Friday, 22 April 2011

Missing the Bush

Living up to the reputation of their human counterparts, Australian birds are a noisy, boisterous lot. I know Gaw's been complaining about sparrows but he should really try a walk in the bush.

There are the cockatoos to start with, the thugs of the Australian feathered kingdom. They sit about on gum trees, making it look as if it's been dotted with bits of white paper, and then suddenly they all erupt from it at once, their harsh jagged cries ripping through the silence like rusty saws.

Then of course there are the kookaburras, who seem to often sit by themselves, all puffed up, as if they've been offended and are on their own in a corner of the playground trying to pretend they don't mind. Perhaps that's why they let out their peals of laughter - it's all part of the pretence.

Then there are the currawongs, big glossy black creatures with terrifying beaks. They are brutal animals, happy to kill small birds. They look a bit like rooks and they have jeering voices. 'I'm going, I'm going' one will shout and another will yell back, 'Go on then, go on then,' 'Yeah we're following mate, we're following, mate.' and a cynical, sneering, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah.' I'm not sure if they are the ones who make a repetitive sound that is a bit like the noise of someone trying to start a motor or a rather weak engined chain saw and make another chant that sounds like a combination between a depressed toad and a baby - aaah aaaah aaaah oooooh' and also another like an old man trying to be sick.

A flurry of small parrots will often shoot across the sky above your head, squeaking like little rubber toys. Then best of all come the magpies - different in Australia to the ones in Europe. They sound like someone singing in the shower, or kids bursting, laughing and squealing, from a hall after an exam. I heard just the other day on the radio that they have two larynxes and can therefore sing two songs at once. Certainly they are the closest thing to musicians in the Australian bush - their voices make me think of crystal and honey and water all somehow combined.


  1. I adore kookaburras

  2. I hadn't realised I'd published this - it was just the beginning of a post I did ages ago, which had lots of You Tube recordings of the actual bird sounds. I always miss kookaburras and magpies - and even Torresian crows - when I'm away. It's one of the many reasons I could never leave Australia permanently.