Barking Owls

Subject: Barking Owls
From: (Syd Curtis)
Date: Tue, 7 Jul 1998 23:10:04 +1000
David Geering wrote -

>Laurie's comments about Barking Owls taking roosting birds jolted my
>memory.  Somewhere in the literature, by Stephen Debus ?? perhaps with Dick
>Turner either as a co-author or acknowledgement, was mention of a pair of
>these owls preying predominantly on Galahs.  These birds were either very
>skilled, lucky or legless.

"Lucky"?  Why lucky?  Old bushman's recipe for cooking galah: place medium
stone in pot with galah.  Boil until stone is tender.  Eat stone; throw
away galah.

Early 1940s when on holidays on a cattle property "Bawnduggie", north of
Chinchilla, I encountered what must have been Barking Owls.  My ignorance
of nocturnal birds of prey then was even more limited than it is now, but
after all these years I still have the clearest recollection of being
amazed at owls making such realistic dog-barks.

Early 1970s, I went with the late Norman Robinson to visit David Fleay at
his sanctuary on the Gold Coast.  We wanted to consult David over sounds
made by Albert Lyrebirds that I thought to be mimicry of possums.  David
had a pair of Barking Owls, and he could get the male (I assume) to call
for him.  Norman wanted a recording for the CSIRO Sound Archives and asked
me tape it.

I stood by the cage, Uher at the ready.  The bird called for David as
promised; I recorded.  I turned to Norman, rewound the tape and started to
replay, and was intending to say "Norman, is that good enough?", when
WHAM!!!! that owl fairly exploded onto the wire beside me,  He'd have
killed me if he could.

I've gathered from discussions on birding-aus that various owls react
strongly to playback.  I sure can believe it.

Birds can be real characters at times.  On another occasion I was visiting
a person doing research involving captive black cockatoos.  One flew to the
netting near me and I was admiring him from safely outside.  My host said,
"It's OK.  He won't bite.  He'd love you to scratch him."  So I inserted a
finger to scratch him and 'talked' quietly to him.  The bird appeared to
enjoy it.  Then I walked around the cage to look at anothe cockatoo, but
not having been "introduced", carefully avoided putting a finger inside.
Presently the first bird flew across to me.  I went to scratch him, and he
immediately bent down, gave me a quick bite that drew blood, and flew off
again.  He was jealous because I was giving attention to the other bird!

Syd Curtis at Hawthorne, Q.

H Syd Curtis

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