Re: birding-aus Ornithological Racism

To: <>
Subject: Re: birding-aus Ornithological Racism
From: "Robert Berry" <>
Date: Wed, 26 May 1999 15:07:38 +1000
Well said, Harry!

What a complex subject this is. I think we can find an excuse to intervene
in the population dynamics ( for a moment there I had a typo that rendered
"poopulation", since the topic is introduced birds like Rock Doves I was
loath to correct it). European migrants introduced any number of birds,
mammals and plants to make themselves feel more at home or simply to
improve the place. This unleashed changes that forever change the balance
between native species and their environment. Unless we now "manage" these
newcomers (and moderate other impacts we have on the land) we can kiss
goodbye to some proportion of native species. So, perhaps, more than an
excuse we have in fact a duty to put a lid on exotic populations.

But as I heard on the radio that a program of netting Common Mynas at their
winter roosts in Sydney has begun I asked myself is this justified? Unless
this is a sustained program the population will simply bounce back at the
end of it. In that case all that's happened is that someone has spoiled the
day for the unfortunate Mynas in the wrong place at the wrong time. Of
course, if it is sustained and effective small hole nesting natives will
benefit from increased nest site availability and one restriction on their
population size will have been ameliorated.

But what of unintended good effects of naturalisation of exotic species? In
the UK the introduced and very attractive Mandarin Duck is doing well. In
its homeland it's in big trouble. So what? Well, the Songthrush, Skylark
and Chaffinch have all suffered reverses at home. All are doing well
somewhere in Australia or New Zealand. 

Of the methods for interfering with nesting offered the best clearly
involves pricking (or cooking, or substituting with dummies) the eggs
because the parent then wastes a considerable time acheiving nothing rather
than simply starting again. But remember, in a stable population the
average lifetime productivity of a pair of birds is just two more of its
species. That means a lot of eggs have got to be pricked. Planting native
vegetation is a much better option.


Please note that my email address will soon change.

> From: Harry Clarke <>
> To: 
> Subject: birding-aus Ornithological Racism
> Date: Wednesday, 26 May 1999 14:28
> Is dislike of sparrows, starlings and mynas an example of speciest
> Is a House sparrow less worthy of survival opportunity in Australia than
> Kookaburra? Why? Are those who disapprove of such species the Pauline
> Hansons of the ornithological world? Where are the ornithological
> multiculturalists? Are we more approving of greenfinches and goldfinches
> (than of starlings or blackbirds) because of their colour?
> Should we allow human migrants into Australia only if they agree to breed
> more slowly than original resident Australians (=aboriginees) and if they
> promise not to occupy niche habitats in Toorak or Double Bay? If removed
> from their terrorist 'predators' they should be required to promise not
> devour us, steal our partners or top VCE or HSC exams?
> Yeah, I don't like House sparrows as much as Kookaburras but I still do
> have the conviction to destroy blackbird nests that occur in profusion in
> my backyard. Nor will I prick their eggs.  I am a confused
> internationalist. My confusion is somewhat related to the following quote
> from James Kohen's book on aboriginees and the Australian environment. 
> "When we talk about conservation of the Australian environment, what are
> really talking about? Do we mean conserving the environment as it was in
> 1788 - an environment which was created as the result of interaction with
> Aboriginal people - or do we mean conserving the environment as it
> in the absence of regular, routine, low-intensity burning; or do we mean
> conserving it in the absence of the dingo; or in the absence of foxes or
> feral cats; or in the absence of the rabbit, the goat, the pig, the camel
> and the donkey; or do we mean conserving it without any human impact
> whatsoever - by excluding people altogether from National Parks?" (Kohen
> (1995, p. 128)). 
> I dunno.
> Harry Clarke
> School of Business
> Faculty of Law and Management
> Room 433, Donald Whitehead Building
> La Trobe University, Bundoora, 3083. Australia.
> Phone: 03-9479-1732
> Fax: 03-9479-1654
> E-mail 
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