birding-aus Re: Harassment of harmless species

Subject: birding-aus Re: Harassment of harmless species
From: "Carol Probets" <>
Date: Sat, 20 Feb 1999 23:34:08 PST

Thanks to all who replied to my question. The consensus seems to be that
these birds are mistaking at least the Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos for
birds of prey. This could be, but I think it?s worth noting here that
often smaller birds as well as currawongs etc. seem to be able to
distinguish quite well between species (or at least groups) of raptors,
eg. they will give the ?hawk-alarm? and keep hidden when there?s a
falcon or a goshawk about, but not for an eagle, which is not a threat
to their personal safety (although they are of course a threat to
nestlings). I think a YTBC is at least as easily distinguishable as
types of raptors are from each other. Perhaps not so for these birds,
and they might be playing it safe.

A friend of mine thinks that currawongs will attack anything if it is a
bit unusual. Perhaps it?s their way of ?playing it safe?. This could
apply to herons but not YTBCs which are very commonly seen in my area.

Other suggestions offered were that herons are not entirely harmless,
being quite willing to eat birds; and that ?currawongs and magpies are
just stroppy?. As flippant as it sounds, I reckon there?s something in
that. There was an article in Nature Australia magazine (Spring 1997) by
Nick Cilento who put forward the theory that some male Australian
Magpies are inclined to attack people during their nesting season not
because we are a threat to eggs or young (as is commonly supposed), but
because they have such an excess of hormones that their territorial
aggression is extended to species other than rival magpies ? and they
are ?showing off?. I can see parallels with humans!

Anyway, I don?t claim to know the answers, just offering some thoughts.


-----Original Message-----
>Dear all,
>Why is it that birds such as Pied Currawongs and Australian Magpies
>often harass or attack seemingly non-threatening species like
>Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos or herons flying over? I have my theories
>about this but would like to know what other birding-ausers think.
>Carol Probets
>Katoomba NSW

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