For 20 years after constructing our hilltop house, we carefully refrained from feeding the wildlife which shared their rainforest land with us. The accepted wisdom cautioned that doing this would make the crazy creatures dependent on handouts.
That’s a little like saying that if all of the fast food take-away stores should shut, the human population would starve, understanding no alternative methods of finding sustenance. Still, we assumed Melbourne Wildlife Removal knew best and so we followed their advice until a difficult drought struck, three decades back. Years of abundance had invited our regional Kookaburra family to strain to the maximum. Now the parents, and their two helpers in the prior season, faced increasing four new offspring at a time of scarcity.
Notice: Kookaburras practise a’nursemaid’ method of caring for the young. Two of the offspring from the previous season stay to help increase the new nestlings, while some excess offspring are chased off to discover new land for themselves. This amalgamated strategy, though infrequent elsewhere on Earth, is common to a lot of species of birds indigenous to Australia.
So, my Bloke chose our neighborhood lot needed a little helping hand. They soon learned the Bloke’s program and by 4:30pm could be lined up along a tree branch overlooking the deck where he feeds them. Always, 1 bird could be missing from the line-up. I guessed this was a lookout, since the Bloke’s car entered the driveway, the tardy one could join the group from the tree, setting off a raucous cackle of jealousy from all of them.
From the early days, we would spread the meat on the brick paving round the swimming pool, occasionally throwing pieces to see admiration as the birds deftly captured them in mid-air. Every bit was held securely in their great, blade-like beaks and thoroughly bashed from the floor in their normal habit, before being consumed. All this noisy action attracted the attention of our black cat, who insisted on observing the day entertainment from a ring-side chair just a few feet away. He never made any movement to frighten the birds. Whatever the case, with wings for a fast escape and fully armed with these formidable beaks, they left a goal he wasn’t keen to engage.
Finally, the birds gave the game up and went back to taking their morning baths at the pool with hardly a glance at the kitty. After a long and joyful life, having been rescued from distress as an abandoned town stray, our kitty companion died this past year. Now the Kookaburras, and 29 other species of indigenous and immigrant birds, have our garden to themselves.
The juvenile birds stay wisely wary of us people at feeding time, but the parent birds will take meat out of our fingers. This practice was initiated by the older Mama bird, who’s a really outgoing personality and always first down to get a feed. She’ll even ignore beef laid out on the sawhorse’perches’ my Bloke setup, to take her parts directly out of his hand.
Note: How can you tell the women from the boys?
And have our Kookaburras fallen into feckless ways since we started providing this free bounty? Here are a couple of illustrations to demonstrate that point:while awaiting their day steaks, one after another of those birds will swoop down to skewer a fat grub amongst the grasses. They never gorge on the meat, but fly back into the trees when they’ve had what my grandma used to call’an elegant sufficiency,’ leaving us to eliminate the surplus.
1 day The Bloke was late coming home and a man flew away in the tree, apparently too hungry to wait. 1 year, our swimming pool had re-lining and the emptied space, heated by the morning sun, proved irresistible to the local population of lizards and skinks. They left a yummy feast for the Kookaburras, which cleaned up a swag of these daily. 1 casualty caused me personal despair.
This was a skink of colossal size which for several years had patrolled a land around my studio. It had pulled me out of my job one day, once I heard unusual splashing noises and found that the poor critter from the pool. All its efforts to climb out were useless and the cold water soon rendered it almost comatose. With the support of a plastic leaf scoop, I eventually managed to land it on the deck, where it sagged until the sun warmed it. 1 startled look , and it turned out to the bushes. Since the Kookaburras reduced the smaller lizards lounging at the pool that was emptied, the enormous skink needed to range further afield with this favorite item of its own diet and in an incautious moment of vulnerability, the huge birds had him for breakfast.
I think it’s apparent that our’interference’ from the daily life of the regional Kookaburras has done them no injury. They are resourceful creatures and while they may be temporarily disappointed if we ceased our largesse, they don’t really need us. It’s we who would deeply miss our everyday communion with these crazy but friendly fellow monsters.