Monday, September 9, 2013

Wiley Willy Wagtail attacks Will!

[Michele] Pick up any guide to far north Queensland it will have a section on 'things that will kill ya'.  The list of poisonous, venomous and just plain aggressive animals is pretty long. The list includes various snakes (land and water), sharks, blue ringed octopus, box jellies, cane toads, cone shells, irukandji, stone fish and crocodiles.  Lots to watch out for here.  We've had very few encounters with any of these creatures and have never been in danger from them.

The wiley Willy Wagtail
Imagine our surprise when the first creature to outright attack us, besides mozzies and sand flies, was a Willy Wagtail.  Yes, a ~20 cm (8 inch) long bird best known for wagging its tail from side to side attacked both Will and Gavin yesterday.

All they were doing was walking back from the beach.  Maybe Will was giving off a particularly threatening "I like to eat baby wagtails vibe".  Or maybe the wagtail thought that Will was going to take all the area's insects leaving none for the bird.  Who knows. All we know is that as Will skateboarded past, the wagtail swooped at Will and pecked the back of his head.  See how sharp that beak is in the photo!  Will wisely jumped off his skateboard and fled.  Imagine this small bird defending its territory against a 11 year old boy. Does the bird go back to what it was doing after scoring Will's skateboard?  No! It chased Will down the street. While he was running from the bird, Will lost one of his shoes.  With the Willy Wagtail chasing him, he didn't dare stop but kept running down the block and around the corner.

When Gavin and Lorna turned onto the street they saw the abandoned skateboard and one shoe a little farther down the road.  Where did Will go? What happened to Will?  They imagined some scary scenarios but none came close to the truth. Still wondering, they continued down the street and when Gavin bent over to picked up Will's skateboard, guess who showed up!  The Willy Wagtail then proceeded to attack Gavin's head!

As we later learned from Uncle Larry's bird book, Willy Wagtails are aggressive about their territory. Wikipedia adds : The Willy wagtail "was widely featured in Aboriginal folklore around the country as either a bringer of bad news or a stealer of secrets."

Ah ha!  Until yesterday, we had thought these birds rather charming with their tail wagging dance.  Now we know the truth about the evil, skateboard-coveting, secret-stealing predators.

Beware the Wiley Willy Wagtail!

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