The old adage “beware what you wish for” has come true for a family in Bellerive who invited a grey shrike-thrush to call.
A family learned the “Joe Witty” call of the shrike-thrush and mimicked it when it was out and about in their garden.
However, the call seems to have been so effective that the shrike-thrush believes the song originates from a rival and not a human having a little fun.
At first the family could not identify the bird that arrived at a window at 5.20am each morning and proceeded to wake them with its banging. They gave me a brief description of it and asked me to identify it, and offer a solution on how to stop it attacking their home.
They wrote the bird had been coming back to their home for years, however this time it seemed to have a mate with it.
To deter the shrike-thrush, the family had taped newspaper up to the window only to have the bird shred it off. They had also placed a replica of a swinging bird against the window but this has been ignored completely.
“We have now reverted to covering the window with a huge, embarrassing, ugly
tarp which the bird has decided to sit atop and do its thing quite comfortably,” the family wrote. “It has also managed to find even more annoying windows to tap
on including our bedroom ones. Other than putting a tarp over the whole
house, do you have any suggestions, or answers?”
I often get calls about problem birds attacking windows, even car wing-mirrors and windscreens, in summer and it always seems to be that shrike-thrushes are the most aggressive, and persistent, although this year superb fairy-wrens have been included in the list.
As I have indicated, male birds become aggressive when they see their reflection, thinking that they have a rival on their patch.
The standard practice is to cover up windows that show a reflection to the bird but in the Bellerive family’s case I suggested they might play recordings of birds of prey, which might at least make the shrike-thrush duck for cover and perhaps forget there was a non-existent rival on its territory. The tapes of bird calls can be downloaded from the internet or can be broadcast from an excellent CD, Australian Bird Calls – Tasmania by David Stewart.
I’ve received many calls about grey-shrike thrushes this year, especially about their fondness for nesting not only in garden shrubs but sheds and other outbuildings.
The “joe witty” song is just about the loudest at this time of year. It is resonant and liquid, more like the song made by a bird in a tropical rainforest, where sound must penetrate dense foliage. The shrike-thrush when spotted can come as a disappointment, because it is not a stunner compared with other fine singers like the golden whistler. It mixes grey and brown plumage and has a ferocious hooked beak to make it a feared enemy of smaller birds, especially in the breeding season.
On the subject of shrike-thrushes, there is a sequel to my report recently about the family of grey shrike-thrushes nesting in a shed at the Raptor and Wildlife Refuge of Tasmania at Kettering.
One of the fledglings somehow managed to enter an aviary where two masked owls were in residence, recovering from injury. The parent shrike-thrushes frantically called to the young bird but it could not find its way out; the small gap under a gate through which it had entered.
Luckily the refuge’s owner, Craig Webb managed to catch the bird using a piece of netting he had fastened to a stick before the masked owls had realised what was going on.
The noisy parents, however, showed him little appreciation and were still squawking at him even after he had released the fledgling into their care.