Chris Watson

Birding Central Australia #29

Chris Watson

Grey Butcherbird Cracticus torquatus

A lesser-known songster

It’s been a massive week of birding folks. Gary Oliver has hit town on his quest to set the Australian record for the most bird species photographed in one year – with so many birding hotspots, The Red Centre was a must visit destination. He’s already tracked down a few local rarities and will shortly be on his way to the Top End.

Staff and Students at OLSH Bath Street have had an amazing bird encounter. A huge bird, with a massive bill, was found flapping around in the schoolyard. Was it a baby eagle or maybe an exotic Hornbill of some sort? Experts from Alice Springs Desert Park came to the rescue. The bird was a juvenile Channel-billed Cuckoo which had fallen from its nest during flight practice. This is a bird at home in the Top End or New Guinea, but they are known to be in Alice in small numbers.

The Channel-billed Cuckoo is what ornithologists call an obligate brood parasite. This just means that it sneaks in and lays its eggs in the nest of a different species of bird – usually a crow. Then the egg hatches and the massive chick turfs the crow’s own eggs out of the nest. The crows don’t notice the subterfuge and will dutifully raise the chick which ends up being many times larger than the unsuspecting ‘parents’.  This is a spectacular discovery, so congratulations to all the lucky OLSH birdos.

The bird in the picture this week is a Grey Butcherbird singing his heart out. This close relative of the Australian Magpie is usually uncommon around Alice but a few are being reported at the moment.

Sightings this week: 

-          Australian Crake at Ilparpa Swamp

-          White-backed Swallow on the road to Santa Theresa

-          Rufous-throated Honeyeaters at Kunjarra (The Pebbles)

-          Ground Cuckoo-shrikes seen lurking around the airport and AZRI estate