21 May 2014

A murder of butcherbird

Partly prepared take-away

The veranda looked like someone had stabbed a pillow and shaken its body over the boards. That bird plucking a bird of the same size was mostly dull brown but the beak was unmistakable. The killer, disturbed, left off plucking and started dragging its prize away. (That evening, it air-freighted the body up to a fork of the nearest tree.)

The killer was a young Pied Butcherbird (Cracticus nigrogularis) and the lovely prize, with breast feathers of black-scalloped white—a Bassian (Ground) Thrush that had been feeding on the ground for the past week or so.

The butcherbird doesn't need the collective noun to be called a 'murder', but the invaluable Simpson & Day Field Guide to the Birds of Australia accurately describes it as having a "beautiful flute-like song".

The Bassian Thrush, however, has a scientific name that is music itself: Zoothera lunulata.

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