One of my flock’s favourite ways to bathe is outside under a sprinkler. I set the sprinkler up on top of their aviaries and let the water fall down on them just like rain would. Everyone except for my macaw happily screams and shouts and plays under it. My eclectus gets as close to the sprinkler as possible as he prefers to be on the receiving end of a more forceful stream of water. If you were to listen to my macaw, sprinkler water is going to kill you and you must panic if you see it. (Someone prefers the bathing ritual of trying to drown humans in a warm indoor shower.)
I’ve got the perfect spot to do this, it’s a large paved area, with open sky. It adjoins an undercover verandah, which provides some shade if it’s too hot to leave them sitting in the sun to dry. It’s close to my water tank, so less chance I’m going to trip over the hose (yes I am that clumsy).
Sounds great, doesn’t it? While they’re out playing under the sprinkler I’m only a couple of metres away cleaning the bird room. The birdroom opens out onto the paved area, so I can easily keep an eye on the birds. It’s a lot easier to clean without bits of bird toy being gleefully bounced off your head!
Recently they were drip-drying in the open and I was a couple of metres away mopping the bird room when something suddenly changed. It was one of those moments when you know something is very wrong but you just don’t know how you know it? Everything suddenly seemed to be screaming DANGER. My birds were dead silent, absolutely everything seemed to be completely still.
Except for me that is. I dropped the mop. In a split second I’d covered those couple of metres and wound up next to the birds. I carefully followed their eyes to see what they were looking at, in order to work out what was wrong.
Every one of them was staring upwards and my macaw was making a low grumbling noise. They were absolutely terrified of a tiny speck that was circling directly above us. When I say tiny, I mean to my eyes it was almost invisible because it was so high up.
The speck was a bird and the fact that I could see it when it was that high, told me that it was an exceptionally large bird. The circling action told me it was a bird of prey that was hunting and the fact that my birds and I were in the center of that circle wasn’t lost on me. It was a lot bigger than the normal birds of prey that I see. I knew I had only seconds to react. I also knew that I couldn’t move the birds to safety one aviary at a time because it would leave my remaining birds unprotected.
Well fortunately, my aviaries (even the super huge ones) are on platforms with wheels. That said they’re not exactly the lightest things to move. I swiftly pushed the aviaries together and with strength that I didn’t know I had, pushed the back one so that it pressed against all of the others. I moved them all simultaneously under my patio roof in one go. My back is still mad at me for doing it but it was worth it.
The second I got the aviaries moving, all of my birds screamed in terror. I knew that the speck had seen that its chosen feast was beginning to get away and that the chase was on. The speck was diving on us.
What I didn’t know was that the speck was one of two wedge-tailed eagles. I have no idea where the speck’s partner was hiding but it reached my yard a full 10 seconds before the diving speck did. Fortunately the barrier of my patio roof was forcing the eagles into a side-on attack. They both landed in a tall tree nearby clearly trying to work out how to swoop in and collect their dinner.
Meanwhile I slammed on my exterior ceiling fans and fired a stream of water at them with the hose. It made them retreat a few metres but they weren’t willing to give up. On the bright side, their wary retreat bought me the precious minutes I needed to push each aviary up a ramp and lock them securely back in my bird room. This was done one handed while my other hand was firing off streams of water in the eagles’ direction. The bird room wound up being slightly pool-like as a result.
It was a close call and a bit of a lesson to me. If you had asked me the day before, I would have told you that I don’t get wedge-tailed eagles in my area. We get some smaller birds of prey, but nothing that big. Any bird can attack, but normally the wild birds around here are a lot easier to fend off. These eagles were extremely determined.
All of my cages and aviaries are sturdy and you’d think that would be enough to protect pet birds from being a wild bird’s dinner? That’s actually why I’m sharing this story. Many people think their cages and aviaries are infallible. There would be a reason these eagles weren’t even remotely concerned about my aviaries and that is quite likely to be due to their past experience. With my ongoing hose defence; they wouldn’t have been persisting in their attempts to get to my birds unless they knew that they’ve succeeded getting pet birds before. An aviary or a cage to them is no more than a foraging toy. Many people have learned that the hard way. I had no plan to do so.
The eagles returned at the same time, every night for the next two weeks. I’d see them in the sky, two tiny circling specks. You could set your watch by them. It’s worth remembering that if a wild bird finds an ongoing food source, it will add that food source to their daily routine until it is depleted or until they find something better. It meant that my birds didn’t get as much outside time during those two weeks, especially at that time of day. More than that, other bird people that I knew in the area were trading information about sightings and were also taking that sort of precaution. I’ve also marked the days on my calendar, as it wouldn’t shock me to see them again this time next year.
I have seen them since, but not consistently. The lesson in this is that times are changing. If you have pet birds, it’s worth being aware that some species of birds of prey are moving into more populated areas than where you’d traditionally find them. It pays to look up.
One last note – the pair of eagles that I have been dealing with are likely to have been drawn to my area because of the abundance of “easy food”. They are known for taking off with small dogs and cats too. So if you happen to have other pets and find yourself in the above situation – don’t forget to watch out for them too. I suspect the eagles’ main diet might actually be pigeons as I have a new neighbour a few streets away who has started regularly flying a racing flock. Having a new neighbour like that – is not good news.