Are they WILD birds?????

To: <>
Subject: Are they WILD birds?????
From: "Norm Canton" <>
Date: Mon, 27 Aug 2001 14:33:59 +1000
Last week the plumbers arrived early to excavate and replace the old worn pipes under the house which carry the waste water from the bathroom and laundry. [Our house in Townsville (19* south) is a typical post war timber and fibro Queenslander set on small stumps to allow breezes to flow under and hopefully keep termites at bay].  As I followed the plumbers down the side path to the old concrete cowling I gestured towards a dead thicket in the garden bed which tidier gardeners would have long removed.
"If you hear a lot of twitterings it's the finches - they arrive here every year just after the bush fires start." If they heard me they showed no interest and in any case twitterings and every other sound were soon drowned as they hove into the old cowling with electric drills. 
The laundry opens out onto the back verandah, an inner courtyard with the tinkling sound of water in the garden ponds and the bird feeding table with its water baths which is in an open area sheltered on two sides by palms, draceanas and gingers and the shade house on the third. As the day wore on I went outside the house to find the pumber and his mate in excited conversation. "Are they WILD birds???" the plumber asked. "The ground was carpetted in bullfinches."____"There were other birds too,' added his mate. 
"Chestnut-breasted Mannikins, zebra finches and peaceful doves," I replied. "And yes they are WILD birds. The zebs and doves are here all year round, but the mannikins only arrive with the bushfires and leave after a couple of weeks. There's a lot of young chicks  with them." 
Not to reopen the 'to feed or not to feed' debate, the finches are not forming a dependence on the seed we provide as a supplement but really enjoy the water baths and also graze the grassy nature strip between the garden and road, which Norm keeps watered. The dead thicket provides a roost safe from predators, palm fronds and poinciana branches are transformed into platforms for preening and socialising.  We would never remove the old thicket and find it hard to understand people living in the dry tropics who give their lawn a military haircut when a light trim to ensure good root growth and careful watering is all that is required.
We always feel a little saddened when the mannikins move on, but glad we are able to provide a 'pit stop' when most of the natural forage has been blackened by fires, many of which are deliberately lit. But their departure signals its time for the Koels and Dollarbirds to return.  I wouldn't want it any other way.
Alex Appleman
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