The Kooka, the Butcher, the Miner.

A Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) spent some time scoping out food in the backyard:

He hopped to the ground to retrieve a slice of meat dropped by the cats. .

After a while, a Grey Butcher-bird (Cracticus torquatus) decided the Kooka had out-stayed his welcome.

And some Noisy Miners (Manorina melanocephala) agreed.

The situation developed into a three-way brawl:

The Kookaburra didn’t need this grief! He moved off to the next house north… but once there, roused the ire of even more Miners…


Lockdown Lunchtimes.

With the imminent lifting of the Sydney COVID Lockdown, we take a look back at some visitors to the backyard over the last few months. I would set up my home office each day on the back deck, and around the middle of the day I would take a short break to eat lunch, and to photograph the birds that occasionally shared mealtime with me.

The Rainbow Lorikeets were always happy to share my apple:

A Currawong once tried the apple too, but wanted it takeaway:

Of course, regular visitor Lefty the Magpie (see “Lefty” – Sep 1 2021) often came around on the scrounge food – bread or chicken or cheese.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos would also come around if we put a seed-block out:

The pair of Butcher-birds (see “Backyard Butchers” Aug 31 2021) would also take the opportunity if there was ever any dropped food.

Two cats are having a temporary stay with us, and one of them flatly refuses to eat indoors. Because of that, there is often beef, kangaroo, chicken or salmon in the cat bowls on the back deck, as well as special biscuits.
We realise it is bad for birdlife to be fed too much processed meat – it can lead to calcium and other mineral deficiencies, which can compromise eggshell strength and bone density of chicks. We would not ever deliberately feed birds the food we feed the cats, but as we use raw meats that contain ground bone and offal, and biscuits that enhanced “science diet” – we hope that as long as they are stealing it in small enough quantities, it’s OK for them.

I filled a meat-encrusted cat bowl with water in order to soak: Lefty found this meat-flavoured water an interesting drop.

But it wasn’t always dropped cheese and cat meat. Sometimes they lunched on their natural diet.

And finally, in a tree in our neighbour’s yard overlooking ours, a King Parrot had a big lunch of fruit. (Apologies – I do not know what sort of tree this is).


Backyard Butchers.

A pair of Grey Butcherbirds (Cracticus torquatus) have been frequent lockdown visitors to the backyard. We think their dapper plumage is chic and elegantly understated, and their sharp, intelligent eyes make them very photogenic.

Whilst we see a pair, we’ve never seen them together. We hear them duetting, but they tend to show themselves singly. The only way we tell them apart is by their lores – the part running from the base of the bill to the leading point of the eye.
Reference guides seem to say that the adult female has a large loral spot. That leads us to believe that this is the female:

The Grey Butcherbird will eat some fruits and seeds, but the main part of their diet is insects and lizards, and sometimes the chicks of other birds. They are aggressive predators, adopting the wait and pounce strategy. Prey is generally taken on the ground, and they fly back to a perch to eat it.
Their name comes from their habit of wedging prey into a cleft in a tree, or even impaling it on a twig or thorn to hold it in place while they consume it – much in the manner of a butcher hanging a carcass.

Guides that we have read state that the male’s loral spot is “neat and round”. The second of the pair has slightly neater lores, but they couldn’t really be described as “round”. Nonetheless, we take this to be Mr Butcherbird:

Their song is fast becoming as anthemic as the Magpie’s in the Sydney region. It is loud, piping call has been described as “rollicking”, and can carry quite a distance. When we’ve seem them singing, they certainly throw their heads back, open their throats, and give it some!


Fight! Fight! Fight!

Inter-species altercations at the local park.

These Galahs were quietly grazing., under the watchful gaze of their alpha-male:

A youthful Magpie wanted to search for food in the same patch:

Tensions escalated:

The face-off got serious as the combatants rounded on each other, sizing each other up…

Then it was ON!

The Magpie’s mates watched on, but didn’t weigh in…

The pair then took it in turns to adopt a “running-away” strategy…

Later, in the carpark….