What do Pied Currawongs look like?
Pied Currawongs (Strepera graculina) are large, mostly black birds, with bright yellow eyes and. small patches of white under the tail and on the tips and base of the tail feathers.
Where are Pied Currawongs found?
Pied Currawongs are common in suburban parks and gardens on the east coast of Australia. They are often spotted carefully searching for any hidden snacks of grubs and insects.
- Pied Currawong females are responsible for building the nest. She makes the bowl-shaped nest out of sticks lined with grasses and other soft material. The nest is built in a high tree fork, up to 20m above the ground.
- Pied Currawongs have a cheeky streak that has been recorded back to the 1960s. Sydney Pied Currawongs all got a taste for milk, after learning how to pierce the foil tops of milk bottles with their beaks.
Pied Currawong – the full story
If you have heard a black and white bird calling ‘curra-wong, curra-wong‘ around your place, then you have just identified the Pied Currawong. This call is how the bird gets its name.
Pied Currawongs, Strepera graculina, love hanging out in the suburbs in eastern Australia. You cannot miss them. They are large, mostly black birds, with bright yellow eyes and. small patches of white under the tail and on the tips and base of the tail feathers.
Currawongs will walk along the rails of your veranda, perch on your clothesline or sing from the telegraph pole outside your home.
Pied Currawong females are responsible for building the nest. She makes the bowl-shaped nest out of sticks lined with grasses and other soft material. The nest is built in a high tree fork, up to 20m above the ground.
If you see a Currawong foraging on your lawn, it is looking for grubs and insects to eat. Currawongs are omnivores, which means they eat both meat and plants. They prey on skinks, small birds and chicks, but they also love to eat berries.
Currawongs are great helpers to have around. They also eat up carrion (dead animals) and clean up roadkill from the streets. Pied Currawongs also eat two particular species of stick insect that can defoliate patches of eucalyptus forests if there are too many of them around. Having Currawongs around will help keep your local area healthy and thriving.
Pied Currawongs love:
- Singing their distinctive and melodious call.
- Eating berries from native plants, but also from weeds such as Asparagus Fern and Privet.
- Eating insects, skinks, rodents, caterpillars, smaller birds, chicks and carrion.
- Forming flocks of up to 100 birds or more during winter and moving to plains and towns to feed. When the sun sets, they make an impressive, noisy sight as they fly home to communal roosts to rest for the night.
But they don’t like:
- Rat poison. If a Currawong eats a rodent contaminated by rat poison, it could become sick and die.
- Channel-billed Cuckoos – which lay their eggs in the nest of the Pied Currawong. Unlike other Cuckoos, the Channel-billed Cuckoo chicks do not evict the host’s young or eggs from the nest, but simply grow faster and demand all the food, thus starving the poor Pied Currawong chicks.
Be a Buddy to Pied Currawongs
- Keep large, old trees for birds to nest and roost in, and particularly trees with hollows as they take up to 100 years to develop.
- Make your home a safe house for small birds by planting local native strappy or spiny ground covers. Some examples are Lomandra longifolia (Spiny Headed Mat Rush) or a Dianella. These create refuges and habitat for them while keeping bigger birds out.
- Plant local natives in your garden that have berries Currawongs and other animals can eat.
- Mulch your garden to attract bugs and lizards for birds to feed on.
- Using chemicals to deter insects or rodents, as these chemicals can make birds sick if they ingest poisoned creatures.
- Planting weed species in your garden such as Asparagus Fern, Hawthorn, Lantana and Privet, as Currawongs will eat the berries and then fly off and poop the seeds somewhere where they could sprout and become a real environmental problem.
Don’t be surprised if:
- You notice Pied Currawongs store up some of their food for later. Sometimes they store prey they’ve caught in a ‘larder’ – they hang it on a hook or a tree fork. They leave larger prey there, such as a small possum or carrion, and come back to feed on it over time.
- You see big flocks of Currawongs in winter.
A few more Pied Currawong facts
- The Pied Currawong may be a little troublemaker for spreading the seeds of weeds and for eating up small birds and the chicks of other native birds, but it should not tarnish the reputation of its cousins.
- Tasmania is home to the Black Currawong. It has a heavy black bill, bright yellow eyes and makes a ‘kar-week, week-kar‘ sound. The Grey Currawong, with a white tail, lives along the southern part of the mainland.
- Lord Howe Island is also home to a Currawong that lives only on the island. The Lord Howe Island Pied Currawongs are the top predator in the island’s food chain and their prey ranges from other birds to rodents.