Well, just one bandit, one enemy aircraft, swooping out of the macrocarpa and lining up on a deadly low level run at the chicken coop. “Clobber the bastard,” the farmer told me.
Black and white, blue-green iridescent flashes on the wings and tail. Pure evil.
I am lying by the coop. The Home Guard waiting for the Luftwaffe. I aim my .22 rifle just below the undercarriage of the marauding maggie.
The heart’s pounding. Take a breath, exhale slightly, hold, don’t snap the trigger, gently squeeze. Ka-boom!
When the shower of feathers settles, the black devil bird, is flapping in its death throes at my feet. In a panic, I assist its passing from earthliness by beating it with the rifle butt, and in the process snapping it in half. Damn! Not recommended practice, dumb; don’t try it at home.
I didn’t feel bad about the maggie though because a few days earlier, one attacked me as I cycled past the same macrocarpa. It clawed me, drew blood. Anyhow, I got even. The farmer was delighted with me, the hired gun. But not so happy about his busted gun.
Maggies are smart because if you shoot one, the others won’t hang round. The magpie has now been ignominiously added to Page 2’s Roll of Dishonour.
The magpie’s omission from the original list didn’t go unnoticed…“I very much enjoyed your article on the bad birds. I agree with all your selections but must add magpies which invaded our property and frightened away the lovely tui, quail and fantails. The magpies eventually left and we have our lovely bird-life back again. The odd cruising hawk, looking for baby ground-nesting birds, is another nuisance but the dog won’t let them land.”
Ahhh…the hawks. Perhaps another contender. I heard of a farmer who got very grumpy about the hawks treating his chickens and ducklings like rural KFC. Without the 11 special herbs and spices. So he conscripted a squadron of guinea fowl – big, fat, grey chook-like things that are boisterous, loud and obnoxious and always on for a dog fight. As soon as the hawk arrived, the guinea fowl would scramble. Easily see off the hawks. Perhaps they both deserve to be on the ‘bad-assed’ list?
While on magpies…“We previously farmed in the King Country and our garden and tennis court became party central for scores of magpies. My husband would systematically shoot them from a special possie each day until the numbers diminished. We calculated he shot 500 over a month or two!”
The tennis court was a clay court, like a smorgasbord for magpies.
I have learned a bit compiling ‘bad-assed’ birds, like peacocks being a pest in northland. Peacocks? Really? When Emily was a youngster she and her cousin would climb on a quad bike to scare off the peacocks.
Peacocks look splendid with their tails fanned, but have few natural predators, multiply ten-fold a year –and five birds scoff as much as a sheep. That alone should tell them they are unloved and don’t have friends outside the species. And sheep have priority over peafowl because farmers can‘t $45 for a leg of peacock.
Anyhow Emily and the cuz got themselves in a 4000 volt fix chasing the peacock – they rode the quadbike straight into an electric fence. Zap! You could hear the peacock laughing from the bush.
I used to delight at the honking of the Canada geese as they flew in ‘V’ formation down the inner Tauranga Harbour at night to feed off Beach Rd. Canny things I thought – completely urbanised, flying by the light of a city’s nightscape, drafting each other, providing a windbreak and uplift for the bird behind. How clever, how charming and…how wrong.
Gareth reminds me: “Canada geese can eat as much grass as a sheep. They crap everywhere, which doesn’t do the pasture any good.” Canada geese are now on the list of undesirables.
I’m not sure whether the following Page 2 patron is suggesting her neighbour or every bird God created should be listed as ‘bad-assed’.
“I use to think birds were a thing of beauty, but since moving into a village, and having a neighbour who feeds them every day, all I see is bird poo everywhere and I get sick of cleaning my mail box.”
Interesting because most of the unsolicited mail I get deserves to be pooped on. Apparently the matter was raised in the village weekly newsletter and pooping was like isolated showers for a week. But when feeding resumed, the birds returned and the village is like an avian restroom, rich in phosphate. Guano mining will start soon. Have I missed any other ‘bad assed’ birds?