With Australia Day coming up, you probably know that the Australian national bird is the Emu. I saw my first Emu in 1976 when I first went to Wyperfeld.
But what about the various state birds?
The South Australian bird is the “Piping Shrike”, which we know these days as the Australian Magpie. The Western Australian state bird is the Black Swan. You probably know yours, if you live in a different state (look here if you don't).
The Victorian state bird is the Helmeted Honeyeater, which is in fact a subspecies of the Yellow Tufted Honeyeater. It's obviously different though, with a distinctive crest running between its eyes up to the top of its head.
Helmeted Honeyeaters are listed as critically endangered, and restricted to a very small area at Yellingbo near the Dandenong Ranges. They're a swamp-dwelling bird, and by all accounts they're cranky, and are unable to get along with other birds well at all.
If all the other states have relatively well-known birds as their symbols, why did the Victorians choose the helmeted honeyeater? Are we cranky swamp-dwellers who are hard to get along with? Maybe.
The bird was chosen because it's the only one which is endemic to Victoria, that is it’s only found here. But if they're critically endangered, how long is it going to be before it's extinct? And what will happen then? Do we just select another bird as our symbol?
Even though I’ve got over 400 birds on my Australian list, I've never seen a Helmeted Honeyeater. Have you?