If readers haven’t figure it out yet, I’m headed to Australia soon. I’ve been there before, and one of the places I’m looking forward to visiting again is the Royal Botanic Garden in downtown Sydney.
This being Australia, the wildlife is different from gardens in the United States. Sure, there are pigeons, but the more annoying birds in the Sydney gardens were the sulfur-crested cockatoos. In the U.S., these birds are long-lived and demanding pets with a loud, distinctive call (adapted to the needs of wild birds calling across forests) and a penchant for chewing wood. In Australia, these birds are often pests that destroy crops and timber structures.
The Royal Botanic Garden has plenty of signs warning people not to feed the birds and other wildlife. As explained on the garden’s Web site, there are several reasons for this rule:
- Human food is not healthy for the animals and can even be deadly. Birds that eat too much of our food can suffer from bone deformities, increased susceptibility to disease, and a reduced ability to deal with cold weather (and it does get cold there in the winter).
- Feeding the wildlife makes the animals lazy and more dependent on humans than their own abilities.
- And handfeeding makes for aggressive animals.
That last point can be seen firsthand if you are stupid enough to feed the cockatoos. When I visited the garden, I watched as one tourist handfed the cockatoos and her friend photographed them. It was cute until the woman feeding the birds couldn’t get rid of them. They landed on her arms and head and wouldn’t leave no matter how much she swatted at them (kind of like what’s going on in the video below).
It’s not as if you need to lure these birds with food to get a good photo of one. These cockatoos feed on the ground (they like seeds and insects) and all it takes is a little patience to get a great shot.