What’s Lurking In Your Backyard? – #11 Pied Currawong

This series looks at the variety of fauna that may be found in the suburban backyard or local reserve and the diversity may be surprising to some people. The obvious fauna are the vast array of birds that are readily seen by day and some by night, but there are numerous species that are nocturnal. Some of these nocturnal species people are familiar with as they tramp across the roof at night with what sounds like hobnail boots on, or they hear fighting in the backyard over food and territory. Others are cryptic and may only be seen infrequently when they enter the house for warmth and shelter. Each week I will highlight a different species that may be found in and around Melbourne’s backyards, parks and reserves, some may be familiar others less so.

#11 Pied Currawong
(Strepera graculina)

The call of the Pied Currawong always returns me to days hiking along the Murray River or walking in the Alpine regions. The early morning call waking me from the sleeping bag has stayed with me for years and is very distinctive.

This almost all black bird has a touch of white on the tips of its wings, the base and tip of its tail and the underside of its tail. It has a bright yellow eye, which is highlighted by its all black head. The bill is also black in colour and large and strong.

Pied Currawong’s may form large flocks during certain times of the year. This usually occurs outside of breeding periods when they may be found in small family groups or in pairs, occasionally as individuals.

Their distribution is from northern Queensland to Victoria and from the eastern and western slopes of the ranges. They occur within both the rural and semi-urban environments and are not averse to the cold, having been seen in the Alps when there is snow the about. Their presence in the semi-urban environments have been implicated in the decline of some bird species which may fall prey to these birds from nest predation or attack.

The Pied Currawong’s diet is varied and will eat small birds as well as lizards, insects and fruit. They have been known to eat small possums also and like the Grey Butcherbird (see What’s Lurking In Your Backyard? – #9 Grey Butcherbird) they may hang their prey in a branch to consume later. They are also scavengers eating dead animals especially on the sides of roads. In areas where grapes are grown such as the Yarra Valley were we are they form flocks that invade vineyards to eat the grapes.

Pied Currawong’s are nest builders and utilise sticks to build a nest, both the male and female collecting the sticks, with the female making the nests which she lines with softer material. The females incubate the eggs, usually 3, whilst the males supplies her with food when the chicks are first hatched.

© Habitat Ecology 2012

Pied Currawong

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