HE IS UNASHAMEDLY POETIC ABOUT HIS ENGAGEMENT WITH THE BUSH
‘‘ beautiful’’ parrot had been sent abroad for aviaries; they were known to bird dealers in Britain and the Continent under the name of Paradise Paroquet. They gradually died out in captivity, and in Europe it was not known that these birds from paradise had a habit of nesting in termite mounds. In fact even in Queensland there was not much more known about them, other than that they nested in mounds and lived in pairs, not flocks. In Australia they were known variously as the ground parrot (as distinct from the green ground parrot), the ground rosella, beautiful parrot, elegant parrot and the anthill parrot. The last photographs taken of these birds are reproduced in this book.
Chisholm discovered the Norwegian author Carl Lumholtz was at the Nogoa River near Rockhampton in 1881, where he wrote up an experience with a pair of these delicate birds that deserved to be ‘‘ revived from the semiobscurity of his book’’. Here’s Chisholm’s quote from Lumholtz in full; in retrospect it becomes metaphorical: An hour before sunset I left the camp with my gun, and soon caught sight of a pair of these Parrots that were walking near an ant-hill . . . After I shot the male the female flew up into a neighbouring tree. I did not go at once to pick up the dead bird — the fine scarlet feathers of the lower part of its belly, which shone in the rays of the setting sun, could easily be seen in the distance. Soon after the female came flying down to her dead mate. With her beak she repeatedly lifted the dead head up from the ground, and walked to and fro over the body, as though to bring it to life again; then she flew away, but immediately returned with some fine straws of grass in her beak, and laid them before the dead bird, evidently for the purpose of getting him to eat the seed. As this, too, was in vain, she finally flew into a tree as darkness was coming on. I approached the tree, and a shot put an end to the faithful animal’s sorrow.
Chisholm placed an article in newspapers throughout Queensland titled ‘‘ Is it lost?’’ Finally, in the southern Burnett River district, he got to see a pair of paradise parrots. After this, there were only two more confirmed sightings, the final one in 1927.
Mateship with Birds has been out of print for too long and Melbourne publisher Scribe is to be congratulated for producing this new edition. Chisholm’s work encourages a different way of relating to birds, a way of sharing their world without destroying it. If you take the time to live with this classic bird book, it will enrich your life.
An undated photograph from
The caption reads: Happy Australians. Domesticated Cockatoo.