Bird of the Week: White-throated Gerygone
My apologies for a late posting this week – I’ve been trying to clear the decks in preparation for a trip to the Northern Territory in a few days. I hope this trip will fill a few gaps in Northern birds that I can share with you in the coming weeks.
Here’s a bird at the other end of the size scale from the Wedge-tailed Eagle of last week: the White-throated Gerygone. With a length of 10-11.5 cm./4-4.5 in., it’s not much bigger than Australia’s smallest bird, the Weebill (8-9 cm). Size isn’t everything, however – unless you’re an eagle – and the White-throated Gerygone has perhaps the most beautiful song of any Australian songbird. The field guides wax lyrical – let me quote Michael Morecombe: ‘Loud, clear, carrying. Usually begins with several loud, piercing, high notes immediately followed by pure, high, clearly whistled, violin-like notes that descend in an undulating, silvery, sweet cascade, at times lifting briefly, only to resume the downward, tumbling momentum. Abruptly returns to the initial louder, sharper notes to repeat the whole sequence, often with slight variations.’
This species is widespread in eastern and northern Australia from Adelaide in South Australia to the western Kimberleys in Western Australia. In addition to its distinctive song, it can be identified by its white, throat, yellow breast, red eye and white spots on the tips of the tail feathers.
There are eight species of Gerygone in mainland Australia and another twelve or so in the rest of Oceania (New Zealand to New Guinea). They used to be called Warblers, but are usually called Gerygones now (the name of the Genus) to avoid confusion with the unrelated Old World Warblers and the Wood Warblers of the New World – the Gerygones belong to the family Acanthizidae, along with other small birds including Thornbills, Scrubwrens, Heathwrens and Whitefaces. All the Gerygones are accomplished vocalists, and the word derives from the Greek – gerugogos – meaning something like ‘born of sound’. There has been much debate on how to pronounce Gerygone, but Sean Dooley had the final word in his book Anoraks to Zitting Cisticolas: ‘Not Jerry gone (or Gerry with a hard G), but more like Ja-rig-eny, rhyming with aborigine.’ It’s ironic that such beautiful singers should be be lumbered with such an ugly name.
My thanks to those who supported the petition to stop the poisoning of Golden Eagles in Ireland. Members of the list from at least Australia, Italy, Ireland and the USA added their names and Australia moved from 9th (85 signatures) to 8th (116 signatures) in the list of countries.
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
He’s not the only one behind in posting. So there will be another one right soon. Since his next one is also going to be about another Gerygone, I’ll save my additions for there.
Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26 NKJV)