Pied currawongs are large, black birds with white patches on their tails and feather tips. Pied means having two or more colours. The scientific name for pied currawongs is Strepera Graculina. In Latin, Strepera means noisy.
Pied currawongs are not related to magpies although they look very similar. The major difference is that currawongs have bright yellow eyes.
Pied currawongs range in size from 42 to 50 centimetres and weigh about the same as a grapefruit - about 300 grams!
Where do pied currawongs live?
Pied currawongs are found throughout eastern Australia. They live in wet and dry forests, on farms and grasslands. They have adapted well to urban areas and are a common sight in neighbourhood gardens and parks.
What do pied currawongs eat?
Pied currawongs are omnivores, meaning their diet consists of animals and plants. They eat a wide variety of berries and seeds, insects, grubs, bird eggs and baby birds. Pied currawongs are also capable of taking larger prey such as small possums. They are known to create a ‘larder’ for food. A larder is another word for pantry. Tree crevices, hooks and tree forks are ideal for these larders. The food is eaten immediately or stored for later.
Like all birds, currawongs have excellent eyesight and hearing. Their sharp eyesight is used to search for and catch prey that might be hiding or moving quickly. It is also helpful to avoid obstacles as they move through the air.
They use calls and songs to mark out their territory which means they need excellent hearing over long distances.
Pied currawongs have a hook on their large beak to shred (pull apart) their prey.
Pied currawongs create many interesting sounds to communicate including loud, high pitched whistles and a call described as “curra-wong curra-wong.” Different calls can be used to guard territory, as a warning to deter predators or during mating rituals.
Pied currawongs are known to occasionally hunt in groups - in the air, in bushes and on the ground. Hunting in groups makes it easier to catch prey. If threatened, pied currawongs can use beak-snapping, dive-bombing and aerial pursuit to ward off enemies.
They have successfully adapted to living in suburban areas and as a result their numbers are growing. This is because food sources are abundant - both human and natural.
Pied currawong breeding
Pied currawongs build their nests in tree forks up to 25 metres from the ground. The pair collect sticks and twigs to make the nest. Females build the nests over a period of two weeks. They lay between two to four spotted eggs and sit on them for approximately 20 days during which time the males will feed them. Once hatched, both birds will feed the young chicks until they become independent several months later. Juveniles (baby currawongs) are greyish in colour and have black eyes.
What are their main threats?
Predators of pied currawongs include brown snakes, lace monitors and carpet pythons. Pied currawongs also fall victim to parasitic birds called channel billed cuckoos. Parasitic birds lay their eggs in other bird’s nests and leave the hard work to the host bird!