03 October, 2006

Garden Birds of Australia

Australia has seven of the world’s ten most venomous snakes and five of the world’s ten most venomous spiders. It also has two of the world’s most stupid birds.

The olive-backed oriole doesn’t look particularly stupid. It looks like quite a nice bird – a big, thrushlike creature, that might, at first glance even have a glint of intelligence in it eye. But don’t be fooled. The olive-backed oriole is a moron. It makes a rapid, piping ee-oo-ee-oo noise that is not so bad the first time you hear it, or the second, or even the hundredth. But by the time you’ve listened to that idiotic warble thousands and thousands of times, day after day, week after week, you begin to realize that the olive-backed oriole is not playing with a full set of gum-nuts.

Then there is its habit of attacking windows. Not just once or twice but repeatedly, hour after hour, for days and weeks. Flying at windows, sitting nearby and ee-oo-ee-oo-ing at windows, and sitting on windowsills pecking aggressively at windows – from dawn till dusk. The dammed thing never gets tired. It never takes a break. And it never, ever shuts up! How does a bird with so little sense and such an irritating manner survive? Why haven’t all the other birds got together and hog-tied it?

I’ll tell you why, because any creature large or small, with any compassion for its fellows, or sense of its own duty to creation, is saving its strength for the chance to destroy the dreaded brush turkey.

The brush turkey is such a menace that, even though they are as common as liars in a parliament, the government has had to pass laws to prevent people killing them in their millions.

This bird even looks the part. It is like a dwarf turkey, black, with a red and yellow head that is so ugly you’d think the whole species would be hiding in the darkest forests out of shame rather than strutting about the gardens of Brisbane in broad daylight. I suspect the head is really some kind of obscene fungal growth. It is certainly impossible to believe it could be a real head with a real brain since the brush turkey seems to have only one behaviour in its whole repertoire. It scrapes at the ground. That’s all it does. It scrapes at the ground.

And, when it scrapes at the ground – with it’s ludicrously outsize talons – it scrapes up everything that is growing in the ground: your beautiful collection of bromeliads, your newly-planted bulbs, your lovely annuals, everything! It also scrapes at things it finds growing in pots – geraniums, cacti, seedlings, even that avocado that was just sprouting. And why does it do this? Why is it hell-bent on destroying your garden? Because it wants to build a great big pile of fallen leaves, twigs, bromeliads, and whatever it can get its size 10 feet onto. And I don’t just mean a pile. I mean a small hill. I mean a cubic metre of topsoil, mulch and (ex) plant-life. It works at this all the time. It never lets up. It is the Terminator of the bird world. It will not stop!

In the end, having a garden is impossible. Having a barren wasteland with a great big mound in it is possible. But a garden? No. As you stare bleakly at that fat black pustule strutting through the ruins of your garden, the only thing left to you is an insane, gnawing compulsion to get your hands around the damned bird’s revolting neck!!

Frankly, I think a garden full of brown snakes and red-back spiders might be preferable to one with olive-backed orioles and brush turkeys.

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