The bird in the pic above may not appear particularly big…
…until you compare it to this photo of the cows in the same spot in the same paddock:
Now, to start from the start; I’ve lived in Australia all my life and, when it comes to big birds, I’ve only ever heard of two – the Emu and the Cassowary. So when I looked out the window and saw a bird roughly as tall as the cows but looking nothing like either an Emu or a Cassowary, I was a little alarmed.
Cassowaries, massive birds up to two metres tall, can be aggressive and kill or seriously injure a person. So my first thought was to make sure the bird in our paddock wasn’t in any way related to a Cassowary. Juveniles of some types of birds look nothing like the adults, but even taking that into consideration, apart from being tall, this bird didn’t look remotely like a Cassowary.
So if it wasn’t a juvenile Cassowary, could it be a juvenile Emu? Again, it seemed unlikely – the colour of the neck and head were all wrong. And Emus tend to look almost fluffy whereas this thing was distinctly feathery. What on earth was it? At roughly 1.2 metres (four feet) tall, you couldn’t exactly miss it. Surely a bird this big would be well known and easy to identify?
Call me naïve, but I kind of thought if there were four-foot high birds wandering the country (ready to eat small children??) someone, somewhere might’ve mentioned it. Maybe they did and I just wasn’t paying attention??
Anyway, I stood for awhile transfixed by the sight of this strange bird stalking about the paddock in the drizzly rain, before going to get the camera. A zoom lens plus computer zoom later and this is what you get:
Apologies for the blurriness on these pictures – the bird was a long way into a far paddock, moving, and it was raining – so not easy to get a good photo.
And zoomed in:
And the view from the back:
After taking a few pics, back to the house I went to drag out the old faithful bird book. Lots of page flipping later, and my guess is that it’s an Australian Bustard. Apparently these birds get to about 1.2 metres tall, have a distinctive long white neck (just like in the pic above) and are known for stalking about grassland in a typically ‘snooty’ manner (I’m quoting here!) Sounds just like my feathered friend above.
Anyway, there wasn’t any mention of Bustards having an aggressive nature (unless you happen to be a locust, mouse or a cane toad) so we don’t have to worry about giant bird attack while wandering around the paddocks. They do, however, fly (!) and with a wing span of 2.3 metres I just hope I’m not underneath the next time it decides to land 🙂
(*Note here: I’m terrible at identifying things. If you know what the bird is, feel free to comment below)