Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Saturday, January 08, 2011

A "Squawk" of baby Currawongs

On Thursday morning in Robertson, it was damp and overcast. Normally a good thing for the birds I feed on my feed table - Bowerbirds and Lewin's Honeyeaters especially.

Suddenly, instead of hearing the low growls and metallic whirring noises of the Bowerbirds, I heard a cacophony of loud whistles, and the distinctive carolling calls of numerous Pied Currawong (Strepera graculina). So loud and so many calls I rushed to the back door to check it out. 

There were at least a dozen birds on the feeder table, on the roof gutter, in the trees around, and flying overhead. My brother counted 35 birds as the flock flew off.

They demolished the fruit on the feeder - apples and the remains of some watermelon.

These birds, when they form a pack like this, totally dominate all other birds, to such an extent that I reserve the right to chase Currawongs away. 

But there was something odd about this gathering. Most of the birds were juveniles. They black feathers were tinged with brown, especially on the neck and shoulders, and their gapes (corner of the beak) were still yellowish.

The flock which I am talking about
was of first season birds, mostly.
They were older than this baby Pied Currawong
- from 27 November 2010
but they were still all of the same season , not as brown as this one.
But they were but definitely not shiny black (and white) like true adults.
Fledgling Pied Currawong from 27 November 2010

But such a large gathering?

Normally I am used to seeing flocks of Currawongs in late autumn and winter. This was a cool morning, in the first week of January. High Summer.

What is going on?

To me it seems way too early in the season for such a large gathering of Currawongs.
Juvenile Little Raven
Here is another juvenile bird, a rare visitor to my feeder table - a juvenile Little Raven (Corvus mellori). There is not very much "little" about a Little Raven unless you are comparing it to an Australian Raven. Compared to my regular visitors, Pied Currawongs and Bowerbirds, this is a big bird. It was travelling with two adult "Little Ravens".

Comments welcomed as to whether such a gathering is unusually early?
Do Pied Currawongs form "creches".
On a  totally different subject, what is the best collective noun for such a gathering? I have suggested a "Squawk" of Baby Currawongs.


Missy said...

Sounds like they may have been having their own little schoolies week, so can I suggest a schoolies of currawongs.

Denis Wilson said...

That's a good one, Missy.

Mark Young said...

Interesting observation Denis, but not one I can help with. The brown head of your juvenile looks very similar to a bird I saw recently of a what I believe was a juv Aust Raven.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mark.
The Canberra birders are puzzled by this early gathering too.
The second image is of a juvenile Little Raven (with adults, and their call is distinctive).
But obviously both young Currawongs and young Ravens have a brownish tinge to start with. My little Little Raven had a pink base of the beak, not yellow gape. That surprised me.

Le Loup said...

Flocks of a variety of bird species have been found dead in the US, schools of dead fish being washed up also. Weather patterns are not normal, at least comparing within our lifetime.
Worth keeping an eye on.

Flabmeister said...

G'day Denis

Bearing in mind the dietary habits of Pied Currawongs I suggest a negative collective noun is in order.

Noting that 'a murder' is taken by corvids perhaps a genocide of Pied Currawongs? However that is currently in use (eg Rwanda) to imply killing off a race of your own species.

So to have a near homophone and to give it an air of scientific intensity - always a good thing - how about a genuscide of Pied Currawongs?