No laughing matter

Experts are divided on the damage the laughing kookaburra has caused since being introduced in 1897.

Renowned avian authority Eric McCrum says kookaburras have been interfering with native wildlife since their arrival in WA’s South-West region.

“Of course a lot of people just don’t realise there may be quite a lot of our skinks, which are endemic and not found anywhere else in the world, are simply being threatened by the fact that this wretched thing eats skinks,” he says.

Eric McCrum at his Sawyer’s Valley home. Photo: Shenaye Northam

Mr McCrum says native wildlife is still under threat from the bird as it continues to expand its numbers throughout the South-West.

“The kookaburra because of its size is expanding… whereas before there might have been 50 or a 100 in WA, there’s probably thousands of them now.”

Mr McCrum says the government should fund a cull so the numbers are brought down, allowing the parks and wildlife services the opportunity to remove laughing kookaburras from Western Australia.

“If you take one kookaburra, if he only eats one thing a day for a year, there’s 365 of our native [wildlife] gone to feed an introduced pest,” he says.

Eric McCrum and wattle tree Photo: Shenaye Northam.

Western Australian citizen science project coordinator Dr Tegan Douglas says kookaburras have made a home in WA for more than 100 years.

“When we’re talking quite a big established population the impact can be noticeable but measuring is really difficult,” she says.

Dr Douglas says the Perth landscape is unrecognisable and perfect for kookaburras as they can stay up high, watching for prey which makes smaller wildlife more vulnerable.

She says a cull could work, but only if it was targeted at small numbers.

“If you have one kookaburra turn up and you decide you don’t really want them there, the best time to stop that from happening when there’s only one or two there,” she says.

Laughing Kookaburra Photo: Georgina Steytler.

Animal Ark director David Manning says kookaburras are a particular threat to snakes and lizards.

“They live in loose family groups and end up commanding a territory which they patrol,” he says.

Mr Manning says they are very territorial and can force smaller birds to move away, but a cull is not the answer.

“They have been here for over a hundred years now… usually once it’s been 100 years you accept that it’s been naturalised,” he says.

Mr Manning says there are other pests that are more of a threat to native wildlife such as cats and foxes.

He says urban sprawl and pollution is also a deeper threat to native wildlife, rather than kookaburras.

Categories: General