Rottnest culls feral peacocks

AND then there were three – all males, their blue-green chests and colourful fantails all that is left of Rottnest Island’s peacock population.

Only three male peacocks remain after the female birds (peahens) were removed and euthanised late last year as part of an ongoing program to eradicate introduced species on the popular tourist island.

Previously, the Rottnest Island Authority had relocated peacock populations to the Perth Zoo.

The last of the introduced animals to be removed from the island, the remaining peacocks still feature in promotional material on the Rottnest Island website.

Peacocks were believed to have been released on the island between 1910 and 1915. During the late 1950s, the population reached no more than 50 birds.

“There are a number of introduced bird species on the island including peacocks (three in settlement), common pheasant (estimated at 200) and rainbow lorikeet (estimated at four),” a spokesman said.

The peahens were culled in accordance with the authority’s pest bird management and research strategies. The latter strategy involves investigating the impacts of exotic species on natural flora and fauna, with the focus on the impacts of peafowl and pheasants.

The pest bird management plan, which has been running since 2008, targets birds considered to be pest species, including silver gulls, Australian ravens, common (ring-necked) pheasant, galahs, peafowl and rainbow lorikeets.

The authority says pest bird management aims to improve visitor safety and experience in relation to interactions with pest birds. People are urged not to feed the birds.

The plan also aims to improve the status of migratory birds by reducing the population size of key pest bird species which compete with native birds.

“Birds can fly freely over the island, which can result in increasing populations, environmental and visitor risks,” the spokesman said.

“Some species have cultural values associated to them. The challenge is to minimise visitor risks while maintaining the cultural value.”

Rottnest is home to many birds. Coastal birds include the pied cormorant and pied oystercatcher, crested tern, fairy tern, bridled tern and reef heron.

Sea birds include the yellow-nosed albatross, cape petrel, Wilson’s storm petrel, Australian gannet and great skua.

On the island, birds include the tree martin, welcome swallow, laughing turtledove, fan-tailed cuckoo, western warbler, singing honey eater and sacred kingfisher.

Peafowl have a colourful history in Western Australia. A small flock of two peacocks and three peahens was donated to the University of Western Australia in 1975 by Sir Lawrence Brodie Hall.

According to the university’s peacock page, one peacock was run over soon after the donation; one peahen settled in Hackett Hall and was never seen again; one peahen made its way to Shenton Park and then disappeared; and one mating pair made a home for themselves in faculty of arts. The male of that pair, Andrew, lived in the faculty for more than 30 years.

“Our ideal flock size is five (four females and one male) so when the numbers grow we have to find new homes for the extras,” the site states.

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