Chris Watson

Birding Central Australia #80 - Bush Stone-curlew

Chris Watson

Bush Stone-curlew Burhinus grallarius

If any readers have seen or heard the bird in the picture this week, apart from around Alice Springs Desert Park, I’d be very interested to hear about it. It is not a bird that would be easily mistaken if it was seen or heard. The Bush Stone-curlew can stand up to 60cm tall, but will often be encountered in the prostrate posture depicted. Though blending perfectly with the background of leaf litter, it is the staring, yellow eye that will often alert a keen observer to the presence of this bird.

The call is unlike any other animal in the Australian bush and is known for putting the unaccustomed on edge. A piercing and repetitive WEER-LOO is the sound, and it has the uncanny knack of setting off other Stone-curlews in the vicinity. Dogs, foxes, and cats have made short work of this strongly terrestrial and ground-nesting bird, so I’d be surprised if they are ever seen close to town anymore. They are still sometimes reported along the Plenty and Barkly Highways, but being mainly nocturnal, these sightings are mostly after dark.

Princess Parrots are continuing to be seen at Newhaven, and there have been many reports this week of Grey Honeyeaters along the Tanami Rd to the east of Tilmouth Well. I snuck out and did a few sections of the Larapinta trail this week in the vicinity of Serpentine Chalet, The Ochre Pits, and Ormiston Gorge. Spinifex Pigeons were present in huge flocks in areas of unburnt grass, and Painted Finches were as common as Budgerigars. White-browed Treecreepers and Grey Fantails were a pleasant surprise on the descent from Count’s Point, and Zebra Finches seem to be nesting in every available space. 

Happy birding!