Re: Pied Currawongs migration changes

To: "'Denis Wilson'" <>, "'Philip Veerman'" <>
Subject: Re: Pied Currawongs migration changes
From: "Mark Clayton" <>
Date: Sun, 12 Aug 2012 18:43:15 +1000

Denis is right with his summation of events leading to the Pied Currawongs becoming a permanent fixture in the city and suburbs. The other thing that has triggered their stay is/was the planting of shrubs such as Pyracantha, Cotoneaster and ivy, among others. I know there are quite a few people who blame currawongs for the loss of many bird species around the suburbs and in the fringing nature reserves. I know currawongs take young birds [that is part of what they are designed to do] but so too do magpies, kookaburras and even, in the right habitat, swamphens and Musk Ducks. I regularly have currawongs visit my back deck and they quite happily leave little presents all nicely bundled up!! I have NEVER found anything but plant material or insect remains in these presents. I do have a major problem, in what passes for my garden, now with species such as those already mentioned and others such as privet. It would be an interesting study to get the ACT Government to declare all these berry-bearing bushes as noxious weeds and demand they be removed, but that will never happen


In my opinion one of the main reasons for the reduction in numbers of small birds in and around Canberra one only has to look at the ACT Governments attitude to acacias of different species. I have seen perfectly healthy stands of such species as Black Wattles totally removed from areas around Kaleen/Giralang. With all due respect to those who lost or suffered damage to houses during the 2003 fires, this is a classic knee jerk reaction to something the Government doesn’t understand. Of course drought is the other contributing factor.


Any other long term residents care to comment – I came to Canberra in 1954?!




From: Denis Wilson [
Sent: Sunday, 12 August 2012 5:46 PM
To: Philip Veerman
Cc: Mike Braysher;
Subject: [canberrabirds] Re: Pied Currawongs migration changes


Hi Philip and others.

Dad's book simply records a report by Marchant (1965) that  "a few pairs stay and breed around the City. ("Birds of the ACT - Two centuries of Change)

There is no attempted explanation, merely reportage. My comments are conjectural, of course (which I have already acknowledged).

However, the early photographic record for Canberra does bear out my comments about the history of early plantations in Canberra. The late, great Lyndsay Pryor was responsible for most of those plantings.

Your comment about Black Mountain having been largely cleared is also correct. Once again verifiable by photographic record.

However, in my understanding is that the bulk of the current Black Mountain "forest" is not really suitable breeding habitat for the Pied Currawongs. It is dense Eucalypt regrowth forest, but the understorey is sparse, and largely dry. Much of it is Bursaria shrubbery with large areas of native grasses. Whereas, the ANBG plantings are much favoured by Pied Currawongs.

That could be because the people at the ANBG have managed to replicate a wet forest habitat, with a dense understorey, whereas most of Black Mountain is either Scribbly Gum/Brittle Gum forest with dry shrubbery understorey, or else, on the southern side, mostly Stringybark with some Bursaria scrub understorey.

The so-called "rain forest gully" in the ANBG provides a great breeding habitat for Pied Currawongs and a full suite of small birds, insects and reptiles. A complete habitat.

The Currawongs of Telopea Park are but a mere 30 second flight from established gardens, replete with young Blackbirds (thanks Geoffrey for the "evidence" of that food source) and other small birds.



On Sun, Aug 12, 2012 at 5:10 PM, Philip Veerman <m("","pveerman");" target="_blank">> wrote:

Thanks, good comments, good logic and seem a very likely additional contributor. Requires a bit of background of early knowledge to think of that one though. Were there really so few big trees around here several decades ago? A program on TV maybe last year talked about how Black Mountain was mostly open grassland with few trees and showed several early photos that certainly support this idea. I would think then that this change would impact on numbers of many other species of woodland / forest birds. Does your father's book talk about that? Maybe there is that evidence. I don't know, it is before my time here.


I have taken the liberty to change the subject header and taken off the earlier messages - a useful thing to do, to get off this Myna article.





-----Original Message-----From: Denis Wilson [mailto:m("","peonyden");" target="_blank">] Sent: Sunday, 12 August 2012 4:36 PM      To: Philip Veerman
Cc: Mike Braysher; m("","canberrabirds");" target="_blank">
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] The Common Myna: 'Is It Benign or Is It a Pariah?' Comment on Mike's message.

Hi Cog Chat line members

Now that the subject appears to be drifting to Pied Currawongs, I can offer the comment that the first records of breeding of Currawongs in Canberra of which I am aware, came from an "egg collector" (pers comm, as they say in official journals), in the early 1960s.

The location of that "first Currawong's nest and egg collection" was Telopea Park circa 1961. Telopea Park was one of the oldest established plantations of tall Eucalypts, in the early days of Canberra.

Subsequently they became established in Forrest, and then the ANBG as those areas developed enough tall Eucalypts for the Currawongs to breed in.

The supply of succulent nestlings in the ANBG is a matter of record, courtesy of the extensive studies of  Superb Fairy Wrens there by the ANU students.

But in my personal experience, it was the presence of established tall Eucalypts which enabled the winter-visiting Currawongs to remain in Canberra over the summer, in suitable breeding habitats.

The suggestion of available high-protein food (notably nestlings of other birds) as the causal link risks putting the Chicken before the Egg - in my opinion. Two sides of the equation are necessary, I agree, but the thing which changed in or around 1960s in Canberra was the maturation of the early Parks and Gardens plantations of tall Eucalypts.

Denis Wilson
Denis Wilson
"The Nature of Robertson"

Denis Wilson
"The Nature of Robertson"

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