You are here

Corella conundrums


Corellas are one of the most visible birds in many Australian cities, any proposal to cull their numbers inevitably causes some controversy. Like humans, they may be recent inhabitants of an area but are they occupying an environmental niche that we created ?

Recently an article published by the Wimmera Mail-Times regarding a proposed corella cull caught my attention. It’s not unusual for this subject to come up in just about any state in Australia as corellas seem to be popping up everywhere, don’t they? The article consists mainly of rhetoric coming from Horsham Councillor Gary Bird (yes that is his real name) and Cr Bernard Gross. Cr Bird calls for gun laws to be relaxed and field and game shooters to be allowed to join in a corella cull though he doesn’t want to paint a picture of the ol’ wild west. Cr Gross isn’t as shy about the wild west theme, it would seem that “shoot outs” were used to keep numbers down when he was a boy. Along with damaging property and the environment, corellas are also accused of predating on other birds by Horsham Mayor Michael Ryan. To add fuel to the fire, it seems these corellas aren’t from these parts anyway….. they’re from out west, Western Australia to be precise.

These corellas aren't from these parts!


Longbill showing off his assets

So who are these pesky, carnivorous, white-feathered invaders anyway? They appear to be little corellas, a species that appears to originate from the arid and semi-arid regions of inland Australia. Much like kangaroos, their original range before white settlement is subject to debate. Some say that little corellas are expanding coastward in many parts of Australia, others that aviary releases are increasing their range. I would suggest however that the little corellas found in Horsham, Victoria originate from somewhere a lot closer than Western Australia. I would also suggest that the mayor of Horsham check his facts regarding their carnivorous nature. Perhaps he is getting confused with the corellas tendency to compete with other birds over nesting sites. The statements made about the little corella in Horsham however, could be classified as restrained in comparison to the propaganda coming out of Old Noarlunga, South Australia in 2008. A suggestion is made that the birds may have escaped from aviaries, its origin (via DNA testing) could possibly trace it back to the Philipines. The little corella seems to be getting further and further from “home” all the time.

Which corella?

The corella issue crops up commonly in urban areas such as the proposed cull in Busselton, Western Australia as pointed out by RichB In WA the term “corella” gets used very loosely by local government to describe any white parrot they deem to be a nuisance. The corella species that inhabit Perth currently are not endemic to the area as many pro-culling residents are quick to point out, though there appears to be the occasional sighting of Butler corellas (the northern subspecies of the western longbill corella). What is not so commonly known is that the endangered Muir’s corella (another subspecies of western longbill corella) were originally found in the Perth area. Unfortunately they disappeared over 100 years ago and can now only be found in a small area deep in the southwest of WA. Loss of habitat, shooting and poisoning appear to be the main reason for their demise in the Perth area and other south west regions (including Busselton). As yet I have not heard any mention of a possible re-introduction of Muir’s corellas in Perth to accompany the eradication of the little corella and (eastern) longbill corella. Given that the Muir corella is larger than both of the introduced species and displays very similar behaviour ie. Active, noisy and conspicuous, I wonder how well received this bird would be.

Culling for convenience


Enjoying a few drinks, this time they left the garden hose alone

Attempts to demonise a bird species by claiming it’s not endemic to the area often occurs during proposed culls particularly in urban areas. In Perth there have been claims that Australian ravens are not endemic to our coastal strip by those campaigning for culling. The Perth suburb of Mosman Park however needed no such justification to get government approval for their own raven cull In this case the persistence of several vocal ratepayers in Mosman Park appeared to be reason enough to go ahead with the cull. Other wildlife culls proceed as a matter of routine such as the annual killing of endemic wood ducks at Burswood Casino Golf Course. . In this case Burswood management deemed (as they do every year) that the resident wood duck population was too large…. This is a similar argument used by those requesting kangaroo culls in urban areas such as the proposed cull at Preston Beach Golf Club

Where have the natural predators gone?

Corellas are killed in their thousands in agricultural areas, obviously these culls don’t attract the same sort of attention as those in the city. A natural way of keeping corella numbers down is via the predation by raptors such as the peregrine falcon and the wedge tailed eagle. Unfortunately these birds have also been blasted out of the sky, poisoned directly or indirectly or have lost most of their habitat due to land clearing, the wedge tailed eagle is still listed as an agricultural pest in Western Australia to this day. Understandably there are those who question whether humans will ever evolve beyond the “go for the gun” mentality in attempting to control or improve our environment. It does seem however that using raptors to scare away corellas is becoming more popular, I know of a landowner who periodically uses (captive) goshawks for this purpose.

Role of the pet industry and the FATE program

No corella discussion would be complete without mention of the pet industry’s contribution to the current range of corella species. It is widely accepted that the presence of little corellas and (in most cases) long billed corellas in our major cities is due to aviary releases / escapes. If we are trying to manage these bird populations why is it that any individual (in WA at least) can walk into a pet store and buy one of these birds? In WA you can own up to 10 corellas without having a permit. There is some control attempted at the local government level but this message is lost amongst the chit-chat captive corellas engage us with in pet stores. In WA rainbow lorikeets are freely available as pets even as this introduced bird (by aviary release/escape) begins to penetrate the jarrah forests in Perth’s hills in direct competition with endemic birds such as the red capped and twenty eight parrot. Incidentally, endemic birds are also available at bird shops whether they are listed as agricultural pests or endangered (or both) It is very disturbing to find birds such as endangered black cockatoos in specialist bird shops with price tags going into tens of thousands of dollars. Whilst these birds may have been hand reared and are therefore not releasable into the wild, there is no doubt the prices commanded by these rare birds surely promotes illegal activity in the bird trade to maintain supply. Professor Mike Archer’s Future of Australia’s Threatened Ecosystems (FATE) program is promoting the use of native animals as pets, one only has to look at the pet bird industry to appreciate the potential damage this practice can inflict both environmentally and on the species involved. Placing a value on a native species tantamount to its decline in wild populations particularly if that value is high. Inevitably, a commercially valued species is subject to illegal activities. The collecting of eggs from species such as the peregrine falcon, wedge tailed eagle and Muir’s corella are testament to this.

Comments

Another fantastic article, Scott! Love the illustration!
Very nicely researched. Very educational on birds and our attitude to them.

A cull of 20 Sulphur Crested Cockatoos is already underway in Sydney. Fortunately there appears to be much debate going on between those that support the cull and those that don't which as it turns out includes the City of Sydney Council. It appears the cull is taking place due to complaints lodged by the owners of several buildings apparently defaced by the accused birds. I would suggest that the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service have been too trigger happy in their decision making and have completely ignored public opinion in the Sydney community. Not suprisingly these lovable larrikans have a huge fan club of inner city folk that crave wildlife interactions in an environment starved of such opportunities. The fact that these cockatoos are native to the Sydney area makes them even more endearing. If you look around any city centre you will inevitably see building facades, window ledges, roofs and statues covered in metal spikes that prevent birds from perching. Why has this exercise not been performed on the buildings in question in Sydney?

In Busselton, Western Australia the green light has been given to cull hundreds of Little and Long-billed Corellas by the WA DEC and Busselton Shire. The justifications include the usual suspects outlined in the article above however the West Australian reasoning for the extermination of Little Corellas contains one significant difference. We are told that the Little Corellas in the Busselton area are originally from the eastern states and have built up numbers after aviary releases. Maybe they should compare notes with Horsham Council in Victoria who tell us that their Little Corellas are from Western Australia. I'd be very interested to see what they come up with

It appears that Kangaroo Island is the latest part of Australia to be lashing out their corella woes in the public arena. In this case the locals appear to be claiming that the birds are from the mainland and are displacing "native", endangered species as well as the resident little corellas that normally reside on the island in stable numbers. No mention is made of where exactly these birds reside on the mainland when they are not terrorising island residents and it is not clear whether they are the predatory type that recently invaded Horsham.

Once again the little corella faces culling in an area where it supposedly does not belong. Some locals have even put it in the same basket as rabbits, foxes and other introduced European animals. It seems the noises made by the little corella exceed the levels recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidlines to avoid sleep disturbance and annoyance. Perhaps this is the reason why they are so unpopular? It was a common complaint made by early settlers of Australia that the birds on this wretched land don't sing, they squawk. Perhaps these early pioneers encountered the little corella in its fabled "native" area but didn't bother to describe the appearance of this unsavoury bird, it's amazing how little our attitudes have changed.

Any animal or bird that appears in the "wrong" place or in the "wrong" numbers is always there because of human actions. When I hear the word "cull" I'm afraid I start to feel like "Le Misanthrope"

Odd clusters of wildlife signal Nature's stress and a call for help.

As humans alter and destroy habitat, wildlife moves on. Yet there remain only so many islands of habitat left on the planet, that when wildlife cluster in numbers into the last bastions of suitable habitat it has become a local extinction risk.

Yet dim selfish humans narrow-mindedly misconstrue such numbers as wildlife caused. They label it a 'plague' and kneejerk call on the need for a cull. It is classic redneck, or a 'no-neck' troglodyte response - Ugg! Ugg!

When kangaroos are denied free range and are fenced in and herded off farmland, their population doesn't change, only their population density, forced by human malevolence.

When clusters of wildlife exist out of natural proportion it is a call for help, like any animal herded.

Personally I would not blink an eye learning of millions of humans herded into an Ebola virus epidemic. The planet would not miss indeed a billion humans, but breath a sigh of relief, but don't tell the globalist humanists.

Tigerquoll
Suggan Buggan
Snowy River Region
Victoria 3885
Australia

Lets make it 2 billion..All we can do is live in hope..

The following letter of mine was shortlisted I am told for publication in The Sunday Age (Melbourne broadsheet) today but did not appear It echoes one of the comments here re animals being corralled into smaller spaces and seeming to be in "plague proportions". You can imagine the article from my comments.

"Possums pose a pain in the park for dog owners" Sunday Age 23/1 contains contradictions which are unavoidable when an attempt is made to explain an imbalance without mentioning the overwhelming imbalance - ever increasing human numbers with accompanying dogs and cats.

The article describes a clash of land use in urban Melbourne between native animals and dogs with their owners. It tells of massive numbers of native animals and birds attacked, by "domestic animals". In the next paragraph it is asserted that possum numbers are increasing due to a lack of "natural predators"!

We only see what we want to see! The article says possums should not come down from trees but all around the inner urban areas, councils put metal bands all over trees to stop possums from gaining access! Furthermore it is normal possum behaviour to spend some time on the ground during waking hours to find food.

The claimed increase (always an implied negative for any animal except the human) in possum numbers is most likely illusory as their habitat in private gardens is progressively annihilated for development and they are forced into smaller areas such as Edinburgh Gardens.

It would appear another corella invasion is underway in Australia. This time around it is the unfortunate residents of South Perth that are inundating the local council with complaints about the bird’s behaviour. This follows similar protests in Bunbury where locals are petitioning for authorities to get rid of the birds.

The influx appears to climax during the fruiting season of London plane trees that have been planted by the very same councils that are receiving the corella complaints. At this stage, the collective minds of the local councillors have yet to recognise the relationship between the presence of the corellas and that of the exotic (Spanish) tree.

Instead both governments are demonising the corellas by claiming that they are the exotic species and should be controlled. According to The West Australian:

“White corellas are an Eastern States native, Introduced in WA after pets were released into the wild”

If one walks around South Perth or any area for that matter, in Perth that is near water and contains London plane trees you will immediately notice that the most abundant corellas are little corellas – a native to Western Australia. That is of course assuming you know anything about birds which unfortunately does not seems to be the case for those writing at The West Australian. Once again, under the caption of “Feathered invasion” our only state daily newspaper continues to feed the myth that any white cockatoo is unwelcome in our state.

Perhaps this ignorance is borne from the rhetoric of Busselton Shire Councillor and former MP Bernie Masters. When questioning former Environment and Heritage Minister Judy Edwards back in 2001 he stated:

”The control of the rainbow lorikeet, the sulphur-crested cockatoo, the little corella, the western long-billed corella and the eastern corella, all of which are feral birds, is possible”

The western long-bill corella a feral bird in Western Australia?

The little corella a feral bird in Western Australia?

Suffice to say our then environment minister was not even aware that western long-billed corellas were actually an endangered species in our southwest nor that little corellas have always been found across vast areas of WA.

No, as usual the best way to demonise a species is to claim that it is an eastern states invader. Or, if you live in the eastern states the animal is an alien from out west.

In further developments another corella cull will take place soon in the Perth suburb of Maylands. The site for the cull is located nearby the Perth Police Academy and the West Australian DEC thought it might be fun to get some police sharp shooters involved. I’m not too sure if the WA police are qualified to tell the difference between a little corella and a western corella but I’m sure Bernie Masters won’t be losing any sleep over it.