Most mornings lately, I have been greeted by the melodic warbling of a Grey Butcherbird, perched in its favourite Jacaranda tree. It can also be seen perched on the neighbour's television antenna. The visit is regular but brief as it disappears by 9am. I have no idea where it goes during the day, but it regularly reappears each morning.
Spotted Doves are also residents in my garden and in the early morning, can be found, without fail, sunbaking on the warm concrete path near the vegetable patch. Yesterday, there were Magpie-larks (peewees), feeding on insects that had fallen into the pool.
These small observations give the day meaning and are much more noticeable because we are all socially isolated and staying at home. It is a wonderful, relaxing way to start the day.
Grey Butcherbirds are a common species, and are found across most of Australia, in woodlands and suburban gardens. They prefer habitat with denser shrubbery and a closed tree canopy.
They have a black crown and face and grey back with a white collar. Underneath they are mostly white, and their shape is reminiscent of a kingfisher. The large bill often has a hook on the end, which is put to good use when they feed.
Butcherbirds are aggressive predators and hunt small birds and their eggs, lizards, insects and other small animals. They get their name from their habit of 'hanging" their prey on branches of trees or wedging them in the fork of a tree, to facilitate dismembering their meal (butcher), or to keep for later.
Despite this sometimes distressing behaviour, they are a very people-friendly bird and will readily come close to humans. It is not, however, a good idea to feed them.
They, like most other birds can be attracted to our gardens by a regular supply of fresh water and of course, attractive vegetation.
Birdlife Australia's Autumn Backyard Bird Survey is currently running until the end of April. It's a great activity to get you or your kids outside, while observing social distancing requirements. The survey can be accessed on the Birdlife website at www.birdsinbackyards.net. There is a great article on birding at home, which includes activities for kids. The perfect way to get fresh air and to learn more about our wonderful native birds.
Hunter Bird Observer's Club website can be found at: http://www.hboc.org.au