Spreading along the Hawkesbury River north of Sydney, Woy Woy and its surrounds are an interesting mix of nature and humanity. Three native birds illustrate some of the different ways each have adapted to the other. While this Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus) looks like it is lining up for a latte at the local cafe, it has sweeter treats in mind.
Naturally feeding on nectar and pollen from native flowers, supplemented by various native fruits and seeds, it has quickly adapted to the presence of people and an additional range of foods that tempt any sweet-tooth (or beak). Bold by nature, as well as in colour, Rainbow Lorikeets will often become comfortable with approaching people for food at particular locations (such as a balcony feeder, or in this case, a riverside cafe).
Another well-known bird in the Australian bush, and regular backyard visitor is the Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae). Known as 'The King of the Bush', the Laughing Kookaburra is the largest member of the Kingfisher family. Living in family groups, and apparently pairing for life, Kookaburras generally live on native insects and reptiles, caught in their woodland habitat.
With the habit of knocking their food against a branch to ensure it is dead, this behaviour is curiously maintained when their 'prey' is a hot sausage pinched off an unguarded barbeque. Family groups will frequent particular backyards and individuals regularly grow comfortable enough with humans to take food from their hands.
Down on the river, another prominent resident has become very comfortable with people, taking advantage of our own habits. The Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus), often hangs around the many recreational fishermen scattered along the river.
This behaviour is not without risk, as taking a fish caught on the fisherman's line comes with a barbed hook and a length of fishing line, both of which can be fatal to the pelican. A safer practice is hanging out at jetties, waiting for scraps as fish are cleaned for the table.
Pelicans will also approach picnickers along the river for food, but again, hot chips, bread, and other snacks, quickly swallowed, are not a natural part of a Pelican's diet, and are often bad for their health.
Nature and humaninty can easily co-exist, but we need to be considerate of the effects we have by offering alternate food sources to wildlife.