Hi from Mullumbimby, Northern Rivers, NSW, Australia

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MartinKillips
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Hi from Mullumbimby, Northern Rivers, NSW, Australia

In January 2007 I lived close to bushland on the Central Coast and adopted a kookaburra which I raised from when she was a few days old until I released her a few months later. I called this bird Lazzy, and she re-joined her original family and they would all visit me daily until I left in November 2011.

Close observence of Lazzy and her family taught me much more about kookaburras than anything I ever read about them. For instance, although they are monogamous they go through the courting routine each spring. But is isn't the male enticing the female, but the female who flirts with the male. She offers him food, the only time of the year I saw this apart from the older ones feeding the young. Interestingly, the jouvenile female will also follow this routine (offering food to their father) but unlike their mother, when he goes to take the food they pull it away from him. Lazzy would also, in spring, offer me food too! Once an enormous Titan Stick Insect - although she had pretty much sucked all the juices from it first! 

Anyone interested in some of my observations regarding watching a family of kookaburras at close hand can email me (martin@thebigbamboo.com.au) or ask away here.

I now live close to Mullumbimby on the Northern Rivers on a three and a half acre property with abundant wildlife visiting. Most very welcome although I'd rather the White-necked heron stopped eating my goldfish!

Elsie
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Welcome!

What a wonderful experience. Being able to observe kookabarras so closelysmiley

I hope that you enjoy the forum!

MartinKillips
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Thank you, Elsie. It certainly was a wonderful experience. Indeed, I felt as if it was a privilege to be part of their clan. Lazzy's mother became quite tame too, although not as completely trusting Lazzy (she would sit on my shoulder whilst a wandered about the house doing chores!). It was an extremely sad day when we sold the house and moved north to Mullumbimby. I had to bid my Lazzy farewell. She must have sensed my sadness for she stayed with me for over an hour the evening before we left. Normally her visits would be for ten minutes. What made the moment even more disappointing to me was she had recently started courting a male kookaburra and would bring him to the house too - although he would keep his distance. I noticed, over the years, that the males were far shyer. It was very difficult to get a male of any age to trust you, whereas the females would usually become tame enough to feed by hand within a week or two. But the only one that ever brought ME food was Lazzy!

All the best...

Martin

Woko
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Hi Martin. Wonderful experiences for you with the Kookaburras.

For more information on artificial feeding of our native birds enter "artificial feeding" in the search box at the top of this page.

Elsie
Elsie's picture

That is sadsad It is so hard moving house when you have gotten to know the birds in your area.

I was out in my yard taking photos one day, when I saw a kookabarra on the garden post. I hadn't gotten any photos of a kookabarra yet so I was very excited. It just let me get closer and closer! I was snapping away with the camera the whole time, until I couldn't even focus the lens!  Finally I was so close I could touch it. I stood by it and let it get used to me. Where we live we have an abundace of white C grubs, so I went and got one to try to feed it. It flew right down onto my arm and grabed the grub. 

I was sooo chuffedsmiley Over the next couple of weeks I would see it often in the garden diving down and digging for the grubs, and I fed it with them a few times more. I thin kthat it must have paired up now because I haven't seen it in a long time.

I was wondering if you could tell me how to tell the males from the females?

Elsie

MartinKillips
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The males have thicker and usually longer beaks. It isn't always obvious because a jouvinile male will have a beak that is not so long as its mother's. But if you observe them enough you will begin to recognise the males form the females. And as I said in my earlier comment, I was never able to feed the males by hand - whereas all the females eventually trusted me sufficiently to take food from my hand. 

Interestingly, when Lazzy was a fledgling, apart from feeding her insects (mostly moths) I used to feed her fresh fish - which she readily ate with relish. However, the adult birds would never eat fish and Lazzy, as she grew older, stopped eating fish unless she was very hungry.

Those grubs you mentioned I would also dig up and feed them. But I have to confess that I mostyly fed them lean minced beef with ground kibble. By the way, if you ever get close enough to hear a kookaburra make light mewing sounds, then that means they genuinely like you and are pleased to see you. If I hadn't seen Lazzy for a few days she would make that noise when she sat on my hand and I rubbed my cheek on hers!

So far, where we are living now near Byron Bay on the outskirts of Mullumbimby, I haven't managed to make friends with any of the kookaburras. But occasionally, (once a year) I make it back to the Central Coast and call in at the old house and catch up with Lazzy - and she makes those mewing sounds as she rubs her beak on my cheek!

richman

Thank you for that heart warming story Martin. I hope you have the opportunity to make many more trips south to visit your beloved. You should find plenty of new friends around Mullum' 

gardenlover
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Hi , i'm from the Melbourne area and am trying to establish a native garden for birds, so far , so good , have made some mistakes , but am learning as i go along , my biggest concern is cats , neighbours cats , the birds have found my garden and so has the neighbours cat, it hides amongst the Grevilleas ,i am searching the net , looking for ways to keep the birds safe , happy and plants that will keep them well fed .  Apart from natives my little suburban garden hosts as many different species of plants as i can fit on it , but i have a mantra , the plants must have a purpose , they have to provide food for bugs , bees and birds . I love learning about birds  ,bees and bugs and how they all interact with the environment .   Happy bird watching ...

Woko
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Hi gardenlover. There are possible ways of controlling cats but most are long term.

If you're on good terms with your cat-owning neighbours then you could try negotiating with them to keep their cats locked up or in a cat run, explaining that you're trying to establish an ecology favourable to birds. You might even get some of them to come on board & before long you'll have an extensive wildlife corridor through Melbourne's suburbs. (We can only dream!).

If you can't succeed with your neighbours & their cats the next step might be to get together with other concerned people in your area (if there are any) & lobby your council for cat controls &/or cat registration. If there's a local environment group you might take up the matter with them. There are some councils which are considering this issue but I suspect it'll take quite a large ground swell of cat control opinion to get the job done. Depending on to which council you pay your rates there might be a sympathetic councillor with whom you can discuss your concern. E.g., there is a new member of Birds in Backyards who is a councillor so there may be others of her ilk in other councils including your own.

In the absence of neighbourly cooperation & at a more direct action level you could hire a cat trap & deliver the cats to the local cat farm/pound/whatever. Then letter box your area informing residents that if they've lost a cat then the local cat farm/pound/whatever is the place to look for it. In your leaflet you could explain your gardening project & why you've taken this cat control action. You might want to check your legal position on this so that you're aware of what you might be getting into. Besides, this approach isn't everyone's style. However, if used, it does point up the desirability of having cat registration so that miscreant cat owners can be identified & their pets returned to them none the worse for wear but, hopefully, with a tag recommending that Tabby or Tabbatha be kept under lock & key.

On the question of native plants I'm wondering how much of your garden is planted with species indigenous to the Melbourne area. You may be aware that your local native birdlife has evolved to live with the plants which once grew naturally in your area. And because indigenous plants are adapted to local soil & climate they're more likely to survive & cost far less to maintain than non-indigenous plants.

Good luck with your garden, gardenlover. I'm confident it's bringing you many hours of pleasure as it develops. And good luck with your cat exclusion & bird inclusion efforts!

gardenlover
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Thanks for your advice Woko , i'll take it all on board , thats a good point , which natives are indigenous to this area , i haven't gone down that path yet , think i better do some researching and find out , i've got most of my info from Angus Stewart 's web site and FB page , which has been a great starting point , thanks again 

Night Parrot
Night Parrot's picture

Woko gives some good advice on cat control but of course success depends a lot on cooperation from cat owners and/or councils. Unfortunately they are not always helpful, nor, in the case of cat owners, concerned about others or caring of wildlife. 

You might also consider a set-up like the one shown in the following US website. Gallager used to sell here through stock and feed stores, they may still do so. Or  you could try ebay.

http://www.gallagherusa.com/electric-fencing/garden-protection.aspx

Araminta
Araminta's picture

Good idea Night Parrot. Can't see it work thoughcrying We have proper electric fencing all around the property,doesn't keep the cats away. We also have the tape fences to devide the paddocks. You would need them close to the ground and on the top of the fences. Cats jump. I see my neighbour's cat jump on the wooden posts and then over. I have trapped a few cats, some went back to the owner for a hefty fee of $250 to the council, only to hunt the next day. I have put the trap next to the fence, in full view with big signs : Cat Trap in Operation. Only saw a new replacement cat two days ago. Frustrating, what else can you do??

M-L

dwatsonbb
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Here's the link for the Australian arm of the company. Most rural suppliers will stock Gallaghers products. You can use the store locater. I am with M-L unlikely to solve the cat problem.
http://www.gallagher.com.au/default.aspx

Dale Huonville, Tasmania

Woko
Woko's picture

Do you need a cat trap in operation to have a few signs informing people that there's a cat trap in operation?

Araminta
Araminta's picture

No you don't Woko, just put up big signswink You could also hang huge sings on your fence " Rat Poison on property, keep cats away"wink, without having put out any. That would be legal, I think?

M-L

Night Parrot
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I wonder if a lot of cat owners would care a lot about signs. So easy to get another cat. The key lies in council control and tagging. How many times will a cat owner pay a $250 fine before waking up to their responsibility? But for some reason councils are reluctant to regulate. Probably because laws would be too difficult to enforce and the majority of cat owners who cause all the problems would be unlikely to comply. I am sure they just don't care about neighbours or the environment. Dogs are controlled because of their danger to people and especially children, but no account seems to be given of the danger to children of toxoplasmosis spread so easily by cats in sandpits, etc not to mention their devastating effect on wildlife.

Night Parrot
Night Parrot's picture

I wonder if a lot of cat owners would care a lot about signs. So easy to get another cat. The key lies in council control and tagging. How many times will a cat owner pay a $250 fine before waking up to their responsibility? But for some reason councils are reluctant to regulate. Probably because laws would be too difficult to enforce and the majority of cat owners who cause all the problems would be unlikely to comply. I am sure they just don't care about neighbours or the environment. Dogs are controlled because of their danger to people and especially children, but no account seems to be given of the danger to children of toxoplasmosis spread so easily by cats in sandpits, etc not to mention their devastating effect on wildlife.

Woko
Woko's picture

To pay for cat control perhaps councils could introduce a generous registration fee, Night Parrot.

gardenlover
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Night Parrot , so true , kittens and cats are a disposable item to some people , just can't understand why councils or governments for that matter don't bring in some hard rules regarding cats and how they should be housed ...

thick_knee
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Some do have strict and costly rules. But people are simply ignorant, pay the fines and cute puss puss roams the next day.

O, the poor little cuty has to be free to run and have some fun.

Patrik

rbuddy
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So gratifying to hear from others who have no sympathy for cats and their destructive habits.

 and @UrbanBirdsOz  @birdsinbackyards
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