Many of my blog posts are written to emphasise the huge variety of creatures we share our land with, and especially to alert people to how they can act to conserve them. A line I often use is "take care when driving and keep a sharp eye on the road for wildlife". Tonight's story provides yet another example where this line is relevant.
I was returning from a meeting in Toodyay earlier this evening and getting close to home in Mundaring. A smashed glass bottle on a bend in the road distracted me enough to think that the shape which I saw just after the broken shards must've been a larger fragment of glass. In the split second before my car whizzed over it I realised it was a nocturnal bird sitting in the road, and my gut wrenched as I realised I had probably just killed it.
However, returning to investigate further, I found the bird still intact, still sitting in the middle of the left lane, and still very much alive. To take a closer look at the nightjar on the road and make sure he wasn't injured, I reached forward and grabbed him gently. What was it?
This moment provided an opportunity to show you one of our very secretive and (in the Perth area) quite rare birds. It is 'Yoodjyn' (pronounced 'you-chin'), as the local Aboriginal Noongar people called it. Or as many other people know it as, the Australian Owlet Nightjar (Aegotheles cristatus). This species is a nocturnal bird with a rounded face but not closely related to owls at all, much more similar to the Tawny Frogmouth. Unlike owls it has tiny feet, pretty useless for catching prey with, but like the Frogmouth, it has a large beak, an excellent tool for trapping insects. It's mouth is made extra wide by a series of bristles, rigid feathers that help divert an insect meal straight down the hatch. You can just make out these bristles in the picture below - they look a bit like long moustache hairs!