David Rabbitborough's A to Z of Australian Species



Australia is the home of many burrowing species of which the Common Roadworker is one of the most populous, if not the most popular.

Beneath the surface of the Australian city lies a incredible system of tunnels, pipes, cables, conduits and wires. This is the work of the various species of road worker. There are many types of road workers, the Council roadworker, the Gas Roadworker, the Board of Works Roadworker and the Telstra Roadworker, but all have the same behaviour patterns. As soon as a new road is built, they come along and dig it up. They then continue to dig it up at regular intervals until the road has to be resurfaced, whereupon they start all over again.

Road workers are most usually found working in the middle of arterial roads at peak hour, or directly outside your bedroom window at 7:00 am. On Sundays they commence work a little later, at about 7:15 am. In years gone by they were frequently shot but are now protected by the Environment Protection Authority.

The council road worker is particularly abundant. They come in packs of twelve which have a highly organised structure. One, called the Labourer slowly picks up gravel on the end of a long flat stick, while others, called the Watchers, stand around and check to see that none falls off. When a female walks past, they all transform into Watchers. It is then that we have a chance to hear that most unique musical sound: the Roadworker's characteristic melodious whistle.

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