Backyard bird feeding.

To: <>
Subject: Backyard bird feeding.
From: Syd Curtis <>
Date: Fri, 05 Nov 2004 21:33:29 +1000
Further to postings by Mike Simpson and Michael Hunter, some
thoughts/experiences of which I recently wrote privately to a

Feeding wildlife is bad where either the food is not a balanced diet or so
much is provided that an artificially inflated local population, dependant
upon it, develops.   Back in the 1960s a severe drought caused the
pademelons (little wallabies) in Burleigh Heads N. P. to starve.  The local
park ranger, distressed at the sight of them, collected stale bread from
restaurants or bread shops and fed it to them.  OK for the emergency
situation, but sadly it rapidly became a tourist attraction and he felt
obliged to keep doing it after the drought broke.  Result: an unnaturally
large number of pademelons, losing fur in patches, and generally unhealthy
from the unsatisfactory diet.  It had to be stopped.

But tourist resort situations are often at fault, and it is understandable.
Very tame, beautiful birds are an undoubted attraction ...  and sale of
bird-seed a popular item in the local shop.  The diet is probably OK, but
with the public buying and feeding, there's no limit on the amount, and
unnaturally large populations are inevitable.  I have just  spent a couple
of nights in the Queen Mary's Falls Caravan Park (a little east of
Killarney, near the Q/NSW border) where just that situation is extent.  This
is what I emailed my son who knows the QM Falls site:

    "Yesterday, I shared a cup of tea (milk; no sugar) with a King Parrot.
Was sitting in a comfy chair on the little verandah of the cabin, enamel mug
of tea on the rail.  A number of Kings had flown up onto the rail, and
eventually, after I explained that it is wrong to feed the birds and that in
any case I didn't have any seeds, they would go away again.  But one decided
to investigate my mug - which was about 25 cm from my shoulder.  I guessed
that when it looked into the mug and saw there were no seeds it would leave.
But no, it reached down into the mug, took a sip, decided it liked it, and
continued to drink its' fill.  Which meant, that mindful of the existence of
psittacosis, I threw the rest of the tea away.  But a pleasant interlude.

    "And eventually, I succumbed to the feeding thing:  One fine red-headed
individual perched on the rail about 15 cm from my head and explained to me
that I should go to the shop and get some bird-seed, and then, in case I
didn't speak 'parrot', he used sign language, by pecking and eating
imaginary seed on the rail.

    "So I gave in and bought some seed and after this morning's recording
session, again adjourned to the verandah with my mug of tea.  My idea was to
dole out the seed a little at a time.  But their idea was to grab an edge of
the bag with one foot and get the head into the bulk supply.  No easy matter
to dole it out and keep heads out of the bag, with a Kingie on each knee,
each arm, and my head!

    "Anyway, I learnt something from the exercise.  Whereas lyrebirds and
Noisy miners, to name but two species, open their beaks wide when calling,
King Parrots, or at least those visiting the cabin, kept their beaks totally
closed when calling, - or when telling me about getting birdseed."


Syd Curtis in Brisbane 

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