Bush Stone-curlew

YAY! I finally saw a wild Bush Stone-curlew, along with over 50 other new species that showed themselves in and around Ingham, Queensland, during the past week. To see the stone-curlew required a pre-dawn start, a helpful friend and an obliging bird. The sun had risen as we drove into Mungalla Station – if you look into the stone-curlew’s eye you can see the reflection of the rising sun as it peeps over the horizon.


Bush Stone-curlew (Burhinus grallarius)
Canon 7D, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 800, focal length 400mm


Bush Stone-curlews are strange-looking birds that often rely on freezing to render themselves ‘invisible’, a trait that no doubt has hastened their endangered status in Victoria and New South Wales. Their security has been impacted by land clearing as well as dog, fox and cat attack. They are almost 60cm in size and have a drawn-out eerie call that means they are heard more often than seen. The species used to be called the Bush Thick-knee and the reason for that name can be seen amongst the grasses.

The first image I took, not posted, was from the vehicle window, a quick record shot in case the bird ran away on its ungainly long legs. Looking down on the bird didn’t give an intimate view nor did it throw the background out of focus which meant that the grasses were semi-focused and distracting behind the bird. In the image above I was low enough to the ground that the grasses are out of focus which gives a pleasing background, or bokeh.

 Bush Stone-curlew – different background
Canon 7D, 100-400mm L IS USM, 1/640, f/5.6, ISO 1000, focal length 400mm


I generally find that getting even lower to the ground gives the image more impact, as long as the foreground doesn’t become a blurry distraction, but I’m not sure in this case. For the second image I was laying on the ground and hoping that no ticks were busily crawling in my direction. I like the way the bird looks but the angle brought a distant tree-line into the image which I find less pleasing than the simpler background in the first image.

Bush Stone-curlews are nocturnal and feed on a range of insects, small reptiles, small mammals, molluscs and seeds, all of which they take from the ground. They are very distinctive birds, similar only to the Beach Stone-curlew, which I was also lucky enough to find. What a lovely part of the world!

Happy birding, Kim


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