Richard Major

Richard Major is a bird researcher in the Australian Museum in Sydney. In his interview he talks about his scientific background,
shifting bird populations according to factors relating to urbanisation, habitat and food supply, historical records about birds and the Birds in Backyards project. In the excerpt below Richard discusses the relationship between currawongs and Channel-billed cuckoos.

About 1975 we first started to get breeding records [of currawongs] and [there were] not very many of them. It’s been the last twenty years, probably, that the numbers of breeding birds have really increased so that currawongs are staying here year-round. I think that’s partially a catch-up time: it takes time for populations to grow and learn. The other interesting side of the currawong story is that we now get more Channel-billed Cuckoos which is a nest parasite. They’re a cuckoo that lay their eggs in the nests of currawongs particularly, and then the currawongs bring up the Channel-billed Cuckoo babies. When currawongs weren’t breeding in Sydney, we didn’t really get Channel-billed Cuckoos. Now, Channel-billed Cuckoos are something that is very widely noticed by urban residents right through into Hyde Park at the time of year when Channel-billed Cuckoos come through there’s Channel-billed Cuckoos at Hyde Park and Belmore Park next to Central Railway Station, probably ‘round the university, I’m not sure, but they’re something that comes right through the city, tracking changes in currawongs. They just wouldn’t be here if there weren’t currawongs for them to nest in. They have a very loud, quite raucous call which they’ll make when flying over to or sitting in trees.

Jo Kijas