Conservationists are working to protect the creature behind bunyips
November 16, 2023 2:16 AM   Subscribe

Conservationists are working to protect the creature behind bunyip folklore. One night well over a century ago three miners headed to Hexham Swamp, between Newcastle (in Australia) and Maitland, for an evening of wild duck hunting. But instead of finding ducks, they came across a terrifying creature with a tremendous roar "like that of a lion" and two eyes like "golden orbs in the night". And so, the legend of the Hexham bunyip was born. That infamous night in 1879 may have become a local legend, but today this swamp creature is now rarer than ever and residents are trying to save it from extinction. It turns out the mysterious creature that scared the three miners in 1879 was a bird; the endangered Australasian bittern, also known as the 'bunyip bird'.

It was at Hexham Swamp where Jen Lewis heard her first bittern after two years of searching.

"It's a really deep booming sound and you can feel it in your chest, especially if they're up really close," she said.

"If you were out in the swamp alone and you heard that sound, it would be really frightening."

Ms Lewis, a team leader at Hunter Local Land Services, works to protect the 2000-hectare wetland and the elusive bird that calls it home.

"The bittern makes its living out of quietly stalking," she said.

"Its predator response is to stick its neck up and stand perfectly still, pretending to be a reed. So they're a tough bird to find."
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries (9 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
This post led me to look up the Buyip Song from an Australian animated feature that scared me on Showtime< as a child.
posted by johngoren at 3:27 AM on November 16 [6 favorites]

The Australasian bittern is globally endangered, with fewer than 2,500 individuals estimated to be left in the world.

It is also believed that more than 90 per cent of its habitat has been lost in Australia.

I'd be bittern too, tbh
posted by chavenet at 4:23 AM on November 16 [2 favorites]

I love love love this series of posts, chariot pulled by cassowaries.

I've seen an American Bittern once, many years ago. It was hiding in some reeds looking straight up in the sky, just as described. I only saw it by chance and was delighted. It like finding Waldo hiding in a red and white striped shirt factory when you weren't even looking.
posted by mcduff at 4:49 AM on November 16 [7 favorites]

This post led me to look up the Buyip Song yt from an Australian animated feature that scared me on Showtime< as a child.

I remember nothing else about said animated feature, but somehow I saw the Bunyip song a *lot* as a child. We must have had it on tape, and yeah it gave me the mondo spooks.
posted by FatherDagon at 5:21 AM on November 16 [3 favorites]

Yes, thank you for the fantastic posts!
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:28 AM on November 16

joining Team Mondo Spooks re: the Bunyip song in Dot and the Kangaroo. scared the crap out of me as a tyke.
posted by hollisimo at 5:37 PM on November 16 [1 favorite]

I too was traumatized by the bunyip song.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:27 PM on November 16 [1 favorite]

My sister was bitten by a Bünyip.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 9:33 PM on November 16

I could totally see a possum or even a kookaburra giving rise to bunyip legends. But the bittern "booming" is super quiet to me. I feel like this is one of those tests in which you can't hear the sound if you're over a certain age. They seem like cool birds, just not very scary.
posted by Athanassiel at 4:36 AM on November 17

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