Just before midday, I collected the mail and walked toward the dam to see if any birds were active. Nothing moved. A gentle breeze rustled through the trees, then ceased. All was still. Except I could still hear bark clattering high up in the tree. Looking toward the sound, I noticed the black head of a bird perched on the other side of a branch. It was busily pecking underneath a strip of loose bark, obviously searching for food. Ah, so this is another reason that bark falls onto the ground.
Once I had my camera, it took me a while to find the bird again. The dark colouring is a good camouflage against the dark tree bark. After a while, the clattering bark gave its position away.
At first I thought it might be a Pied Currawong, as the depiction in Pizzey and Knight’s “Field Guide to the Birds of Australia” seemed to match, but looking more closely at the colouring, the bird I had photographed was not totally black on the chest and belly, and it lacked the white patches on its wings and at the base of its tail. However, it looked too dark to be a Grey Currawong, which were shown to be a smokey grey, similar to the colour of a grey Burmese cat. As I read through the entry for Grey Currawong, it became clear that another race of Grey Currawong – the Blackwing Currawong – was prevalent in Victoria, with grey chest, white beneath the tail, and totally black wings, along with white-tipped feathers at the tip of the tail. This seems to match pretty well with my photographs.
I think this is the first time I have seen a Currawong of any description. What a beautiful looking bird. I love the Blackwing Currawong’s yellow eye and the way that its sleek black head sweeps back to pointed black wings. It almost looks as if it should morph into a supernatural being for a gothic novel – Dracula style. Along with insects, it also raids the nests of other birds, eating their eggs, so it could never be cast as the hero. However, it does eat insects that could potentially damage our trees, so its dining habits do have some redeeming features, even if it does clutter the place up with more fallen bark.