Bordering on Scrub Birds

Subject: Bordering on Scrub Birds
From: Laurence and Leanne Knight <>
Date: Sun, 15 Oct 2000 21:59:18 +1000
I was poking my english rose round a nothofagus garden down in the
vicinity of the [NSW] border today.

Although there were scrubwrens, warblers and rosellas in abundance, and
the odd pitta and lyrebird advertising, the forest was missing the
quintessential sense of summer that is supplied by fruit eating pigeons. 

The highlight for the morning was watching a male regent bowerbird
eating a red-brown fruit from a vine growing through the crown of a

I seem to recall that the characters "Gary and Tony" from the pommie
series "men behaving badly" were always creating lists of top ten
things.  It occurred to me that male regent bowerbirds would have to be
in the top ten most recognisable birds in Australia.  Has this group
ever created a top ten list of visually most unmistakable birds? [ie
that someone who knows absolutely nothing about Oz birds could have an
unobstructed view at 5 metres for 30 seconds and then accurately pick
out of a photo lineup - with no descriptions or maps to assist them].

When I think about, it might actually be hard to come up with ten
absolutely unmistakable birds - given that someone could conceivably
mistake an emu for a cassowary, and a drongo for a satin bowerbird.  The
corvids, albatrosses and warblers are obviously out of the running, as I
suspect that most on this list would struggle to sort them all out [with
no geographic clues].  Similarly currawongs and butcherbirds are out
since they pretty much look alike.  

When you whittle the list down, I think you would be left with birds
like eclectus parrots, gang gang cockatoos, red-backed fairy-wrens,
white-winged fairy wrens, white-bellied sea-eagle, brahminy kite, oz
pelican, jabiru, crimson finches, and of course the good old regent
bowerbird.  [Send your entries to the cackling Quiz Meister for

Anyhow, I digress.  Round mid-afternoon, I was passing down a creek when
I heard a loud chirping - about 4-5 in a series, with 15 second
intervals between series.  I could see the 3 metre vine-covered tree the
bird was calling from, but the bird itself was rather hard to make out
[normally it isn't too hard to see a bird making a racket in a tree a
couple of metres off the ground].  I approached and partly circled the
tree [expecting to flush the bird].  It wasn't till I was within 4
metres of the tree that I saw a brown robin-sized perched about one and
a half metres off the ground.  It was of course a rufous scrub-bird in
its non-elusive phase.  It didn't mind me being present - it just kept
on doing its territorial thing in front of me for over five minutes
[nice variety of calls too] - until some noisy wombats came through and
little fellow ghosted away [you never hear a scrub-bird move - they just
levitate].  The scrub-bird continued calling, albeit out-of-sight until
I left the vicinity [happily in receipt of one of birding's little

Now the interesting thing about this male was that I couldn't make out
the black round the throat and breast.  Granted, the light wasn't all
that bright, but this specimen looked a bit like an advanced immature. 
So, my question to the scrub-bird experts out there is do the young
males start calling before they are fully into their adult colours?

Regards, Laurie.

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