The penetrating call of the Australian native Eastern Whipbird is actually made by a pair of birds. The male gives the long ‘crack’ of the whip, to which the female responds with a funny little choo-choo noise. It’s a wonderful thing to hear. In the old days they were more commonly known as coachbirds, for obvious reasons.
In 1918 a short piece titled Band of the Birds, was published in the Bathurst Times. A correspondent who signed only as A.E.G. wrote of the coach-bird calling up the rest of the bush songsters;
Just on sunrise, the fun started. The coach-bird’s voice, travelling along the timbered ridges, would strike a far-off rock and rebound with a ‘worsh’ and a mighty crack, as of a twenty-foot stockwhip in the hands of an expert cattle drover.
ENDEARING, BUT SO ELUSIVE
Oh the patience required to capture photos of an Eastern Whipbird. It’s not that these birds are particularly rare, but they are just so secretive.
They feed on insects low down in the most unkempt, tangled sections of undergrowth, and appear only for the briefest moments. Their nest is also built low down in dense cover, not that I have ever spotted one. The following is a photo taken by birder Jim Thomson.
Last year we had a resident pair raise their babies in our Blue Mountains garden. I saw and heard them nearly every day, but it was impossible to get a clear photo. Couples remain together for years, defending their territory.
Recently I was able to capture one of ‘our’ whipbirds close up and front on. You can’t see its olive plumage from this angle. It was feeding with its partner by our back neighbour’s fence. That wire like growth is the horrible, parasitic dodder vine. As I was patiently waiting to get these shots a crimson rosella got its foot caught in the vine a few metres away It was panic stations for a few minutes as I wondered whether I could manage to climb over the fence and rescue it. I’m a bit old for that sort of thing, so I was thankful when it managed to free itself.
Several years ago a whip bird actually came to one of our bird baths, just outside the kitchen window. Sorry, it’s not a great photo of the cheeky little fellow, but I was glad I had my camera nearby. You can see his raised, black crest.
I love this old poem by Kathleen Dalziel. The sound of the whipbird is indeed like a ‘silver lash’. The final verse is just delightful.
UPDATE – JUNE 2021
A whipbird came to the birdbath this morning and seemed to say. ‘OK Pauline, I relent, you can take some photos‘. 😍
Wow, that’s an impressive tail!
To hear that Whipbird duet sound. CLICK HERE