The Bird Thief

Therese Ralston
4 min readNov 10, 2019


There are a million Pied Currawongs in the forests of south-eastern Australia.

I’ve just seen a brand new baby one-in-a-million bird.

Currawongs like forests. Our farm has Eucalypt woodlands and Cypress Pine forests on the mountains that surround the house. The bird I spied stealing food is only fresh out of the nest.

How can I tell?


The grey nappy.

Yes…it has a very cute tutu.

The bird still wears the downy feathers that formed when it was a nestling. They look like a feather skirt just above the legs. This guy also has a strange croak, a wail different from more developed adult calls.

The Pied Currawong has heaps of other names.

My favourite is the Chillawong- such a cool moniker.

There’s also the Bell Magpie, Black Magpie or Mountain Magpie.

All the Currawongs I have at home hate having their photo taken.

The juvenile hates it as much as its parents.

Staring at me with one glowing yellow eye, the little Currawong makes it clear it doesn’t like me watching.

Scavengers who eat berries, snails, lizards and other little birds, their best-loved food is stick insects.

The Pied Currawongs look funny making two-legged jumps. They stride along the ground on long black legs, putting one claw out and down in front of the other.

Adult Pied Currawongs.
Last seasons juvenile Currawongs.

Most juvenile birds are more of a dull grey brown than their parents with jet black plumage.

Only been alive for 2 months, this young bird already seems well practised at putting on a big-guy cranky face.

Not as crafty as its parents, this black and white baby gets harangued by my long term resident Willy Wagtail nesting nearby.

A full adult is 480 mm, and likes to show off a death stare.

The Wagtail has attacked it each morning since.

This morning the Wagtail rode on its back, pecking it the whole time it flew.

It makes me laugh.

The baby Curra has no idea of it’s own size or strength yet, but it will.

Adult Pied Currawongs don’t take that crap from a pipsqueak fantail.

If the fellow with the grey tutu goes to the birdbath it expects to be dive-bombed now.

It is also attacked by White-plumed and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters for flying anywhere near where their fledglings or any one of the nesting trees.

It’s funny to see it duck and weave to avoid a bunch of much smaller birds.

With a thick, heavy bill, one day it might even eat one of them.

Still so young, it just doesn’t understand.

I photographed him stealing the food left out for my half-pet/half-wild peacocks. He’s welcome to what they leave behind, just like all the other birds who make the most of every seed and scrap I offer.

My favourite photo has the bird with a small dog biscuit in its beak.

It’s communicating that times are tough in a climate emergency.

It’s a scavenger, stealing anything it can get away with is its forte.

A blurry pic, the juvenile Currawong rages at me with 2 glassy eyes.

It wants me to go away.

I leave it alone, but I’ll be looking out for the fluffy bottom bird from now on.

This Currawong might only be one in a million,

but it has character and I like that in a bird.

All pictures are my own.



Therese Ralston

Writing about the real life, farm life, reading life, birdlife, wildlife, pet life and school life I have in my life. My blog: