A month ago we went to John Forrest National Park to look at the wildflowers. The yellow of wattle was everywhere and the pinks, blues, red and orange of Isopogon, Leschenaultia and Daviesia, among others, and flittering butterflies, were amazing. Something else in abundance was the bird life, with their singing making a pleasant accompaniment to the visual splendour.
We had a drink at the tavern and discovered some very tame kangaroos (Macropus fuliginosus) and birds: magpies (Cracticus tibicen), wood ducks (Chenonetta jubata), twenty eight parrots (Platycercus zonarius semitorquatus), galahs (Cacatua roseicapilla), and bronzewings (Phaps elegans). (A friend has told me how timid bronzewings are, but these ones weren’t.)
The proprietors of the tavern provide seed to encourage the wildlife, thus entertaining the tourists. When I first saw the kangaroos I thought they were pets, but they live in the park and visit the tavern for an easy meal. Feeding wild animals does more harm than good.
Animals who become habituated to humans are at greater risk from people who mean them deliberate harm, whether it’s those who catch animals to sell on the black market or those who want to hurt or kill them. The animals are more likely to frequent the areas where they get fed and be at greater risk of being hit by cars on roads. They might bite people when trying to grab some food.
The roos and birds were eating the seed provided, but some of the bolder birds were landing on tables and begging food from people eating lunch. A few twenty eight parrots were eating hot chips which someone was throwing to them and a magpie landed next to a hotdog meal waiting for someone to sit down and eat it. Someone else at this table shooed the magpie away before he could grab anything. When I took an orange out of my bag two twenty eight parrots thought I might have a tasty treat to share and landed on the table. A duck landed on the bbq next to our table, wanting something too. These full of fat and sugar scraps are unhealthy for anyone, birds included, and could contribute to shortening their life.
Animals which are regularly fed by people will stop finding food for themselves and thus become reliant on people. Not only do the animals come to the tavern for a feed, but picnickers leave scraps at tables, the ground and in bins for opportunistic animals to scavenge. Animals could also swallow plastic wrappings which become lodged in their stomach. One of the kangaroos had a joey in her pouch. This made for a great photo opportunity, but the baby is likely to grow up expecting people to provide food and may never learn to forage for herself.
We walked to one of the falls and were standing on a platform which jutted into the creek at the bottom. I took a packet of snake lollies out of my bad (I’m as unhealthy as the birds). Before I even opened the packet a magpie flew at eye level strait towards us. We quickly discovered that he knew what a packet of food looks like. He landed on the fence of the platform half a metre from us, waiting for a treat to be thrown his way, something visitors must do often. I wasn’t going to share with him. Later when we walked back up to the top of the falls a six year old was eating a banana and the same magpie was creeping closer and closer, looking for an opportunity to grab a bite. There were a pair of magpies foraging among the Verticordia for food, so they do look for some of their own food, but their diet is greatly supplemented by visitors.