Chris Watson

Birding Central Australia #32

Chris Watson

Immature Little Crow Corvus bennetti

A mystery crow

Brace yourself folks. This week we traverse the controversial territory of corvid identification. That’s right, all those black birds that everyone sees and dismisses as “crow”, could actually be one of five or six different birds depending on where you are.

Here in Alice you are fairly safe with “crow”. On geographic boundaries we can discount the Forest Raven, the Little Raven and the occasional ship-assisted vagrant House Crow.

The two common species here are the Torresian Crow and Little Crow but we do sometimes get the Australian Raven, but how to tell the difference? A simple trick is to watch the bird until the wind ruffles the feathers around the neck. If the down at the base of the feathers is white, then you’ve got one of the crow species. If the down is a muddy, grey-brown colour then it is a raven.

Based on the white down visible between the neck feathers on our bird this week, I’d say it’s safe to call it a crow – but which one? It’s definitely a juvenile as both crow species have a white eye in adulthood. Other than beak size, often the best way to distinguish between the two is on behavioural characteristics like wing flicks, body position while calling and the sound of the call itself.

Welcome to the world of serious birdwatching. The first person to email the correct species gets bragging rights in next week’s bulletin.

Sightings this week: 

Grey Falcon – This legendary species has been seen again south of town on the Stuart Highway around Salt Creek.

Black-chinned Honeyeater – Never easy to find, this little beauty is in good numbers in Serpentine Gorge at the moment.