Nobody loves our beautiful Australian birds more than I do. I photograph them and write about them daily. BUT, this is a plea not to feed the Sulphur Crested Cockatoos here in the Blue Mountains (or anywhere else for that matter).
The population of these birds has increased dramatically, due to many factors, including land clearance, prolonged drought out west, and the feeding of them in backyards. They are now the ‘ibis’ of the area, but far more destructive.
Back in 1985, NSW National Park bird expert Carol Probert made a note about spotting three Sulphur Crested Cockatoos in Katoomba’s Catalina Park. She considered this very unusual. In 2012 she was interviewed by Australian National Geographic….. wow, how things had changed! By now the birds were ousting threatened Gang-Gang Cockatoos and Powerful Owls from nesting hollows. Gang-Gang numbers are estimated to have decreased 70%. Probert was also very concerned that they were drowning out the dawn and dusk chorus of smaller and quieter birds such as wrens, robins, honey eaters, and magpies. Six years on there are even larger flocks in our parks.
Recently a fellow posted a disturbing photo on a bird site I belong to. It showed him sitting in the Katoomba Falls Caravan Park feeding bread or cake to about eight cockatoos. The birds were perched all over him. When I suggested this was not a good idea he said he realized that, but was just following the example of others. He commented that there were about a hundred birds being fed by visitors to the caravan park, owned by the Blue Mountains Council. The scary thing is that they may become so bold they will start snatching food from those not intending to share; rather like seagulls only terrifyingly bigger. It’s beginning to remind me of Hitchcock’s famous movie.
The two photographs below were taken in Katoomba’s shopping centre, The birds are eating bread put out to feed pigeons etc.
The other big issue is their propensity to chew woodwork.
WHY DO COCKATOOS CHEW?
In normal circumstances birds maintain their impressive beaks by foraging; chewing off branches and munching hard seed capsules.
However, when they receive a lot of seed and other food from humans they find alternative methods of beak sharpening, and who can blame them? The one below is a bit close for comfort, perched on my studio roof.
Fortunately our period of risk is brief, when the fruits of peppermint gums are ripe. Cockatoos like open space and we have a minute lawn and lots of shrubs and trees. It can be a whole lot worse. This is what happened to a property in Victoria. Destructive Birds.
When residents feed cockatoos it inevitably leads to frustration and annoyance among neighbours. There are complaints about noise, pollution from droppings and damage to property. If the situation cannot be resolved there is the risk of individuals taking matters into their own hands.
I don’t want to appear ‘holier than thou’. When we came to the Mountains 20 years go our first thought was to buy a feeder. Our architect gently explained that it wasn’t a great idea and it has been purely an ornament ever since. For those who do want to put fruit or seed out, there are feeders that exclude birds larger than parrots.
TRAGIC REPRISALS AGAINST THE COCKATOOS
In March 2017 there was sad incident in the Blue Mountains when someone threw poisoned seed into the backyard of a resident who had been feeding cockatoos. Fourteen died, along with a crimson rosella. To read the report about it in the local newspaper CLICK HERE.
Parks Victoria found themselves facing a big problem at Grants Picnic Park in Sherbrooke Forest. Retaining walls were being attacked and big changes had to be made to bird feeding programmes. Of course residents in surrounding suburbs were under siege as well.
Here is some advice from the New South Wales Office of the Environment and Heritage;
Please note their No.1 suggestion. I can’t say that I have found the scarecrow idea in the slightest bit effective, and I would hate to annoy my lovely neighbors with alarms. The hose might work, but you can’t be around all the time and half a dozen cockies can do a hell of a lot of damage in just a few minutes.
BEST OF LUCK! I suspect they may have the last laugh.
I should add that cockatoos are also very prevalent in Sydney, where the photo below was taken. The feeding of birds in apartment blocks is also controversial That yellow wing tag is part of a survey to record their range.
Just in case there are still people who think I don’t appreciate being surrounded by birds, I wrote an article about the joy I feel living in what is virtually a hide. CLICK HERE TO READ.
FEE FREE TO LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW, BUT SUGGESTIONS ABOUT HARMING THE BIRDS WILL NOT BE PUBLISHED.