backyard birds - the good, the bad and the ugly
|Brown Thornbill - Acanthiza pusilla - from Birdlife Australia|
Some birds are carnivorous - Ravens, Kookaburras, Magpies, Tawny Frogmouths, Pied Currawongs and Butcherbirds. They'll eat mice and lizards and part of their diet includes young and small birds. That's why the butcherbird got its name!
|Grey Butcherbird - Cracticus torquatus|
Sometimes the mix of birds you get isn't so great. I hate it when the garden becomes a war zone. With loud shrieks, the bully birds chase away the less aggressive birds. The tiny bush birds stay right away.
Brian Bainbridge, president of Indigenous Flora and Fauna Association, suggests you grow nectar plants like Correas in one corner of the garden, so the bullying wattlebirds won't scare away the small insect eaters.
|Red Wattlebird - Anthochaera carunculata - from Birdlife Australia|
A good reason to try to discourage bully birds such as Wattlebirds is that these large birds have adapted successfully to the urban environment, whereas numbers of smaller birds like the Spotted Pardalote are declining.
Birdlife Australia suggests you don't feed wild birds in your garden. Too much artificial food can lead to poor health and disease. And if you do feed them, you'll just end up attracting the large aggressive ones. But people just love to feed birds and will feed them anyway. Ecologist Darryl Jones recently said we might as well accept it, and just encourage people to keep bird tables clean, and avoid feeding them bread or processed meat.
|Tawny Frogmouth - Podargus strigoides - from Birdlife Australia|
I've taken the advice of Birdlife Australia and don't feed the birds in my garden. I just provide them with clean water.
We can't control nature, but we are trying to influence it to change in ways we think are beneficial. Magpies aren't as aggressive as other meat eaters. But even if they were, I'm so hooked on their lovely complex warbling, I'd do what I could to attract them and keep them around.
|Australian Magpie - Cracticus tibicen - from Birdlife Australia|
|Australian Magpie in my garden - Cracticus tibicen tyrannica|
These Magpies have different markings, so they could be different subspecies. According to Wikipedia, there are currently thought to be nine subspecies of Australian Magpies. Or, more likely, the different patterns signify the sex of the birds. Female Magpies typically have a mottled grey back (top) whereas the males have greater colour contrast (above).
Recently scientists discovered Rainbow Lorikeets eating meat at a feeder north of Brisbane. Up till now these birds have just eaten pollen and seeds. Now they've developed a taste for meat, and are chasing kookaburras and magpies away.
|Rainbow Lorikeet - Trichoglossus haematodus - from Birdlife Australia|
Apparently scientists found this discovery surprising and challenging, because it contradicted their previous observations. But the natural world doesn't always fit into neat categories. The only thing we can sure of is that things don't stay the same. The fact is these birds have opportunistically taken up meat eating.
In his 1963 horror film, The Birds, Alfred Hitchcock imagined a scenario about what happens when many species of birds develop a taste for meat. Sca-a-a-ry!
|Theatrical Release Poster - from Wikipedia|
The photos are of all birds that I have seen in my garden. Thanks to Birdlife Australia for giving permission to use photos from their website.
|Spotted Dove - Streptopelia chensis - from Birdlife Australia|
|Common Blackbird (female) - Turdus merula - from Birdlife Australia|