Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Black and white menace

This beaky fellow is nesting in an ancient eucalyptus tree near the old sheep yards. Which is fine, we're happy to share. He's not. He firmly believes we should not set foot, hoof or paw in his territory and swoops us every chance he gets.

He's a White-Backed Magpie. It's been explained elsewhere that Australians like to call a spade a spade, a white faced heron a White Faced Heron and a glossy, black cockatoo a Glossy Black Cockatoo. We are not into fancy bird names when coldly descriptive will do. You may be wondering why, then, his back seems to be not white, but motley grey? Or indeed, since this is a nesting bird, her back is motley grey. Did the black paint and white paint get smudged? Actually, the grey paint is an undercoat. This is still a fairly juvenile bird and will get a truly dazzling white back after the next moult. In the meantime it's not her back we're looking at. It's that beak. Aimed like a missile straight at our heads when we least expect it.