Monday, August 23, 2010

Cuckoos are thought of for being nest-invading ne’er do wells, taking up others’ valuable space with their unsolicited eggs. Personally, I think they’re a bit hard done by, and think they might be evolution’s way of telling us that sending your children to day care is just part of nature.

Picture: Scrappy Girl Shoppe on Etsy

In Sydney, there is a strange and unique bird. You might at first think it’s related to the cuckoo – but then, you realise it’s totally different. We could call it an ookcuc. But that looks a bit like a typing error*. Or an ocuckoo (like an opossum, which isn’t actually a possum**). And it’s reasonably close to the noise made by others on encountering the bird. But I’m going to call it the gazumping bird. Because that is what it does.

Picture: Alex Wijnen on Etsy

This quiet, unobtrusive coloured bird inhabits urban areas and, unlike many native fauna (perhaps more akin to rabbits), it appears to be becoming more widespread and adapting to new environments. The gazumping bird has keen eyesight and, like a hawk, targets its prey from afar. It doesn’t build nests, but lies quietly in wait until another bird has almost finished constructing a new nest and then swoops in when least expected to occupy its new home. The male gazumping bird has a feathered crest and puffs out his chest feathers in the manner or a robin (but with somewhat less colour, and substantially less charm). The female is larger and louder. Both can be identified by their characteristic smug expression.
The gazumping bird is even less popular than a magpie in spring. It remains to be seen whether it can be deterred by tactics like these...

Picture: Polyvore

A cuckoo clock has a little cuckoo inside which pops out to tell you the time, but a gazumping bird clock is a little more unpredictable, and contains a little bird which pops out after disappointing shopping expeditions. It emits the characteristic call of the gazumping bird, often likened to the sound made by Nelson on the Simpsons...

* One without the potential for mondegreens
** There is Irish possum joke potential here. But in the interests of seemliness, it will be avoided...

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