Back in the early 1990s when I worked for Birds Australia I took a lot of
calls from members of the public who were concerned about a media campaign
that promoted the culling of Pied Currawongs in some NSW towns and cities.
Although most people who phoned could identify Pied Currawongs correctly,
some thought that the following species were currawongs:
1. Australian Magpie
2. Australian Raven
3. Willie Wagtail (one person actually thought this might have been a baby
I think part of the problem was that many members of the non-birding public
were using a poor-quality bird ID book that was promoted widely on a
commercial TV gardening program at the time to identify birds in their
garden. But for someone to mistake a Willie Wagtail for a baby Pied
Currawong requires a lot of imagination on the part of the observer. On the
positive side, at least that person showed an interest in the contentious
issue of culling currawongs.
Dr Stephen Ambrose
Ambrose Ecological Services Pty Ltd
Ryde NSW 2112
On Behalf Of Stuart Cooney
Sent: Thursday, 15 April 2010 1:07 PM
Subject: Red-tailed Black Cockatoos in Beenak forest
Yes they are quite easy to distinguish by call and I agree it odd that
other birders haven't seen them (I have been seeing YTBCs flying over
the SE Freeway at around Mt Waverly a couple of times recently). And,
for whatever wild speculation is worth, I would think Glossy's are
slightly more likely than RTBCs based on habitat up in the hills.
It recalls to mind two quick stories of birds that were described to me.
Once a lady asked me what the rainbow coloured bird, with a downward
pointed beak was that visited her window was. We went through the field
guide and could find nothing that was colourful enough for her, even
though she had seen it very well. She remained convinced that it was an
escaped bird that was probably a quetzal! The second was from my time
moderating Birdline Vic, when I got a report of a Hoopoe, but this was
retracted on questioning of the submitter, though I never found out what
it was. Just goes to show that if people don't know what they are
looking at/for memories can be unreliable at times.
Dr Stuart Cooney
Ecology Partners Pty. Ltd.
Environmental and Heritage Consultants
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