Tasmanian native hen, Narkie, Nark-Nark, piyura kitina, triabunna, Gallinula mortierii or Turbo Chook.
Call it what you will, the famous fowl is a rose by any other name.
Although, the bird may not be as respected as it probably deserves to be.
The Turbo Chook has become commonplace along many streets and wildlife areas around Tasmania and, with its regularity, its uniqueness and importance has fallen by the wayside.
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For all of the frustration a native hen's saw-like scream in the middle of the night may incite, the call stands as a reminder of luck, resilience and adaptability.
Lucile Leveque is a University of Tasmanian PhD student ecologist currently studying the driver of extinction in rail birds - the category of bird the Turbo Chook falls under.
Ms Leveque has travelled to Tasmania from France to study the birds and she is now one of two foremost experts on the native hen.
The reason she is studying the bird is because of its innate ability to stay alive when many others in their position have been unable to.
"There used to be 100's and 100's of flightless birds on islands, about of all the birds in the world," Ms Leveque said.
"Then most went extinct with their first contact with people."
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Flightless birds became so prolific because of their ability to adapt to their environment.
Birds that were once able to fly made such good use of the world around them that they no longer needed to spread their wings and instead chose to walk around.
As a result, their structural anatomy changed over time and they evolved to be completely flightless.
The rail birds managed to make their way to mainland Australia, but the likelihood that they adapted to be flightless on the vast continent is an evolutionary trait that still befuddles researchers.
"For native hens we actually don't know when they went flightless, but it's likely it happened on the mainland because their ancestors on the mainland were also flightless," Ms Leveque said.
For flightless birds it is very, very rare for them to be on a large continent because they have all the predators, so these guys are one of the very few birds like that in the world.Lucile Leveque
Bucking the morbid trend
Despite the already increasing odds stacked against them, the native hens have found a haven in Tasmania in which they have thrived. But just because they made it so far south left their survival without any guarantee.
"There's only 20 flightless rails remaining today, out of the many hundred. And of them, there are only two that are not close to extinction - the native hen and another one in Papua New Guinea," Ms Leveque said.
The native hen is pretty much the only one that is thriving out of the 100's of flightless rails that used to be present in the world. That's pretty big.Lucile Leveque
Still, the Tasmanian native hen did not gain the respect it currently has until some time deep into the 20th century.
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For years they were considered a pest and wound up on the Tasmanian vermin list, meaning they could be culled by farmers.
A document from the CSIRO produced in 1976 discussed the hen's tenuous relationship with landowners but made a potentially life saving case for the flightless friend.
"The answer for the native hen seems to be to learn to live with it rather than eliminate it altogether from the well watered agricultural areas of Tasmania and hence, possibly, drive it to extinction," it said.
Ms Leveque said the culling that once went on could have actually been "disastrous".
"They could have been really close to being threatened, they were just drastically being shot," she said.
Alongside the CSIRO's support came an olive branch from a well known Northern Tasmanian figure.
Former The Examiner and QVMAG Arts Foundation and Northern Midlands mayor Kenneth von Bibra AM recognised that the native hen, being one of the few endemic birds to Tasmania, deserved to be better respected. So, he fought tooth-and-nail to get them removed from the vermin list.
Eighty-seven-year-old Mr von Bibra's battle was inspired by an old time fondness he had formed for the birds back at his family farm at Ross.
"On our family farm at Ross we had a lot of native hen along the riverfront," he said.
Noticing the senseless killing of the birds by farmers to protect their crops, Mr von Bibra drew a line in the sand.
"They ended up on the vermin list which allowed landowners to destroy them at will," he said.
"The native hen, being an endemic bird - one of only 13 in Tasmania - I felt that it deserved better recognition that being on the vermin list and, in association with National Parks, we got them removed from the list."
Now, the Turbo Chook appears in Tasmanian government legislation as protected wildlife.
Master of survival
Though the Turbo Chook has had a helping hand from time-to-time, their ability to survive and now thrive is no mere fluke.
Ms Leveque said the ability for the native hen to thrive in the island state is nothing short of marvellous.
"The fact they're flightless, on an island where people arrived and they transformed their whole habitat rapidly from the marsupial lands, native ecosystems, farms, and everything ... and now we can even see them in the park and they resist feral cats and all the introduced species - it's absolutely remarkable," she said.
A number of exemplary evolutionary traits have enabled the bird to adapt to whatever environment is thrust upon it in a way that scarcely any other species has been able to.
The turbo in the Turbo Chook comes from the fact it can reach speeds of up to 50km/h when running - a quirk unique to the Tasmanian native hen.
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"They evolved with predators so they had to be smart enough to protect themselves against them. They're really not scared of being attacked and they're aggressive in that way. The fact they run so fast and have family groups that are very tight, it's some of the reason they've survived so well," Ms Leveque said.
Speaking of tight family groups, the native hen is one of the very few birds in the world that mates in the way it does.
The other foremost native hen expert is ecologist Dr Anne Goldizen. Her work with native hens on Maria Island in the late 1990's discovered that the birds were adapting to their situation in order to succeed in the only goal in the animal world - sustaining life.
Dr Goldizen observed the hens to have mating habits that were remarkably unique.
Many groups of the hens are polyandrous which means there are two males, or maybe even three, that all mate with a single reproductive female.Dr Anne Goldizen
"So she lays a batch of eggs that presumably could be fathered by any of the males in the group, and they all raise the chicks together."
The explanation was obvious when considering the outstanding coping capabilities of the Turbo Chook.
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"Groups that had more than one male had better territories and because they had better territories they had more young. Essentially it worked out that if two males shared a female they had as many young each as they would have had if they had a female to themselves because they were able to defend a better territory," Dr Goldizen said.
"For a group of hens to be successful they have to have access to water and it's easier if that water is in their territory ... and they also need to have some sort of edge between short grass pasture to feed on and taller, denser vegetation that they can nest in and that keep their chicks protected."
Aside from mating and speed, the iconic Tasmanian bird has a remarkable set of lungs that afford it the ability to produce 14 separate calls - and each for a specific reason.
"[Their set of calls] is very diverse. They have calls for different types of predators like a snake or a bird of prey or if they're calling a chick ... there are all these different types of communication and it's fascinating," Ms Leveque said.
The hen's characteristics have allowed it to subsist on the island with feral cats, Tasmanian Devils, Thylacines and, long ago, the Tasmanian Aborginal people.
Palawa elder Rodney Dillon said Aborginal people and the native hen would have happily subsisted alongside one another.
"They live close to the water, so our families would've lived with them and they would have been an indicator of good water," he said.
"It would've been food and we would've eaten the eggs, too."
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As a child, Mr Dillon's mother called the bird a Nark-Nark, and now Mr Dillon knows them as such as well. And, when a Nark-Nark mated twice in one year, it was a sign to him growin up that it was going to be a "good year".
Ms Leveque said the claims stacked up considering the situations that had to be present for the dual mating season to occur.
"If they mate twice successfully ... generally that's only when it rains enough so that the grass is rich - in areas where it's very prolific and it's good rain and they have enough resources to nest again. More rain means more life and better protection," she said.
The Turbo Chook truly is an icon of Tasmania and Ms Leveque said it is high time they were recognised alongside the Tasmanian Devil, Thylacine and other well-known Tassie animals.
"Tasmania could be the only place where being so close to these iconic birds is possible because they're in parks and in the city and everywhere. Nowhere else in the world do you have that closeness and connection with such animals," she said.
"They really deserve to be more recognised.
The fact the native hen went extinct already on the whole of the mainland continent and that they're thriving now ... it's a treasure.Lucile Leveque
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