This #BeakoftheWeek focusses on a member of the Artamidae family.
The grey currawong is a large passerine species that is found in southern Australia and Tasmania (Xeno Canto links to a distribution map later in this article). There are 6 distinct subspecies, which are so diverse in their colouration that they were originally split into 6 separate species. They are found in a variety of habitats including arid shrub-land and temperate forests. Little is known about this species, but I will try my best to tell you everything that I have found out about them.
These guys spend a lot of their time foraging on the floor, using their strong beak to turn stones and break apart wood, to find tasty morsels. They are omnivorous and their diet is rather varied. They are known to eat fruit and seeds, as well are partaking in the ingestion of lizards, small mammals and birds. Like their close relatives the Australian magpies (Cracticus tibicen) and butcherbirds, they are also fans of predating bird nests.
They are similar in size to ravens at about 50cm long, and one of their most distinguishing features, like other currawongs, is their striking yellow eyes. Colouration in birds eyes can be caused by refraction and pigmentation, I like this article which goes into the reasoning and causes of eye colouration in more detail.
The female does most of the nest building and all of the incubating, although the male does assist with feeding the young. They usually lay 2-3 eggs, which take about 23 days to hatch. Whilst the female patiently waits for her eggs to hatch, her male companion helps attends to her dietary needs by feeding her on the nest. Once the chicks fledge after around 32 days they stay with their parents until the next breeding season.
Currawong calls are pretty cool, and this species has some great ones which can be heard on Xeno Canto. There is an extended version of the above gif here if you fancy watching a bit more chick feeding in action. There is a also a nice video of some chilling out at their local watering hole here.
This species is listed as of least concern on the IUCN redlist, and birdlife describes its population numbers as stable, even though they have been described as falling across their range by other sources.
BirdLife International 2012. Strepera versicolor. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 27 May 2015.
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Strepera versicolor. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 27/05/2015.
Russell, E. & Rowley, I. (2009). Grey Currawong (Strepera versicolor). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.) (2014). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from http://www.hbw.com/node/60624 on 27 May 2015).
Images and Videos:
BaseReality’s channel. 2015. Currawong feeding chicks. [Online]. [29/05/2015]. Available from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPdgedsmh8I