Bush Stone-curlews in plain sight

Posted by barbara on October 15, 2016



The Bush Stone-curlew is a large ground dwelling bird that in some circles is likened to the roadrunners of North America. As a southerner from Sydney, I had not come across this bird until a visit to Far North Queensland in May 2016 when I spotted it on a beach road north of Cairns.




Also known as a Bush Thick-knee, this unusual looking nocturnal bird is well known for its eerie wail or scream, mostly heard at night 'in the wild' as opposed to suburban settings. Here is another verison of the stone-curlew's call.

By comparison, the Great Roadrunner's call (a whoop whoop) is a lot less haunting.

The two birds are similar in height, with the Bush Stone-curlew clocking topping out at 52 to 58 cm compared to the Great Roadrunner's height of 43–61 cm. 




Both are predators, feeding on living prey. For the stone-curlew that means frogs, spiders, insects, molluscs, crustaceans, snakes, lizards and small mammals, as well as seeds or tubers during periods of drought.

The roadrunner also goes after small mammals, reptiles (including rattlesnakes), frogs, toads, insects, centipedes, scorpions, birds, carrion, bird eggs and chicks.  

Similarities aside, there are big differences between the two species that evolved on different continents in hemispheres.

As its name suggests, the Great Roadrunner runs in pursuit of game or to elude predators, with reports of it clocking up to 32 kilometres per hour and faster. 

In contrast, the Bush Stone-curlew is more likely to crouch, freeze or quietly stalk out of danger's way if disturbed, even though it is capable of flight. 



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