Grey Currawong

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Common Name: Grey Currawong
Scientific Name: Strepera versicolor

Size: 17-23 inches (44-57 cm)

Habitat: Australia; Endemic--found across the southern part of Australia from the Central Coast region of New South Wales, occurring south of latitude 32°S southwards and westwards, from the vicinity of Mudgee in the north and southwest to Temora and Albury onto the Riverina and across most of Victoria and southern South Australia to the fertile south-west corner of Western Australia and the semi-arid country surrounding it. Outlying populations are found on the east coast of Tasmania and in the arid area where the Northern Territory meets South Australia and Western Australia. It is absent from King and Flinders Islands in Bass Strait. In general, the Grey Currawong is sedentary throughout its range, although it appears to be resident in the cooler months only in south Gippsland in eastern Victoria and the far south coast of New South Wales.

Status: Least Concern to Critically Endangered. Global population: Unknown. Unlike its more common relative, it has adapted poorly to human impact and has declined in much of its range. The Grey Currawong appears to have declined across its distribution; formerly common, it became scarce in northern Victoria in the 1930s, and in northeastern Victoria in the 1960s. Habitat destruction has seen it decline in southeastern South Australia around Naracoorte and from many areas in the Western Australian Wheatbelt. It also became rare in the Margaret River and Cape Naturaliste regions after 1920, and vanished from much of the Swan Coastal Plain by the 1940s. One place which has seen an increase in numbers is the Mount Lofty Ranges in the 1960s. The species has never been common in the Sydney Basin and sightings have been uncommon and scattered since the time of John Gould in the early 19th century. The status of the species is uncertain in the Northern Territory, where it may be extinct. It has been classified as Critically Endangered there pending further information.

Diet: An omnivorous and opportunistic feeder, preying on many invertebrates, such as snails, spiders and woodlice, and a wide variety of insects including beetles, earwigs, cockroaches, wasps, ants and grasshoppers, and smaller vertebrates, including frogs, lizards such as the Bearded Dragon as well as skinks, rats, mice, and nestlings or young of Tasmanian Native-hen, Red Wattlebird, Eastern Spinebill, House Sparrow and Splendid Fairywren.

It also eats a wide variety of plant material is also consumed, including the fruit or berries of Ficus species, Leucopogon species, Exocarpos species, a cycad, a mistletoe, and Cotoneaster species.

A. pinifolium is especially popular, and one observer noted that the normally noisy birds became quiet and sluggish when eating it, prompting him to wonder whether the plant had a narcotic effect on the birds.

Foraging takes place on the ground, or less commonly in trees or shrubs. Most commonly birds probe the ground for prey, but sometimes they chase more mobile animals. It has been recorded wedging its bill under a rock to overturn and lift it, as well as removing insects from parked cars. The Grey Currawong usually swallows prey whole, although one bird was observed impaling a rodent on a stick and eating parts of it, in the manner of a butcherbird.

Nesting: The male is on average slightly larger than the female, but the size and weight ranges mostly overlap. The breeding habits of the Grey Currawong are not well known, and the inaccessibility of its nests makes study difficult. The breeding season lasts from August to December. The Grey Currawong builds a large shallow nest of thin sticks lined with grass and bark high in trees; generally eucalypts are chosen.

Cool Facts: One of three currawong species in the genus Strepera, it is closely related to the butcherbirds and Australian Magpie of the family Artamidae. Six subspecies are recognized.

Found in Songbird ReMix Australia Volume II

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