birding-aus Re: thank you for your kindness and assist

To: John Gamblin <>,
Subject: birding-aus Re: thank you for your kindness and assist
From: Brian Fleming <>
Date: Wed, 26 May 1999 13:05:49 +1000
Hullo John,
About sparrows and other introduced birds.  I used to be pro-bird in an
indiscriminate manner, but over many years I have come to change my

Unfortunately the common city birds are for the most part the introduced
which can tolerate man and the modified conditions he provides.  Trouble
is, these species are 'generalists' - eat anything, nest in any suitable
possie and have no stringent requirements about their lives.  They not
only take over modified urban and country habitats but spread out into
any unmodified native vegetation which itself is very reduced these

So many Aus. land birds MUST have a tree-hollow to nest in.  Parrots are
the obvious ones but there are many more.  They dont as a rule bring in
nest material, just sit on decayed wood at the bottom.  When hollows are
taken over by the real villains, Starlings, Mynahs and both Sparrows,
these fill up the hollow with nest material. Parrots won't pull this out
so the hollow becomes useless to them.  Indian Mynahs in particular fill
every hollow near their own with nest material, to discourage close
neighbours (Have you noticed what ferocious fighters they are among

Moreover they and Starlings carry a lot of mites and birdlice - which
often stay on in a nest hollow or box, lying in wait for the next
tenant...Whether they carry diseases to native species I don't know but
it's a possibility. (One reason Hawaii has now very few native birds is
that released exotic birds brought in a bird malaria, which was spread
to the native birds by indiscriminate mosquitoes).  Certainly you don't
want them in your roof - the nests are a real fire hazard in roof- and
wall-space, and the parasites can start on you.. (The old Education Dept
building above the Fitzroy Gardens was notoriously a lousy place to work
because of Starlings under the slates).

  I doubt if Goldfinch and Greenfinch do much harm, though they have
probably displaced native finches - but replacement of native seeding
grasses with pasture was also a factor. Likewise the Spotted Dove has
probably displaced the Peaceful Dove.
  I have a friend who was displeased by Blackbirds in his native garden.
Every time they attempted to nest he pulled the nest down.  After a few
years, not only did they not try to nest, but they gave up on his garden
altogether and now dont even visit it. There are also fewer in his
neighbours' gardens.

  This is a long rambling communique.  But I'll add a tale illustrating
the demand for nest hollows. Our old house c.1970 had sparrows, (which
species I didnt know in those days) in the roof. About the time the
young could stick their heads out and cheep, Starlings arrived and
murdered them (possibly ate them) and took over the nest hole. When
their young were feathered and leaning out like gargoyles (very noisy
ones) Indian Mynahs pecked them to death, threw them out and took over.
They fledged their young successfully.

I've seen Redrumped Parrots heatedly fighting for a hollow almost in the
roots of a dead willow by our billabong (a pretty substandard dwelling
in danger of flooding).  While they fought and chattered a busy Starling
kept carrying in bits of grass.. Guess which bird had its nest drowned
when we got some rain.

I remain firmly anti-Sparrow, Starling and Mynah! I take care not to
feed them either.
Best wishes, Anthea
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