Pied Currawongs Strepera graculina are uncommon visitors to Newstead. As altitudinal migrants, they move from their breeding grounds along the Great Divide, into the foothills during autumn. Over the past few years, small numbers have passed through in late April/May and then disappeared. In nearby Castlemaine they are present throughout winter in good numbers. Our local Grey Currawong Strepera versicolour doesn’t like village life, but is resident in the surrounding bush year round, albeit in small numbers. It was a surprise then to have a lone Pied Currawong turn up in our yard over the weekend. A ring of alarm calls from smaller birds alerted me to its presence – the currawong heading direct for a Kurrajong tree next door.
It was obviously on a mission, purposefully dissecting seeds from the open pods of the Kurrajong, as I watched on from nearby. The Kurrajong Brachychiton populneus is an interesting plant. It grows naturally throughout much of semi-arid inland Australia and has been widely planted as an ornamental tree. I suspect it once occurred naturally not too far from Newstead.
Kurrajongs have distinctive seed pods, woody and boat-shaped, laden with hairy yellow seeds. Speaking from personal experience, the hairs on the seeds and pods can cause skin irritation! No problem for the currawong though – it deftly removed individual seeds without concern.
Judging from its behaviour I think this wasn’t its first visit to the tree. Perhaps it’s one of a small number of local Pied Currawongs exploiting such resources during the depths of winter.