19 November, 2011

"Clink! Clunk!"

My previous blog about Currawongs has proven to be one of my more popular posts, so when I managed to snap a couple of photos of a Grey Currawong as I was walking around Mt Brandon Peninsula during the week, I thought it was time to revisit the topic.
Grey Currawong
As I said previously, Pied Currawongs can be seen regularly at many points along the Barwon and in surrounding areas - including my backyard. Grey Currawongs are a different matter.
Until this week, I had never seen one. This may not be such a surprise as Grey Currawongs are not as numerous as their pied cousins and their numbers have suffered as a result of habitat loss with the arrival of European settlement.
As the name suggests, they are a grey bird with the piercing yellow eye typical of all currawongs and their shape and size is also similar. Their colouring however is somewhat different. They do have the white-tipped tail seen in Pied Currawongs, however their plumage is usually grey or grey-brown rather than black. Just to complicate the issue, there are six recognised subspecies of the Grey Currawong, each with variations in colour.
Grey Currawong
As far as I can tell, this particular bird was probably of the versicolor type. This is the "nominate" or original type to be identified and is found in the east of Victoria and New South Wales. It is grey to brown in colour and has white on its wingtips. Other subspecies are the Brown Currawong (intermedia), found in South Australia. It is a darker grey-brown colour. The Clinking Currawong (arguta) is large and sooty black coloured and found only in Tasmania whilst the halmaturina subspecies is dark coloured and lighter-weight than other subspecies and found only on Kangaroo Island. The Black-winged Currawong (melanoptera) is found in the Mallee and into South Australia and the plumbea subspecies (also called squeaker) is found in the west of the country.
Unlike the other subspecies, the Squeaker and Black Currawongs have no white on their wings.
The names Squeaker and Clinking Currawong come from the call of the Grey Currawong which is said to sound like a high-pitched "clink" or ringing sound. From memory, the couple of calls I heard were  coarser and more like a croak. Certainly nothing like the call of the Pied Currawong.
The experts also inform me that these guys spend more time on the ground forraging for food than their pied counterparts, which fits  with the behaviour I was seeing in this bird. They are omnivores who eat all manner of creepy crawlies as well as fruit, seeds, eggs and carrion.
They also nest high in trees, making it hard to study their nesting habits. Co-incidentally or not, high in a eucalypt not far from where I observed this bird, was a nest of sticks. I don't know who it belongs to, but perhaps it bears further investigation.

No comments:

Post a Comment