Mystery bird call

To: Tom Tarrant <>
Subject: Mystery bird call
From: Syd Curtis <>
Date: Mon, 31 Oct 2011 12:10:02 +1000
Perhaps of passing interest re Nightjars.

Some decades ago the U of Q Professor of Zoology had annual student exercises 
in Lamington N. P.    Each ran for several days.    As an officer of the Parks 
Service, I had the pleasure of assisting in  a number of them.  One activity 
was a study of the dawn chorus.  And initially there was one call that not even 
the good Professor could identify.  Given once only on any morning which of 
course made identification extremely difficult.  Eventually it was found to be 
an Owlet-nightjar giving a "good-night" ("good-miorning"?) call as it retired 
into its sleeping hollow.  And it was a quite different call to its regular 
night-time call.

Back in the 1960s, I had a somewhat similar experience.  I represented the 
Dept. of Forestry (then administering N Parks) on an inter-departmental 
committee investigating some N P proposals on C. York Peninsula.  My first trip 
to that part of the world.  At one stage we camped  for a few days at the foot 
of the McIlwraith Range - eastern side towards the southern end.  At night 
there was a pair of birds calling to each other quite frequently.  Calls that 
I'd never heard before.  On a couple of nights I tried, without any success, to 
find one with a spotlight.

Desperate measures were called for.  I decided to get up well before dawn and 
try to follow the sound until the last call, then note as best I could where it 
came from, and wait for enough daylight to search for it.  Turned out to be 
delightfully easy: they went to the ground for the day, sleeping some 10 or 15 
m apart ... and having a final little quiet conversation, totally different to 
their calls during the night, before going to sleep.  I waited until there was 
plenty of light and had no difficulty in find the one whose location I had 
noted.  Obviously a nightjar.   And of course easily found in bird-books to be 
the  Large-tailed.  Immediately identifiable by anyone who has heard its 
"chopping" call.  

Incidentally, HANZAB gives (among other English names), Axe-bird, 
Carpenter-bird, Hammer-bird, Joiner-bird, Mallet-bird and Woodcutter.  And 
somewhere long ago, I recall "Betting-bird" being given as yet another name.  
HANZAB says the "chop" is "usually repeated 3-6 times, sometimes only once, and 
once as many as 48 times, before pausing for a few seconds before another 
bout".  Sadly, I cannot now remember where I found the reference to 
"Betting-bird" - it being claimed that men camped in the bush would bet on how 
many chops there would be in the next call.


Syd Curtis

On 28/10/2011, at 7:09 AM, Tom Tarrant wrote:

> Recently whilst analyzing audio sensors from the QUT audio project
> <>at Samford (SE
> Qld) I came across this call <>  and believe
> that it is the daytime call of the Australian Owlet-Nightjar. I have created
> a small site to highlight 'Mystery-calls' that we are finding and you can
> leave remarks and opinions. Listen for the 4 repetitions.
> I have also recently found the following publication extremely useful 'The
> Sound Approach to Birding' <> by Mark
> Constantine and recommend it to anyone with an interest in learning about
> bird-sound (Please note that I have no commercial interest in it.)
> Look forward to hearing your comments,
> Tom
> -- 
> ********************************
> Tom Tarrant
> Kobble Creek, Qld
> ********************************


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