Cocky wants a handrail

Eddie Christie on his cocky-damaged veranda. He has tacked slabs of treated pine on the railing (right) to try to protect it from the birds. Picture: WENDY WILLIAMSON

By Wendy Williamson

 Cocky by name and cocky by nature – persistent pests of the feathered variety are wreaking havoc in Healesville and surrounds.

From decks and trims to railings and furniture, few timber structures are immune to the ravages of these vandals of the sky.

When the Mail asked readers if their woodwork had been under attack the responses, just like the cockatoos, came in thick and fast.

“Yes! They’ve absolutely trashed our timber outdoor setting and the outdoor stairs, the cedar cabinetry on the spa, deck handrails etc,” Elissa Stillman said on the Mail Facebook page.

“Absolutely,” said Lauren Gordon. “Our new spotted gum deck, handrails, outdoor setting – they’re destroyed.”

Sue Bleumink lamented that the birds had ruined her freshly-painted railing and posts and destroyed the cedar around her spa.

A Healesville Sanctuary spokesperson said cockatoos were a highly-intelligent species that had adapted well to living alongside humans.

“They will seek out suitable food sources across a range of habitats, which sometimes includes residential areas and they absolutely love to chew – chewing also helps to maintain their beaks,” they said.

“Unfortunately, cockatoos cannot tell the difference between a piece of timber and a tree.

“Common building materials, such as cedar, are quite soft and present an enjoyable treat for cockatoos.

“They are not conscious of the damage they may be causing to property.”

That is no comfort to houseproud homeowners dismayed to see great flocks of birds laying waste to their prized woodwork.

Chum Creek resident Arina Gotts favours electric fencing – sufficient to give the mildest of shocks – as a cheap and easy solution.

“Or you can use a water pistol to give them a fright,” she said.

A quick spray is one of the deterrents suggested by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

Other recommendations include refraining from feeding them; making a scarecrow that looks like a bird of prey; stringing fishing line over the area to make it hard for the birds to land; hanging netting over the affected area; and using taped alarm calls or a motion-activated alarm.

The recommendations also included painting timber white, as the birds would not like it – but that, Eddie Christie said, was not the case.

Mr Christie thought he had done everything to keep marauding flocks away from his beautiful new Healesville home. He was wrong.

“I couldn’t believe they could do that much damage,” he told the Mail, pointing out a succession of gouges in the timber railing and hardwood posts of his verandah.

Not even the hard blackbutt of the baseboard was too much for the cocky beaks.

“It’s absolutely devastating,” Mr Christie said of all the damage.

He has thrown away his outdoor setting, which had five coats of marine varnish.

Still the cockies tore it to pieces.

To prevent another onslaught, he has tacked slabs of treated pine to his railing. Fishing line attached to stainless steel pegs hums when the wind blows, which seems to deter the birds.

These are makeshift solutions. Perhaps someone has the definitive answer to beaked vandals.

Eddie Christie, for one, would love to know.

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