop a moment at the page showing the Jacky Winter and give it credit for the fact that it has a much more exciting name nowadays than “Brown Flycatcher“!