Over the last year, I’ve been giving our backyard birds, those that are meat eaters, a little bit of mince each day just to see how they react. And because we’ve been under COVID lockdown for most of the year, this has become a regular event in the mornings and evenings. The amount of mince that I give them is quite small, no larger than a ping pong ball in size each morning and evening, and this is for four Kookaburras, two Magpies, two Butcher Birds and a Wattlebird, with the occasional Crimson Rosella snaffling a small piece. The birds, naturally, have become quite accustomed to this (though surprisingly quickly) and I now have nearly all of them taking mince from my hand, or when placed very close to me on our veranda balustrade.
Fear not, I’m not over-feeding these birds at all, nor are they ignoring their natural food sources, as I have plenty of evidence by way of very dirty beaks on the Kookaburras and Magpies, that they have not abandoned their normal foraging for nature’s provisions. The Butcher Birds are also leaving evidence that their diet is well sustained by insects and beetles, by every so often regurgitating a small pellet of insect husks that haven’t been digested. They have even done this while standing next to me on the balustrade, no decorum whatsoever. What’s also amusing is that the Magpie will collect a beakfull of mince (relatively speaking) run off to the side and dutifully wipe the mince on the dirt, before taking it to their nest, as if to make it appear that they have hunted this themselves.
Now as Spring came along, the demands for mince escalated, with the aviary arriving several times a day to see if the restaurant was open. Kookaburras, Magpies, Butcher Birds and even the Wattlebird all sitting on the balustrade the moment any motion was seen in our kitchen. They think that persistence will overcome my resistance, not so (well, sometimes on a very ugly day). The Magpie especially has become very persistent and no longer the least bit afraid of us, nor our hound dog (who has given up on harassing all but the Bronze Wing Pigeons). The Butcher Birds are the most friendly and trusting of them all, which has surprised me given their small size, but I am led to understand that they can be very aggressive towards other birds if the need arises. That said, all the birds seem to get along very well when I’m out with the mince, I guess because they realise that they will all get their fair share. Or is this anthropomorphism?
It’s quite clear from the actions of one Magpie, the Butcher Birds and the Wattlebird, that they are nesting, but the Kookaburras don’t appear to be or have already gone through the process. When it comes to the former, they all have a feed of the mince, but then take a beakfull and fly off to their nest. Both the Magpie, Butcher Birds and the Wattlebird have given clear indication that they are feeding chicks, given that they will collect a fair portion of mince before departing. Now before anyone gets overly worried about the mince as being dangerous, I only use very low-grade mince without preservatives etc, as I understand that lean mince and that which contains preservatives isn’t good for birds (and probably not that good for humans either). I’ve pondered going to our local butcher to see if he can mince up a pile of leftovers which contain more fat etc.
While some (many?) may disagree with what I’m doing, I believe that in moderation it’s not a bad thing at all. Like with our parrots etc, providing a safe haven with a modicum of food gives all of these birds a better chance at survival and we can certainly see that as the parrot population in the area seems to be much more prolific than in years gone by. Now Spring is always a time when the bird population increases, as they come back from whence they go for Winter, but there is also a whole range of birds that are here all year round. I have said to both the Magpie and the Butcher Birds that I expect the brood to visit once they are able to fly, so that we can see the youngsters as well. I’m not sure that they have been listening, but who knows. We do see the young King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas, so maybe we’ll get to see the others as well.
It would be nice to get better photos of the birds while on our balcony, but I’m never quite ready and the lighting isn’t ideal given that they are mostly back lit and flash just makes them look less than pleasing. I may need to get my studio LEDs out and really add some light to this menagerie. Anyway, Spring will soon be over and this increased feeding habit is most likely to calm down soon enough.
Update 1. I thought I’d add a few more shots. The Wattlebird has become quite the regular visitor, doing what the Magpie and others are doing, in that the moment that we go outside, there’s at least the Magpie and Kookaburra, if not the Butcher Birds, waiting for a feed.
Update 2. It’s not just one Wattlebird coming around, it’s now two and they also brought one of their chicks around as well. They have become so used to the routine that they now come right up to me to get their fair share of the offerings. And there’s always a bit of a battle going on between the Wattlebirds and Butcher Birds. Another thing that has happened is that our hound dog comes to tell me whenever the birds arrive for their daily feed. I think he’s learned that he gets a treat whenever the birds get food.
Update 3. Today came a surprise, as the two Wattlebirds brought their chick around for me to see (that’s the way I look at it). They were clearly showing the chick the lay of the land and I now await the Magpie and Butcher Birds to do the same, especially the Butcher Birds. It’d be nice to get a photo or some video, but I’m not sure that will happen.