ID a bird?

To: Jennifer Smith <>, <>
Subject: ID a bird?
From: Syd Curtis <>
Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2008 22:58:19 +1000
Hello Jennifer,

A couple of comments re your Scrubwren:

> From: Jennifer Smith <>
> Date: Mon, 18 Aug 2008 12:17:50 +1000
> To: <>
> Subject: RE: [Birding-Aus] ID a bird?
> Thank you all.  Seems it must definintely be a Yellow-throated Scrubwren.
> Joalah National Park, Mt Tambourine last January it was.
> Much appreciated.
> Cheers,
> Jennifer> 

When next in Joalah, keep a look out for their nests.

Many bird species try to make their nests inconspicuous, no doubt to
minimise predation.  Your Y-t S-w adopts a different strategy: the nest is
conspicuous, but dangling from the end of a thin branchlet, and not
obviously a nest.  Beruldson (Nests & Eggs of Aus. Birds) says "often built
over a watercourse ... sometimes resemble flood debris".

The nest is usually pear-shaped with a dangling tail and its upward sloping
entrance is very inconspicuous.  So it's not obvious as a bird-nest to avian
predators; and snakes, quolls, etc., can't get at it because the thin twig
won't support their weight.  Very effective, I'd reckon.

On Tamborine Mountain at least, the nests are largely constructed of the
mycelium of the Horse-hair Fungus (Marasmius equicrinus), which is black and
indeed is very like horse-hair.  It is very durable, and so old nests last a
long time.  You should have no difficulty in finding them along the creek.

My mother's family moved to Tamborine Mountain in 1898 when she was 8 years
old.  No bird-books, so she learnt about the birds from the birds.  Had to
give them her own names.  Quite appropriately the Y-t S-w was the
"Black-nest Bird" to her.  (As a child, that was the name I knew for them.)

Mum was always interested, with any bird nest, to know whether it had eggs
or young or neither.  For domed nests with side-entrances she would very
gently insert a finger to feel for eggs.  Now there are two species of small
bats that sometimes 'roost' in old Y-t S-w nests. And of course it was
rather startling to touch a nest and have a bat fly out at you.  Whether or
not that was the origin of the other name for them, "Devil-bird" I do not
know.  (Back when I was a child one didn't ask one's mother whether it was
an illusion to "a bat out of hell".)

Bats weren't the only creatures to inhabit Y-t S-w nests once the chicks had
left.  Another to use them was a very large, and spiky, native cricket.  Mum
said it gave her a great feeling of revulsion when her probing finger
encountered one.

BTW you will find that the horse-hair fungus is quite common in the
Tamborine rainforests.  Superficially, it looks very like hair, unless you
look more closely and see that it branches.  Look on any small trees and
shrubs.  And if you are very lucky, you may find its fruiting body - a
perfect little 'mushroom' less than two millimetres in diameter.  (Probably
not at this, the driest time, of the year, though.)

"Joalah" is a word from the local Aboriginal language meaning haunt of the
lyrebird.  Should still have Albert's Lyrebirds, though you're not likely to
see them.  Along the track behind the Cemetery in Witches' Falls N P, is a
better bet. It seems they sometimes forage in adjoining gardens there.


Syd Curtis (Brisbane)


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