Saturday, January 19, 2013

Thank goodness somebody eats them


After a hiatus, I'm back. I guess the trick is to write short, achievable posts.

The bird baby season has just finished for Perth, and many of the spring youngsters have fledged from our garden. But one parent-chick pair is still lurking around - and that the black-faced cuckoo shrike (Coracina novaehollandiae).

They're strange birds. They fold their wings each and every time they land in some sort of odd display (Land. Fold wings over this way. Fold over the other way. Fold over the other way again.). And they have this strange, strangled, subtle call of Zeeee-ewwww. And they're curious and beady-eyed, but overlooked by most people because they don't really stand out as a strikingly unusual Australian bird (i.e. not brightly plumaged nor excessively and obtrusively noisy).

But they've taken to the shady copse of Acacia saligna I planted in the backard (called 'Saligna Grove') with gusto because this Acacia species is normally festooned with stinky Crusader bugs (Mictis profana: Coreidae). Sucking phloem sap and spreading a rust fungus and whatever mycoplasmas or viral pathogens, the hemipteran was reaching plague proportions, to the detriment of our shrubs.

A pair of furiously procreating Crusader bugs.

The stinky native bugs were causing a lot of damage to new growth and eventually to the whole plant, and it appeared that nobody was keen to eat them. Not even the hungry bee eaters would dare stick these vile-tasting things down their throats.

But salvation appeared in the form of a noisy, gurgling, baby black-faced cuckoo shrike. Attracted by their flapping among the Acacia saligna, we noted to our relief and delight that, at last, somebody ate the apparently distasteful Crusader bugs. Plucked fresh from the boughs of the acacia, wiped on a wire or branch, they're then swallowed with relish. Tuck in, we say! Help yourselves!. Don't stop at one!
The pale-faced youngster wants everything the parent captures.

The junior cuckoo shrike catches and eats a Crusader bug