Apostlebird (Struthidea cinerea)

There’s nothing quite like pulling over at a picnic area, only to find yourself rapidly surrounded by a group of about a dozen brown-grey birds buzzing and squawking and whistling like a flock of drunk R2-D2’s.

I am of course talking about the one and only Apostlebirds, arguably the most entertaining bird in all of Australia.

Apostlebirds are around 32 centimetres long and are so named because they usually form family groups of around a dozen, although this can very from 5 to 20 individuals. The group is comprised of one adult breeding male, one or two adult breeding females and the remainder are their offspring. They are highly social birds and all members of the family group assist with the raising of the young from building the mud nest, to brooding, cleaning, food provision and defence. They feed mainly on the ground, on insects and seeds, and aren’t especially strong flyers. They roost together and mutually preen as well.

Allopreening removes parasites more effectively and also reinforces social bonds.

A group of Apostlebirds will occupy a territory of 15 to 30 hectares, which they will defend from other Apostlebirds with aggressive squawking and advances to the invading group. Their relatively plain appearance belies their highly intelligent and social behaviour, and the large range of amusing sounds and calls they make. They are found throughout the local area, but rarely in urban habitats, and have a great variety of names they are also known by, including Happy Jack, Happy Family, CWA Bird and Squark.

For some videos of the wonderful birds in action have a look at my blog birdbites.com.au or the Bird Bites Facebook and Youtube channels

This article first appeared in the High Country Herald 24th of October 2023