Are the iconic Norfolk Pines at Cottesloe Beach the noisiest trees in Australia? Some would cheep, Yes.
Perhaps no critter makes more racket in the western suburbs than the beautiful but bothersome Rainbow Lorikeet.
Anyone planning a tranquil session of dawn meditation or a quiet sunset picnic beneath the pines at Cottesloe should consider bringing some earplugs, a megaphone – and possibly a brolly.
It’s at these times of day that hundreds – sometimes thousands – of the multi-coloured parrots are found congregating and socialising in the towering trees by the sea.
Zipping in from all directions, they’re heard squawking and squeaking in small flocks as they soar across the rooftops to roost in the pines. Their high-pitched chatter and cheeps can be deafening at dawn and dusk.
Each morning, they leave in great spectral flocks to forage around the metro area for eucalyptus nectar from trees like the Marri and Lemon Scented Gum. At night, after their cacophonous roll call, they gather into “lovebird” pairs or tiny groups to bed down.
This visual and aural delight is, curiously enough, largely ignored by West Australians, even though international tourists are are in awe.
“These parrots are a glorious spectacle,” enthuses tourist Tom Clarke, in Perth with wife Fiona from Gloucestershire in the UK. The Starfish found the enraptured bird-watchers beneath the pines, taking in the raucous show: though there wasn’t a local to be seen.
“We come out here every two years – and the first thing we do is head down to Cottesloe to see and hear the parrots. I don’t know why there aren’t thousands of tourists here every sunset. It’s an amazing phenomenon: and such a beautiful bird, despite the cacophony.”
Mr Clarke first noticed the birds about 15 years ago “gathering in just one pine tree at Cott”, but each year there have been more, until now every pine on foreshore is jam-packed with them.
Some Glare Over The Rainbow
But despite their beauty, Rainbow Lorikeets are regarded by many as a major pest.
A threat to WA’s agricultural stone fruit and viticulture industries, the lorikeets were originally introduced from the eastern states in the 1960s – but just who brought them here remains a mystery.
Then, like many other introduced bird species, the little opportunists were mistakenly released into the wild, initially forming small colonies in the area around the University of Western Australia, which at times has been accused of the avian faux pas. Regardless of who’s to blame, once out, the birds began to multiply rapidly.
Forty years on, they have spread across most of the south-west of the State, and number in the tens of thousands. However the largest populations remain in the metro area. Various State Government departments and other groups have already culled more than 40, 000 of our fine feathered friends.
“We have scaled back on the culling programs in the last few years,” said Dr Ken Atkins, Species and Communities Branch Manager at the Department of the Environment and Conservation.
“While the Lorikeets can be a threat to certain agriculture, we are more concerned about the impact they have on native bird species. They compete with several indigenous bird species for domination of feeding resources and scarce nesting hollows.
“Birds such as the Purple-crowned Lorikeet, Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoo and the Twenty-eight Parrot can be adversely affected or displaced by the lorikeets, but we seem to be controlling the numbers at present.”
Many fruit orchard owners also consider them a pest, as the greedy chirpers often alight in groups and strip fruit trees. In urban areas a number of councils have received complaints of nuisance noise levels, as well as fouling of outdoor areas and cars.
But despite all efforts to remove the Rainbows, it’s unlikely the Cottesloe Pines will be silent again as the sun slides into the Indiana ocean.
Dr Atkin concedes, “It’s unlikely the Lorikeets will ever be fully eradicated from WA,” but he says their numbers are now “manageable.”
And that’s good news to Tom and Mary Clarke, The Starfish and every bird-watcher.
Perhaps the hardworking folk at Tourism Western Australia should pop down and have a look for themselves?
Front page photograph of Cottesloe Beach by Frances Andrijich www.andrijich.com.au
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