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Birds Behaving Badly – Cockatoos, Ibis, Koels and Miners Try Australians’ Patience

Noisy MinerAustralians have a long history of tolerance towards their wild neighbors, and the government has always protected most native animals.  However, according to recent news reports, an unlikely assortment of birds has now become adapted to urban life, and it seems that only the birds are happy with the situation.  Hard as it may be for non-Australians to imagine, it seems that cockatoos, ibis, honeyeaters and other “exotic beauties” are causing quite a bit of trouble in the cities they have adopted as homes.

The World’s Most Magnificent Pest?

The Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo, Cacatua galerita, is considered to be the ultimate parrot pet by bird fanciers and the ultimate crop pest by many farmers.  Strictly protected by law, cockatoo populations on farms usually exceed those in natural habitats.  Now, it seems, the magnificent white birds have discovered city life, and are taking to it with zeal.

Huge flocks distract drivers on the grounds of Sydney University and lay waste to ornamental and fruit trees there and in surrounding neighborhoods.  The noise they make is felt by many to be unbearable, and wooden verandas and window sills – useful for sharpening beaks – are often decimated in the space of a few hours.

Lunch Snatchers

The Australian White Ibis, Threskiornis molucca, is a stately bird with a dignified bearing – that is, until it snatches a sandwich from a child’s hand and runs off with it!  White Ibis have learned to use their long bills – formerly employed to snag frogs and shrimp from shallow water – to intimidate children into giving up their lunches.  So persistent are these avian schoolyard bullies that teachers have begun to teach students how to stand up to them!

One cannot blame grade school children for defending their lunches, but the same cannot be said for a law student in Brisbane who recently had a run-in with an ibis.  In the course of the tussle over his sandwich, the student stomped the ibis (all 10 pounds of it) to death!   The man was hauled into court and sentenced to 120 days of community service – despite his defense that an attack by a large crow, suffered during childhood, sparked his strong reaction to the attempted sandwich heist.

Uncommon Miscreants

Honeyeaters are beautiful birds much prized by zoos and advanced aviculturists.  Cuckoos are well-known for an interesting reproductive strategy – their eggs are deposited in the nests of other species, who then raise the cuckoo chicks in place of their own (the large cuckoo hatchlings usually evict the nest’s rightful occupants).  Neither is known to trouble people – except in Australia.

White IbisA cuckoo known as the Australian Koel, Eudynamys cyanocephala, and the Noisy Miner, Manorina melanocephala, a honeyeater, have both become very common in Sydney and other cities.  Unfortunately, both have raucous voices, and call in the early morning and often during the night as well.  Those that roost in people’s yards are said to “announce” visitors with quite a racket –a largely unappreciated service!

Well, beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder – after all, pigeons, starlings and house sparrows, the bane of many US cities, were brought here on purpose by folks who enjoyed having them around.  Perhaps our Australian friends would care to trade?



Further Reading

Sulphur Crested Cockatoo Natural History  

White Ibis Management Plan

Video: Noisy Miner Harassing a Caged Finch

Noisy Miner image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Benjamint444
White Ibis image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Wayne Butterworth

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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