13 December 2021

Patience the peahen and her five infant chicks killed by a fox

| Max O'Driscoll
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Narrabundah peacocks

Peafowl have long been a feature in Narrabundah. Photo: File.

With measures now in place to minimise road safety issues for the Narrabundah peafowl, foxes have emerged as their greatest threat.

Tragically last week, Patience the peahen and five of her chicks, who were only a few days old, were killed by a fox in one night.

“I found her in one of the front yards,” said Save the Narrabundah Peafowl spokesperson Timothy DeWan.

“Mum was dead and the five chicks were gone too, so we assume that the fox took them as well. It’s such a shame because the mum’s gone through so much caring for the eggs and then caring for the chicks,” said Mr DeWan.

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Generally, peafowls would fly into the trees at night to ensure they were protected from predators, but as Patience had her chicks with her, who can’t yet fly high enough, she stayed on the ground.

The feathers spread out on the ground alongside her lifeless body suggest Patience’s last fight was a gallant one.

“It’s very sad because we have a population of peafowl that have been here for over 30 years and the numbers are going down. We’ve been talking to the government for some time now about dealing with the road infrastructure because of the numbers getting killed by the traffic coming through and the speeding cars,” said Mr DeWan.

“But now we seem to have foxes and I’ve lived in the area for probably around 27 years now, and I’ve never seen foxes around, but as recently as this morning, I heard a bird calling in the park so I had a look and there was one being followed by a fox.”

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Mr DeWan says there isn’t an obvious fix to combat the growing fox threat.

“People say, ‘well, why don’t you put them in cages or something’. They prowl the streets, they’re part of the community, they’re not kept in boxes or cages so it would be hard. Both in terms of catching them and then actually putting them in boxes or cages, they aren’t used to that,” he said.

The Save the Narrabundah Peafowl group are trialling placing ladders at the foot of trees to see if the chicks will use the steps to get to a safe place.

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Without predators the world would be a poor place indeed. Some organisms (autotrophs) produce food internally by chemical reactions in the presence of an source of energy, such as the sun or thermal vents in the deep-ocean. But most of biodiversity consists of organisms that kill other organisms. The Peahen is an example. The European Red Fox is another. It is ecological insanity to be upset by these processes or to prefer organisms of one trophic level, eg plants or herbivores or predators, over another. In Australia both peahens and foxes have thrived due to human introduction and protection and are invading nature conservation reserves. It is a different kind of ecological insanity to continue this introduction and protection in the light of modern knowledge of the biodiversity loss caused by introduced species.

One feral introduced pest killing another feral introduced pest. Nothing to see here.

That’s so sad ? hope the ladders work!

One pest sorting out another pest. Well done fox.

Now it can go & sort out the rabbits on Kings Avenue.

Peta Swarbrick1:14 pm 14 Dec 21

Interesting perspective from a member of the greatest “pest” species our planet has ever seen. What’s your definition of pest? Is it only ever an animal that inconveniences a human or is it a species that is currently annihilating it’s own habitat along with being knowingly responsible for the only species led mass extinction in MILLIONS of years.

Good point Peta. So what you are effectively saying is that as humans caused this problem of introduced feral animals, such as foxes and peacocks in the suburbs and feral horses in the Snowy’s, damaging the environment and endangering native wildlife, humans should be actively supporting culls and eradication of these pests.

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