Outback MagazineOutback Magazine


Chick on a stick

Mutton birds - a tasty dish credited with promoting good health, longevity and freedom from colds and other ailments

Story: Brian Kennedy and Bernie Slattery
Photos: Adrian Millman and Reg Ryan

Mutton birdThe best place to try mutton bird is in its natural habitat on the remote Hunter Island group in Bass Strait off the tip of north-west Tasmania.

Here on these wind blown islands with their indescribable untouched beauty, you travel among spectacular sandbars and reefs in search of natural produce.

OUTBACK's "nomadic chef", Adrian Millman, says mutton bird deserves to be better known. Its official name is the short-tailed shearwater, a bird that flies incredible distances between the Artic and Tasmania each year. The misleading nickname "mutton bird" was originally applied to the species by early settlers. Perhaps a better name would be the Aboriginal word yolla.

Adrian says it has a unique taste that is certainly nothing like mutton. It can be best described as a blend between turkey, snake and rabbit, with a finish of a lovely sea oil taste.

Mutton birdIt is a classy bird, which is jam-packed with nutrients, and for sheer taste and flavor it is worthy of the finest tables.

To reach Robbins Islands, residents have to wait for low tide to make a potentially treacherous crossing over the mud and wheel-sucking sand. Mutton bird processor Frank O'Reilley makes the trip regularly to the sandy western beach of Robbins Island. He then progresses north for another channel crossing to Walker Island, where he has been catching and processing mutton birds since 1971. Story end

Full story: Issue 4, April-May 1999

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