How snake-fighting peacocks came to the edge of the Gibson Desert

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Rhiannon Stevens


October 03, 2018 10:35:18

Video: Warburton Roadhouse's booming population of peafowl

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Peafowl at feeding time, Warburton Roadhouse WA. From Rottnest Island to Canberra, peafowl populations have boomed in some unlikely places across Australia.While admired for their beauty, peafowl are noisy birds that can divide communities. The story of how peafowls arrived at an outback Western Australian roadhouse is soaked in mystery and alcohol. (Supplied: Ted Box)
In Warburton, a remote community on the edge of the Gibson Desert, the story of the arrival of peafowls is a local enigma.The story goes like this: a man woke up at Uluru nursing a hangover and found he had two peafowls in his car. “They’re wonderful creatures, and they’ve got a purpose — they keep the snakes down around the place,” Mr Box said. Maree Daniels from the RSPCA said that they were not a common pet, particularly because they were so noisy. Feral populations of peafowl are not believed to have survived because the birds are prone to attacks from foxes and dogs.These days they are mostly found on hobby farms. Travelling west he left them at the Warburton Roadhouse on his way through.From this hazy beginning grew a large and rowdy population of peafowl cared for by the roadhouse managers, Maree and Ted Box. “Then there was an auction of the overstocked zoo animals, including peafowl, tigers and bears. How did peafowls come to Western Australia?Cassyanna Grey, a conservation officer at Rottnest Island, said peafowl first came to Western Australia in the early 1900s as a gift to the Perth Zoo from the Melbourne Zoo. “My philosophy is that we’re not taking the peacock feathers, the peacocks are giving us the feathers,” he said. Photo:
The postcard-perfect Warburton Roadhouse is more than 1,000km south-west of Alice Springs. (ABC Goldfields-Esperance: Tom Joyner)
“They’re quirky. Outback menagerie keeps snakes downMr and Mrs Box have lost count of the exact number of peafowl, however one thing not in doubt is their love for the birds. Members of the public, circuses and private zoos purchased the animals,” Ms Grey said.Peafowl were also released into the south-west corner of the state by the Western Australia Acclimatisation Committee for the purpose of hunting. (ABC Goldfields: Tom Joyner)
“In ancient India, the rajas used the peacocks in their palaces to kill cobras, to keep the cobras away.”Known for keeping snakes at bay as a predator, they can also easily become prey, as the Warburton peafowls were being killed by dingoes until Mr and Mrs Box dingo-proofed the fence.The roadhouse is surrounded by a high razor-wire security fence, however the peafowls often fly out and perch on power poles and wander through the community.When someone broke into the roadhouse grounds and stole several chicks, the peafowl spooked and flew away only to have locals from the Warburton community gradually shepherd them back.To reduce peafowl numbers Mr and Mrs Box attempted to have some moved to Perth, but the logistical difficulties of moving them such a large distance on outback roads meant the plan failed.The Boxes sometimes give them away to caring people who want to take a less typical memento home. Photo:
Dozens of peacocks roam the grounds of the roadhouse where the magistrate stays in the remote community of Warburton. Mrs Box said they were her babies, and she eagerly defended them from anyone who complained about the noise.Peacocks are notoriously noisy, they call and sing to peahens in a honking lilt — much like someone calling out “help!”.The noise had drawn complaints from some neighbours, but Mr Box said complaints came from new arrivals to the area who had not yet acclimatised. They are not your everyday chicken” Ms Daniels said.Out of the heat in the dark interior of the roadhouse Mr and Mrs Box sell peacock feathers to tourists.The peacocks shed their feathers each year and, while some considered them back luck, Mr Box saw them as a gift from his unruly friends.
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ABC Radio Melbourne

By Nicole Mills


October 03, 2018 13:05:37

Video: Peregrine falcons on high-rise hatch

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(Facebook: Ronan Reid) “We have had trouble previously with the adults catching pigeons that have been incapacitated by bird deterrent-type chemicals that are used to try to eradicate feral pigeons from factories or industrial sites,” he said.”The peregrines feed almost exclusively on other birds, so they see this pigeon lame and they pick it up and it’s covered in this fairly caustic gel which the peregrines then ingest themselves.”Why do falcons nest on skyscrapers?Peregrine falcons have been nesting at the Collins Street building since 1991, due to its ledged design and south-east-facing direction which attracts the morning sun but not the baking afternoon heat.Prior to volunteers installing a nest box, the falcons laid their eggs in the building’s gutter, but the running water chilled them and they failed to hatch.Now the water travels underneath the nest box, giving them a better chance of survival.While they are excellent hunters, none of the falcon species know how to build a nest themselves.Instead they lay eggs on natural ledges in buildings or cliffs or occupy other birds’ nests.The owners of 367 Collins Street introduced a webcam in 2016 to stream the day-to-day lives of the falcons online.On the ABC Melbourne Facebook page, Robin Gauld said the stream was “exciting”.”I waited for an hour this afternoon to see the chicks,” she said. (Facebook: Venetia Pereira)
“It’s great that we have so many more people involved and excited this year,” Mr Stillard said. Birdlife Australia volunteer Dr Victor Hurley said it was likely due to the chicks being fed a poisoned pigeon. Three fluffy white chicks emerged from their eggs on Tuesday; a fourth egg has not yet hatched.Leigh Stillard established the 367 Collins Falcon Watchers Facebook group which has grown to more than 1,300 members.He said the online community was thrilled to see the new chicks hatch. External Link:

Facebook: The three falcon chicks have hatched
The two chicks that hatched last spring were growing well, being brought food caught by their parents, but sadly both died before they were able to fledge the nest. “Seeing the chicks hatch was great. Photo:
The chick did manage to get back to its feet after this bout of sibling rivalry. Photo:
Three of the four peregrine falcon eggs have hatched. “It’s great that we can see more about the lives of urban wild animals, even if it’s through a web browser.”The group’s members have been posting regular updates on the birds’ behaviour, including one of the parents attempting to feed one of the chicks which was looking the other way, tapping it on the head with their beak to get its attention. I hope it inspires more people to study ecology and get involved.”Good news after last year’s tragedyThe baby birds are happy news for the growing community of online birdwatchers who are eyeing the three chicks’ development particularly closely after witnessing last year’s heartbreak. “You start to feel nervous as the start of October approaches and you’re expecting a hatch day and hoping nothing goes wrong,” he said. There were also reports of sibling rivalry, including a photo of one of the birds being knocked flat on its back and struggling to get back to its feet in the jostle for food. The hearts of armchair birdwatchers are aflutter after the hatching of three peregrine falcon chicks was streamed via webcam from a nest atop a Melbourne skyscraper.