18 Dec 2013

Drunken Parrots

Each year around this time we have a rather interesting problem. The Drunken Parrot Problem.  No, it's not too much Christmas glögg, either.

Musk parrots are a type of lorikeet, mostly green, with a yellow patch at the side of the breast. They have bright red forehead and ear coverts, which make them rather Christmassy, doesn't it?  Their call is a harsh, metallic screech, and they constantly chatter while they're eating.  'Muskies' are nomadic, travelling widely in search of flowering and fruiting trees, and we see them here a couple of times a year - when the eucalypts are in flower, and around Christmas for the pears.

Ah yes, the pears.

Each year the birds arrive in a large flock, ready to gorge on their Christmas dinner.  For a couple of days all is well, but then the birds begin displaying some very odd symptoms.  They get aggressive - even more pugnacious than usual - and lose coordination, falling out of trees and having difficulty in flying straight.  This is all very funny, but not long after, they start attacking their own reflections and fly, screeching loudly all the while, straight for our floor to ceiling windows.

Mostly, these foolish birds die in their noble attempt for supremacy, but enough survive to keep us busy rescuing them and keeping them safe and warm until they recover enough to fly away.  Those that fall into the pool are bravely rescued from a watery grave by Jemimah, who remains in her bathing suit at the ready.  At the height of the silly season we can fish up to twenty of these silly inebriated birds from the water each day.  They don't make it easy, either.  Often they manage to escape down the leaf trap under the deck, where rescue is far more difficult.

Australian poet, Judith Wright wrote a lovely poem about the parrots that came each year to feast on her loquats:

There’s not a fruit on any tree
to match their crimson, green and gold.
To see them cling and sip and sway,
loquats are no great price to pay.

We pay a much bigger price, I think - I would love it if they would leave a few of the pears for us - but I would be sad if they stopped coming to visit, with their funny antics and their beautiful red and green festive display.  We can always buy pears from the market.

Don't you love Jemimah's face?

Here's the rest of Judith Wright's poem.


Loquats are cold as winter suns.
Among rough leaves their clusters glow
like oval beads of cloudy amber,
or small fat flames of birthday candles.

Parrots, when the winter dwindles
their forest fruits and seeds, remember
where the swelling loquats grow,
how chill and sweet their thin juice runs,

and shivering in the morning cold
we draw the curtains back and see
the lovely greed of their descending,
the lilt of flight that blurs their glories,

and warm our eyes upon the lories
and the rainbow-parrots landing.
There’s not a fruit on any tree
to match their crimson, green and gold.

To see them cling and sip and sway,
loquats are no great price to pay.

Judith Wright 1960


  1. Rescuing these nutters is made more exciting around here because we have cats... :D

  2. Ah, how I do love Judith Wright.

    Bird-wise, there are satin bower birds stealing half my chillies. Each half. It's not a poem that's calling me so much as a warning-off letter.

  3. May I pin some of your photos to pinterest? I like to collect bird reference photos in case I can use them in a knitting design.

  4. Of course, Christine. Thank you for asking.

  5. So are the pears fermented in the hot sun? Our students had questions about fermentation based upon our reading of Swiss Family Robinson and this would be an interesting post to share with them in the New Year!

  6. Yes, Tammy. The silly birds eat only part of each pear, and as time goes on they start to ferment.

  7. Yes, I do love Jemimah's face. I'd love to share a fermented pear or pair of pear with such a sweet pair.
    I'll count on Mimi to rescue me from the pool.


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