Alan Jones is no longer just Gloria, but Gloriana, the reigning queen of radio, and the Crikey Bird Watching Team is keeping an ear on Australia’s most powerful shock jock – and so, it seems, is everyone else.

When we started back in June, the Crikey Bird-Watching team were the only lot you’d regularly find camped outside 2GB at dawn with binoculars in hand and a few twigs stuck in their hatbands. True, there was a long-range telescope trained from the Media Watch office at the ABC on the Parrot’s gilded cage that they sometimes peeked through, but that was about it.

Then, from time to time, a crusty looking old bloke who liked to hum “Fings ain’t wot they used to be” started showing, dressed as a flowering gum. It was Alan Ramsey, the lounge bar bore of the Gallery.

Soon after that we were joined by Geoff Elliott of the Australian, who has stayed around even though every time the Parrot dislodges a gumnut it seems to hit him square on the nose.

But that was nothing to the rush we saw last week.

Ramsey was back, and he was joined by a team from AM, plus Tom Switzer, the opinion editor at the Australian – all to watch the Prime Miniature risk that beak and those claws and climb into the cage to brave an encounter with the Parrot.

He emerged with a couple of gashes and birdshit on the Anthony Squires, but that was about it. There were a few nasty nips about Farmhand, but gladiatorial games it weren’t.

So why were all these people keeping an eye on our feathered friend rather than, say, examining the Golden Tonsils?

There’s one easy answer to that for the Bird-Watching Team. We could barley scrape up enough on Crikey pay to eat down at Woolloomooloo every day even if we chose Harry’s Caf de Wheels over Otto.

But there’s another, more significant reason, too. The Golden Tonsils are heard across the length and breadth of the land – but rather than increasing their power, it makes it more diffuse. The Parrot is different. The Parrot has a much more concentrated audience which concentrates his power, too.

The Parrot also seems much more interested in the exercise of power. While the Tonsils take time out for “poetry”, “writing” and “singing”, the Parrot pursues his manic letter writing.

And, as the Parrot accumulates more and more power, there’s more and more interest (or should that be concern) over just what he does with it – and why.

Indeed, while ethical, legal and regulatory boundaries don’t seem to have been much of a constraint in the past, people are now keeping an eye out as the Parrot’s power expands. They want to see how he deals with the balancing act of being a broadcaster, as well as a self-appointed moral arbiter and kingmaker.

Will he fall off his perch? That’s the question everyone’s asking – and why so many people are now taking an interest in bird-watching.

From all of us at the bottom of the cage, until next time, goodbye.

The Crikey Bird Watching Team can be contacted at [email protected]

Peter Fray

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