Cry of the Curlew


The outdoor sounds invisibly cocoon me, as the breeze rustles through flower laden trees. A pregnant possum glances down from wooden perch. Green ants freeway along trunks. Native bees hover in pollen-riddled air. Bush turkey’s forage amongst leaf litter. All watching me, while I inspect irrigation lines.

A piercing shriek, like a child’s scream, echoes.

Everything stops.

Nocturnal curlew life-mates, resembling dull flamingos, dash for shade. They stop. Look upwards into the canopy. My eyesight follows.

Silence weighted as minutes pass.

They sit. Eyes close, signalling a restart for busy wilderness within my mango orchard.

And the tree-python… relocates.

(100 words)

As an FYI…

The Curlew, pictured, are the height and walking gait of small children and their bird-call makes your skin crawl. Strangely, they’re popular when it comes to the many Skin (tribe) Dreamtime legends I’ve been told over the years.

And it’s not pretty – neither is this camouflaged bird.

In the upper island regions the Curlew’s tales are of suicide. It’s a Death-bringer (bad omen) for those of the southern Skin regions. The northern mainland version is the one I’m familiar with the most. I will not quote names because they’re really hard to spell & don’t want to offend Australian Aboriginal cultural history – which is not written, but told.

The abridged version is:

A young child crawls away, was lost, or stolen (this part differs according to individual skin-family) from the campfire. The mother cries out searching the night for her child and swears to never give up the search. Eventually, she becomes the night walking curlew. Her harrowing screams and wandering footsteps are heard while continuing the search for her missing child.

When camping near curlews, the Aboriginal women brush away a child’s track-marks from the dirt. Children are warned to stay near guardians and never leave the light of the campfire unless they want to be stolen by the curlew-mother that dances on the edge of the shadows…

And there’s plenty more ominous tales about this poor bird with the bad rep!

A pair of Curlew’s (photo attached) reside on my property, voluntarily guarding the front gate. They lay their eggs on the edge of the driveway & attack visiting car headlights . Why? I don’t know. Considering there’s acres them to choose from. We don’t feed them. They’re not pets. But they regularly gate-crash our camp-oven camp-fire for the late night small talk (which is a fancy name for beer-induced-dribble). They’ve also joined in with our really bad late-night singing, making this curlew duet legendsin my own backyard!

Look at that… One bird. Three stories. No wonder it’s a popular story-teller’s bird.

Thanks for reading.

2 thoughts on “Cry of the Curlew

  1. Liked the story and loved the FYI – you really do live in a special part of the world it seems. Folk and tribal tales are powerful wherever you are and I think you did this one justice in re-telling your version.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Nik. It’s easy to forget rich cultural tales found within our own backyards. I know I do, especially when you see it everyday.


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