|Pestered By Parrots
2016 by Karen Radford Treanor
Honorable Mention--2016 General Nonfiction
Australians will probably never understand what an amazing experience
having wild parrots in one's yard is for immigrants from places such
as New England. If the most colourful thing you ever saw was a blue
jay, the sight of a pair of western rosellas in red, blue, green and
yellow is staggering.
had been dragooned into bird-watching by my mother at an early age,
and spent many a damp spring day in Massachusetts doing Audubon
surveys with her, but nothing had prepared me for the colour and
diversity of Australian bird life, particularly the parrots.
first book purchase after moving to the hills above Perth was Simpson
and Day's "Guide to the Birds of Australia". During our
first year here, you could find me at least once a week out in the
yard with my son's fifteen pound binoculars waveringly focussed on a
tree and the bird book propped open on the trunk of the car.
were easy enough to identify, and I think I can be forgiven for
confusing our native ravens with crows, but some of the other birds
weren't as simple. There must be hundreds of honey eaters, many of
them only differentiated by a few millimetres in length or a tinge of
colour. Locating the bird with the binoculars and then trying to
identify it from among 35 similar birds illustrated in the book was
very challenging. But it was the parrots that proved hardest to pin
still amazes me that a creature wearing a something right out of a
1970's dress designer's colour chart can disappear from sight in the
few seconds it takes you to focus the binoculars. How could
something bright blue, green, red and yellow blend into a bluegum
tree without a trace? How could a bird with a call as obvious as a
foghorn not be spottable when you're out there with 50 power
binoculars, sweeping the treetops?
I finally got a bird in my sights, the bird book was helpful, but
only to a point. It did not explain bird behaviour. For instance,
no bird book I've read explained why Port Lincoln parrots sit on the
side of the road, usually with their tails towards the traffic. What
are they doing there? Are they employed by the Main Roads Department
to count vehicles?
why do pink and gray Galahs walk so much when they have perfectly
good wings? And when they do choose to use their wings, why do they
like to fly only a few feet above the ground, often in mobs of eight
or ten or more?
question is why black cockatoos like to drop gum nuts on garden
sheds. My husband's theory is they like the noise makes. I think
it's because they're a bunch of butter-claws and can't hold onto
their lunch. Whatever the reason, it really gets your attention when
you're trying to find your secateurs and the cockies start bombing
the metal shed without warning.
we bought our house it had a small orchard, including a bronze-heart
plum tree. In 20 years I never had a piece of fruit from that tree
that hadn't already been sampled by someone with a big hooked beak. If
only they'd eat all of one plum, but no; they have to sample each
one, in case the next one is better than the one they already have. I
can see why farmers hate the entire psittacasine tribe.
ultimate insult came the year when the loquat tree I had grown from a
seed and planted in the front yard finally bore flowers and set
fruit, after some ten years of nurturing. For weeks I watched the
green bumps grow and change slowly to yellow.
day I thought the fruit must now be ripe and ready to pick, so off I
went with a colander to collect it. There had been some twelve
bunches of fruit, each with six to ten individual pieces. Humming a
cheerful tune I headed for the tree. As I approached, the tree
seemed to explode. Not one, not two, but five, count them, five
green Port Lincoln parrots burst from the foliage with the hysterical
whickering cry that identifies them. I pawed through the branches
and found one fruit cluster after another stripped clean. At last I
found six or seven fruits the parrots had ignored as being inferior
quality. I carried them back to the house, rattling forlornly in the
I got on the Internet and started searching for shot-gun sellers. No,
only kidding: I got on the phone and rang Nurserymen's Supply to
order a couple of fruit nets for the coming season. Wild parrots are
part of the charm of life in the Hills, but I draw the line at
providing free lunch from my cherished loquat. Let them eat gumnuts!
In 2014 we moved across Australia to Tasmania, and left the
colourful parrots behind. Or so we thought. It wasn’t long
before a whole new tribe of black cockatoos moved into our yard and
began destroying any tree that bore nuts of any sort while screaming
imprecations at the tops of their lungs. And when they moved on,
their fell work done, a family of green rosellas settled in, assuring
us of never having a plum or apple or lemon that hadn’t been
pre-tasted by a sharp beak. There are several local tradesmen who
specialise in building wire net cages for fruit growers; we are in
negotiations at this moment.
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