I’M A KILLER…TO SAVE NATIVE BIRDS

Following a safari trip to Africa and a brief birding experience in Western Australia a few years ago, I became more interested in bird life. At home, I began to enjoy the beautiful songs and the haughty parade of the proud Indian myna in my backyard.  Myna numbers grew from 2 to 4 to 8 to 16 to 32 over a few years and I enjoyed their presence.  But when I put a feeder in to hopefully encourage rainbow lorrikeets and parrots, the mynas attacked any other birds and took the food.  This was not what I wanted at all.  What to do?

Then I heard from birders that mynas are not native (how dumb was I!), that they attack other birds, kill their young in the nests and are fast becoming a dominant breed across Australia, wiping out native bird species (Bird Life surveys record them in the top 10 birds in Australia now).

My Killer Instinct Emerges

My attitude changed. Much as I like the myna songs and looks, I wanted native birds.  So how to get rid of the mynas?  Dr Google showed they could be killed legally using myna traps.  a NSW man had testimonials from councils for the effectiveness of his traps.  I spoke to him.  He seemed genuine, so I ordered one.

The simple, 2-cage, wire mesh trap duly arrived. As suggested, I put dog food in the cage, placed it out of my sight and waited.  Within a couple of days I had my first captive.  Instructions were to kill at night by covering the (very large) cage in a plastic bag, hooking it to a covered (cold) car exhaust pipe and run the engine for 10 minutes.

Killing Isn’t Easy

Sounded easy. But it didn’t work!  My myna was still alive.  I’m not good with injuries, blood, suffering.  I panicked.  What to do?  Let the myna out and forget the whole business?  Try again? Try something else?

I have a fountain in the back yard. I thought the cage would fit into the pond.  It did.  So I tried drowning.  It worked.  I became a killer.  I hated it.  I was upset.  But it achieved my aim of getting rid of a myna.

In the cities, drowning (or death generally) is not something we know much about. But, for my parent’s generation, or for people living in the country, death is a normal part of life and drowning was and is practised on a variety of pests.  Drowning or some other way of killing rabbits, foxes, rats, unwanted cat and dog pups is necesary to achieve some good objective.

The Killing Machine

Next day I set the trap again. This time I got 2 birds.  Straight into the pond.  Then one day I got 4.  Straight into the pond.  Each time it became easier, but it was/is never pleasant, even though it helps get me to my objective of a myna-free zone.

Last week, I reached my century in the backyard. Yes, 100 birds over the last 8 months.  The cage maker’s website said 73 had been killed by one person and I couldn’t believe it.  I had imagined I might get 20, but still they keep coming.  And still I keep the trap out (except when we have visitors).

At first, I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing. It seemed wrong, it seemed ‘bad’.  But sometimes the myna problem was raised by others, sometimes I judged a friend might be interested, so I let the dirty little secret out slowly.  Now I’m broadcasting to the world.  Not that I’m happy about being a killer – I hate it – but because I think it is a ‘good’ thing to do.  Too often we throw our hands up and say, ‘Nothing we can do about that problem’.  Well, often there is something you can do…but we just don’t do it.

Success!

My garden now boasts up to 16 lorrikeets each day, 10-20 turtle doves, noisy miners, wattlebirds, magpie larks, magpies, ravens, an occasional currawong and once last year I had 4 kookaburras. I’d like more varieties and we are growing more native trees and shrubs to attract them.  It’s a wonderful part of my day watching them swoop in to feed from the two feeders, or drink or bathe in the two birdbaths and the pond and visitors love it too.  If I have to continue to be a myna killer to achieve this, so be it.

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2 thoughts on “I’M A KILLER…TO SAVE NATIVE BIRDS

  1. Clearly an interventionist. Think rats and South Georgia, think badgers, think mice and rats in our own houses. Difficult to claim that not dealing the death blow, but leaving the poison, is anything other than asthetic.

    There is a passage from “The wind and the lion” when the Raisuli, leader of the Barbary Pirates says “Men prefer to fight with swords, so they can see each other’s eyes! Sometimes, this is not possible. Then, they fight with rifles. The Europeans have guns that fire many times promiscuously and rend the Earth. There is no honor in this”

    Clearly in this matter where you have chosen not to be a spectator. I wonder whether this a a male attribute and whether a woman would have round another (better?) solution.

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  2. Thanks for the comment Robert. One point you seem to be making is that ‘there is no honour’ in killing some pests to save non-pests. I’m not sure farmers would agree that not killing foxes was good for sheep or chickens though. I do think there is ‘honour’ in this work, just as there is for someone trying to stop cane toads spreading across the country.

    The other point is: would a woman come to a different/better solution? I’m happy to take better solutions, whether from a woman or a man. Women do think differently, but this is not about fighting or war, where I totally agree that is a bad ‘solution’ to almost every conflict. This is about preserving or supporting what was here, so that this land can remain unique.

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