There are big changes in our backyard. Vicky our Mummy magpie for 11 years, suddenly gave up her nest to a newcomer.
Vicky, her mate Bertie and their two girls hung out with this newcomer for a few days. We thought the newcomer was a visiting guest. Then Vicky stopped coming for a feed with Bertie and her girls Shelly & Nelly (BSN). BSN would come by themselves and Vicky would come just once a day, fairly late and leave quickly after eating only a small bit.
Nom is a one year old pied-butcherbird and a much loved friend of readess Jan & Victoria Anderson (remember the gorgeous picture of Pingu magpie with Vic).
Nom and older brother Om were regular visitors to Jan's home along with their siblings and parents (see picture below).
Bird territorial rules are very complex. When another pied-butcherbird family moved into the area they felt Jan's yard fell within their boundaries and began to chase Om, Nom and family away much to Jan and Vic's dismay.
Australian magpies Shelly and Nelly are about six months old. They are Vicky and Bertie's second set of kids. They love playing around are backyard, tumbling around, playing tug-o-war, pouncing on crows and bossing currawongs. Always on the alert, they are quick to chase goannas and snakes away or put out alarms of eagles soaring in the sky.
Pied butcherbirds are prone to conjunctivitis, much more so than their cousins the grey butcherbirds. According to the experts the problem is quite common in the wild with many species falling victim. We've seen a currawong and even a crow succumbing to this problem.
First a crust forms on one eye causing inflammation of the eyelid and eye. If left untreated, it can spread to the other eye as well. The bird can't open its eyes and can't find food and so slowly starves to death. He/she can't see where it's flying and can crash into trees, buildings and other objects injuring itself badly in the process. Nor can the bird get to safety out of the way of predators. The disease can even cause the bird to go irrecoverably blind.
Butchie (left) got a very bad attack a few years ago and lost sight in both eyes. Vets will not treat a bird they can't see so there was little we could do to help. Her son had got a milder attack before and we had treated it with a general antibiotic and vitamins and he fully recovered in two weeks. But these did not work on Butchie and we had no way of trapping her. All the other birds understood.
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