Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Attack of the Butcher(bird)s

You see, there's this pensioner couple, who live in some Brisbane suburb, and nearby their house, in the branches of a gum tree on public land, a pair of Butcherbirds (of the variety shown above) have made a nest. Butcherbirds and Australian Magpies are closely related. They are highly intelligent and will befriend people if they don't seem them as a threat—meaning if they don't get chased by them, their nests or young are not attacked and, most importantly, if they can get some food of humans. Because love does go through the stomach.

The notion that, if you feed Magpies and Butcherbirds, they not only do not attack you during breeding season, but actually make pleasant drop-in-for-a-feed wild buddies, isn't just an urban myth. I've seen it happen without fail in several places now, and our own pair of Maggies, Ernie and Bertha, are also a case in point. Not only do they not attack my wife and I, but they also leave others coming to our place alone. Indeed, they treat them with almost the same casual ease—after some brief inspection and a bit of sizing up and down. But they don't need much persuasion. About an ounce of raw meat, offered on a hand from a person crouching down or being generally non-threatening, will do the job without fail and in minimum time.

I've observed similar behavior, including in Kookaburras, at the place of some people we know just down the road. In fact, it's too easy in many ways, and you really want to restrict this kind of thing to birds like the ones mentioned. Don't do it to parrots, especially not the socially gregarious ones. You may live to regret it, because they qualify as 'invasive'. But Butchies, Maggies and Kookies are just fine. You got to make sure they know their limits, but if you do, they'll be your best buddies. And they figure out pretty quickly when you're not in a disposition to feed them. So they skulk around for an extra minute or two, and then go off to forage in their natural food sources.

Back to the pensioner couple, harassed by dive-bombing Butchies. If you remove them or destroy their nests, you're up for a hefty fine, since they are a protected species. We're talking $AU20k here, so that's not something to consider lightly. If you hire a licensed professional for the purpose, it'll cost you at least $AU 300, and a pensioner couple doesn't really have that kind of cash lurking around; not often anyway. The daughter of the couple in question also expressed her 'fear' at being attacked when she came close to the house.

Irresponsible municipality that doesn't seem to care. And the cops were no help either. What can these poor, bird-harrassed people possibly do? Are birds really more important than people? Oh my! Stuff like that. You get the drift, I'm sure.

Well, people, here's the solution, and it won't cast a lot.
  • Go to the supermarket.
  • Buy some dog-food of the dry-soft kind, or else get some real cheap mince.
  • Feed the little blighters.
There is an issue with doing it this late in the game, of course. As so often, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Make friends with them before—that's before! B-E-F-O-R-E—they start building their nests.

I don't know about people, I really don't. You'd think that those living in Brisbane—with Maggies and Butchies and all that doing the same thing every damn year without fail—would have figured this kind of stuff out years ago! Right? Right??

I know that if these birds were people, theyt would have figured it out a long time ago.


Angela said...

Finding your blog has been most timely for me living in Brisburbia as Daddy, Mummy and Baby Butcher Bird have just introduced themselves to me and my pooch.

In the past two days, we've had a few close encounters as they've taken up residency in a tree in our yard. I've found that ducking and weaving (and screaming hysterically) in one's own backyard is highly undignified - although the neighbours have thought this hysterically funny, the brutes.

Being in a desperate state, I'll take your advice and try to feed the little blighters. Perhaps the way to their hearts is through their stomachs.

Fingers crossed that I keep my fingers. Wish me luck!


Till said...

Throw the bits and pieces up in the air. They'll catch them on the wing probably.

Our magpies (read my recent blog on the subject) are now racing after their young all over our property (out near Woodford, on 5.5 acres), but usually they're close to the house, on or under (when the sun's too hot) a nearby tree. The maggie female, Bertha, is so tame, she'll eat out of the hands of vistors even.

I tell you, make friends with the and make sure pooch doesn't chase them (that's a bit of a turn-off, and we don't have a dog, though friends of our down the road have a neighbour's dog practically living with them, plus Butchies, Kookaburras, magpies, King Parrots and Lorikeets; and it still seems to work out).

Since we're at the end of nesting season, it may take time and patience. Easier to make friends during the rest of the year. Worked a charm for us.

Best wishes.