ON THE WING
Like their cousins in Melbourne, the house sparrows (pictured) at Salamanca Square have learnt a crafty trick to get them a meal.
Several years ago, a friend said he had seen sparrows hanging about outside a McDonald’s in the Melbourne CBD, waiting for patrons to trigger the electronic sliding doors. As soon as they opened, the sparrows flew in, had a quick feed of fast-food crumbs and waited for the doors to open again.
On a recent trip to Melbourne I observed the smart behaviour myself but thought it was a one-off, that the Melbourne sparrows were more streetwise than those from farther afield.
Well, I’ve been proven wrong. Sitting in Banjo’s at Salamanca Square a few weeks ago I saw the cheeky sparrows doing the same thing. The only difference: the main door at Banjo’s is not a sliding one. But still the sparrows waited patiently.
All this proved interesting as I waited for the Hobart Bookshop to open. I later learnt another interesting snippet of information concerning birds making themselves at home in mankind’s environment.
Apparently, a flock of noisy miners in New South Wales has learnt that the pickings at restaurants do not just include crumbs and scraps – the miners frequenting a restaurant in Wollongong have really set out to embrace the cafe culture by stealing sachets of sugar from the alfresco tables.
The miners fly to the tables of unsuspecting patrons and in a flash lift a packet of sugar from the sugar bowl before flying to a convenient spot beyond the restaurant to tear them open and eat the contents.
We might be used to sparrows, pigeons and gulls raiding outside and sometimes inside tables at eating establishments, but the noisy miners must be the first among a family – the honeyeaters – not known to associate closely with humans to exhibit such bold behaviour.
With their stocky appearance and pugnacious behaviour, noisy miners might not look like honeyeaters but they are firmly placed among the 66 honeyeaters found in Australia, the country’s most prolific bird.
Many confuse the miner with a similarly named bird, the introduced common myna found in many mainland cities, but thankfully this pest species is not present in Tasmania.
The noisy miner – appearing grey in appearance instead of the myna’s black – is generally found in the drier areas of Tasmania, particularly near the coast.
I’m not a big fan of noisy miners, mainly because they bully other birds, but I was intrigued when I learnt of their sugar-stealing antics so I did a little more research into the Wollongong gang.
It appears these noisy miners are very fussy about what they steal. They deliberately choose the sugar – both white and brown – to eat, but leave sachets of artificial sweetener untouched.