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Currawong

Birds Guide

Currawong

From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia, by MultiMedia

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Currawongs
 
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
 
Phylum: Chordata
 
Class: Aves
 
Order: Passeriformes
 
Family: Artamidae
 
Genus: Strepera
 
Species
  • Stepera graculina
  • Stepera versicolor
  • Stepera fuliginosa
Pied Currawongs are omnivorous and opportunistic - picnic time, Carnarvon Gorge
Pied Currawongs are omnivorous and opportunistic - picnic time, Carnarvon Gorge

Currawongs are medium-sized passerine birds of the family Artamidae native to Australasia. There are either three or four species (depending on whether the Australian Magpie is counted as a currawong or not). The common name comes from the call of the familiar Pied Currawong of eastern Australia and is onomatopoeic.

The true currawongs are a little larger than the Australian Magpie, somewhat smaller than most ravens, but broadly similar in appearance. They are easily distignuished by their yellow eyes, in contrast to the red eyes of a magpie and white eyes of Australian crows and ravens. They are not as terrestrial as the Magpie and have shorter legs. They are omnivorous, foraging in foliage, on tree trunks and limbs, and on the ground, taking insects and larvae (often dug out from under the bark of trees), fruit, and the nestlings of other birds.

It is sometimes said, with at least some justice, that the home gardener can have either currawongs or small birds, but not both—although part of this perception can be traced to the failure of many gardeners to provide a sufficient number of dense, thorny shrubs as refuges.

Contents

Species

All three currawongs are from the south or east of Australia.

Pied Currawong
Pied Currawong
Grey Currawong
Grey Currawong
  • The Pied Currawong (Stepera graculina) is black with white in the wing, undertail covets, the base of the tail and (most visibly) the tip of the tail. Size is about 40 to 50 cm. Along with the Australian Magpie and the butcherbirds, it has one of the most hauntingly beautiful caroling calls of any Australian songbird, and is eclipsed, perhaps, only by the Grey Shrike-thrush and the lyrebirds. It is common in woodland, rural and semi-urban environments throughout eastern Australia, from Cape York to western Victoria. It seems to have adapted well to European presence, and has become more common in some urban areas such as Sydney.
  • The Black Currawong (Stepera fuliginosa) is confined to Tasmania and is all black except for a small white patch in the wing and a white-tipped tail. Like all currawongs, it builds a large cup-nest out of sticks, lined with softer material, and placed in a tall tree.
  • The Grey Currawong (Stepera versicolor) has 6 different races spread right across the southern part of the continent from the Sydney area south and west around the coast and hinterland as far as the fertile south-west corner of Western Australia and the semi-arid country surrounding it. Outlying populations are found on the east coast of Tasmania and, oddly, in the arid area where the Northern Territory meets South Australia and Western Australia. The races vary a great deal: the most common mid to dark grey form (race versicolor) and the grey-brown form of South Australia, race intermedia, also known as the Brown Currawong, are readily recognised; the darkest races, mostly in Tasmania (race arguta, known as the Clinking Currawong) and the Black winged Currawong (race melanoptera) from western Victoria's mallee region, can be difficult to distinguish from the Black and Pied Currawongs at any distance. Kangaroo Island has its own race, halmaturina. The race plumbea occurs from western South Australia west through southern Western Australia. All Grey Currawongs, however, have a distinctive ringing call and a more sharply pointed, finer bill.

Ecology

Pied Currawong and berries of introduced plant in Lindfield, New South Wales.
Pied Currawong and berries of introduced plant in Lindfield, New South Wales.

Unlike many birds, the Currawongs have suffered little from European occupation of the land. Settlers and successive generations have replaced much of the natural woodland and forest with vast artificial grasslands, where Currawongs are seldom seen. Scattered patches of remaining bush appear to be sufficient for their needs and the provision of irrigated waypoints along their rambling migration routes has encouraged them to take up residence in areas where they previously only overflew. The effect of this on smaller birds that are vulnerable to nest predation is controversial: several studies have suggested that Pied Currawongs have become a serious problem, but the truth of this widely held perception remains to be established. They appear to thrive on berries of some introduced species, some of which themselves are pests, such as the Camphor Laurel.

Classification

Currawongs belong to the subfamily Cracticinae, which also includes the Australian Magpie and the Butcherbird: about 20 species in all. Together with the woodswallows (subfamily Artaminae), they make up the family Artamidae, which, in turn, is allied to the crows and jays, fantails, drongos, and many others. They are Protected in Australia under the National Parks and Wildlife Act, 1974.

External links


Home | Up | Artamus | Cracticus | Gymnorhina | Currawong

Birds Guide, made by MultiMedia | Free content and software

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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