In my previous post, I mentioned that my love and I had gone out to the river for a sticky beak.  It soon became apparent that not everyone understood this strange Aussie/Kiwi colloquialism, with a number of readers requiring a translation.  In response, I thought I should provide a general explanation for those too polite to ask for a translation.  Which is completely fitting as the explanation links in so perfectly with today’s post (unintended) about one of our most weird and wonderful mammals, the short-beaked echidna — a real sticky beak.


A sticky beak refers to an inquisitive or prying person.  So in the context of going out for a sticky beak, this means going out to see what we could see, although I suspect some of my readers may have speculated on a rather more risqué translation.  But no such luck.  Let me make it clear that we are a very inquisitive pair, strictly no prying (except in relation to our children).

I tried to find the origin of this idiom, but the best I could come up with is that it is derived from sticking your beak (beak being a colloquialism for nose) into other people’s business.  Then it occurred to me that the idiom also applied equally to our wonderful short-beaked echidna.  And who should we have seen on our outing, but a short-beaked echidna.  So quite literally, we went out for a sticky beak.

As you know, mammals give birth to live young and suckle their babies.  That is, except for the monotremes, the platypus and the echidna.  The latter lay eggs and suckle their young.  During its breeding season, the female echidna makes a simple pouch into which she lays a single egg.  The egg hatches after 10 days.  The echidna does not have teats; instead the tiny baby, called a puggle, suckles from specialised pores in the skin of the pouch.  Doesn’t that just blow your mind!

Another name for the echidna is the spiny ant-eater.  Because they are covered in spiky quills.  And their favourite food is termites and ants.  The echidna uses its strong beak to explore for food, and once found, quickly hoovers it up with its very sticky tongue.  Echnidas also have very strong claws that make swift work of both digging up food and making borrows.  Get too close to it, and it will soon dig a burrow to escape attention.  It is a solitary, shy animal that is widespread across Australia.  The only other country in which it lives, is New Guinea.  New Guinea is fortunate to have both the long-nosed and short-beaked echidnas.

I suppose it makes sense that we saw our echidna snuffling by the roadside near the river.  The ground was soft, the temperature was warm and the insects had come out to play.  It wasn’t afraid of me or shy.  Too busy.  Want to see this sticky beak?




Cute as, don’t you think?  Maybe not quite as cute as a hedgehog.  But not a rodent either.  Did you know porcupines and hedgehogs are rodents!  I wonder if they breed like rodents?  Anyway, they are all gorgeous.

Kind Regards

Response to the Ragtag Daily Prompt — Spiky.  Click on the link to join in.


35 thoughts on “It Is Okay To Stick Your Beak In

  1. Fancy other countries not knowing what a sticky beak was… well explained Tracy and lucky you seeing an echidna in the wild, I’ve only ever seen one in a wildlife sanctuary

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  2. I had never heard the expression sticky beak before, nor did I know what an echidna was!
    What an accommodating little fella to let you take such great photos. The detail of his spikes is quite amazing.
    I didn’t realize that there were animals that both laid eggs and suckled their young. However the best is the word ‘puggle’ …. which, by the way, WP doesn’t like and keeps wanting to change to ‘juggle’. It’s one of those words that makes me smile just saying it 🙂

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  3. I have heard the expression, “Your nose needs a tuck in it.” A term my Scottish friend uses for too nosey. I do love idioms with their literal and figurative meanings. There I got that “monkey off my back.”

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    1. No, we seem them rarely. But more so than others it appears. They are fairly elusive creatures, perhaps because they live a solitary existence. I haven’t been able to find any population data, only that it is stable. Seems a bit odd to me. My understanding is that they are not sexually mature until about 6 years old. And females often have their first baby at 7. It is thought that the expected lifespan is about 10 years. That doesn’t seem like a great strategy for maintaining numbers to me.

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      1. In the world they evolved in that was probably good enough, but with the present day Australia’s pressures from humans and an unpredictable climate it might no longer be enough to secure their future. Sadly that probably holds true for many species the world over and eventually only rats and cockroaches will survive…

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  4. So surprising that people didn’t know what a sticky beak is. If I used that expression in a post, it would never dawn on me that I might be confusing some folk. Your photos are wonderful Tracy. When we had our olive farm, a small echidna paid us a visit and stayed long enough in the courtyard to have its photo taken before trundling off up the hill, over the road and into the bush on the other side. We always wondered at the purposeful progress of that little creature.

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    1. Thank you, Jane. It would be kind of nice to have a garden echidna, I think. I understand they are rather partial to scarab beetles. We have quite a few of those in our lawn at the moment! Whenever I see them, they always seem to be on a mission. Funny little things.

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  5. Lovely photos! I have learned a lot and also an expression new to me; I thought the sticky beak was a bird you and your husband were hoping to see, hehe. Thank you Tracy!

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  6. And I’m in love again!! 😄 Cute as can be indeed, Tracy. And thanks for all the lovely information about the echidnae (?), I could imagine them being the star of a children’s book.

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