29 March 2019


I managed to catch the bird-watching gene from both parents. 

After retirement, mum and dad moved to a house on Newcastle’s Lake Macquarie. They aren’t young anymore; it was 24 years ago when they started feeding the birds. They’ve seen many generations of Magpies, Kookaburras, Rainbow Lorikeets and Noisy Miners.
I visited them last weekend. Dad told me I had to wait until 4 pm. Expert at telling time, that’s the bird’s Happy Hour. When dad whistles, they arrive in seconds.
There’s food bought specially for the latest 2 baby Magpies and ravenous kookaburras. Dad places meat on the veranda railing, or tosses scraps in the air for them to catch on the fly.
The noisy miners are sneaky bird thieves with clownish antics. They follow the Rainbow Lorikeets about, waiting for their food fights.
When they get along, they will attack the Miners, ganging up to shoo them away. The Noisy birds know when to be silent. Staying at the periphery they dip in to the rainbow circle for a quick bite before backing off. They wait until squabbles break out, then dive in to take what they can and fly off with it.
Two baby Lorikeets practice their chirping, but only produce an asthmatic wheeze. The tame pair  receive gourmet food.
Keen to eat, they hop on dad’s back or sit on his hands. He whistles to them and they try chatting back. Like learning the flute, they make a hollow wind sound with squeaks.
Once the baby rainbows are full of special Lorikeet Mix, other adults crowd around the plate on the grass. The keets still gorge and snap, but there’s more than enough.

My dad halves green grapes; the Lorikeets favourite food. I watch the tug-of-war, with parrots biting each other and slashing out with their beaks.  
A Noisy Miner gobbling honey soaked bread.
My mum is wheelchair bound now; she sits and whispers to the birds, gently rousing on the greedy ones. She tells the Miners their eyes are bigger than their bellies, just as she once told me the same thing.
When a hairdresser came to the house, mum asked if she could have her trim outside. While the strands fell to the grass, the Magpies queued along the fence. 

Warbling while they waited, the birds entertained with a series of  yodeling songs. Soon to be mother Maggies snatched up the hair strands to line their nests as soon as the ladies got up. Mum enjoyed making a contribution; it’s not everyone who helps to nest build when they’re 90.
Snapping too many photos, my parents don’t get that I can delete half them in a minute. When they had me in the 60’s very few pictures were taken. Snaps were for special occasions, holidays or by a professional studio photographer.
I remember when we bought our first Instamatic camera duty-free. Film came in 12’s or 24’s and you waited a week for photos to be developed. It was a while ago; a time before selfies, smart phones, Facebook and Instagram.
Unlike technology, birds haven’t changed much. I’m happy my parents are in their own home, surrounded by birds and each other. Not sure if it’s an inherited characteristic, but I’m glad I got the bird-watching bug as well.


  1. I really enjoyed this story Therese. Its wonderful how your parents have also befriended these beautiful birds, feeding them and sharing the same love and appreciation of them as you. Love the haircut contribution to the nest, the gorgeous photos, and the reference to the old days.

  2. Thanks so much, my mum really love the way the magpie mums used to snatch up her freshly snipped hair for their nest. It was a unique type of recycling. My mum's hair is the softest I have ever felt, I think it would be good for supporting magpie chicks. I come from a bird-loving family and that's a pretty good thing to have. Love your comment.