Why Scientists Think This Silly Australian Bird Can’t Stop Looking At Its Reflection

Why Scientists Think This Silly Australian Bird Can’t Stop Looking At Its Reflection

We all like to admire ourselves in the mirror from time to time, but there’s a bird in Australia that seems to have developed a rather unhealthy fixation, gazing upon its reflection for hours on end while seemingly oblivious to its surroundings. It’s pretty funny, but should we be worried about this fine feathered fellow?

Image: Facebook/The Bush Stone Curlew of QUT Kelvin Grove

As reported in ABC News, the bird, a bush stone-curlew, was photographed earlier this week outside a building at Queensland University. The photographer, Nick Wiggins from ABC News, posted the image on Twitter, and it quickly went viral. The bird has spawned a series of memes and its very own Facebook page.

Caitlin Raynor, a volunteer with Wildcare Australia, placed sign on the window that read, “I’m a bush stone curlew. I’m fine. I just like to stare at myself in the window.” As she told ABC News, it’s fairly odd but common behaviour for this particular species.

Indeed, bush stone-curlews are known for their reflection-obsessing behaviour. Back in January, another curlew gazed into a Brisbane office window for hours. Wildlife officials told concerned office workers that, because the bird is nocturnal, it becomes hypnotised by its own reflection during the daytime. The workers were told it would fly away at sundown, which it did, but it kept coming back. Concerned citizens from the building next door left a bowl of water for the entranced bird. Sometimes, it would get so exhausted from its efforts that it would sit down on its haunches.

Kevin J. McGowan, a biologist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, says this is a variation on another unusual behaviour: Birds fighting with their reflections.

“Birds don’t recognise their reflections as themselves, but think it’s another bird,” McGowan told Gizmodo. “Northern Cardinals are particularly well known to attack themselves in windows or car mirrors. My landlord had a pair of cardinals that spent hours over the course of the breeding season last year fighting with the cardinal they knew lived in his car rear view window.”

McGowan says the stone curlew is generally an odd bird. Also known as thick-knees, he says they’re mostly nocturnal shorebirds of open areas that are highly camouflaged, and hide in plain sight during the day by standing still.

“So, the standing and staring part is perfectly normal for them,” he says. “There is not a lot known about the social behaviour of thick-knees, so I’m not quite clear what this bird wants to do to, or with, that other stone curlew.”

The scientists say that the best thing to do when encountering these birds caught up in their own reflections is to just leave them alone. Eventually, they will snap out of it. But if it becomes a persistent issue, there are solutions, such as covering the window with posters to get rid of the bird’s reflection.

Which, in the case of one Australian curlew, is exactly what what had to be done.

[ABC News]