Three Bollards Outside My House

What’s so exciting about that? Just three bollards out of treated pine? Surely nothing to write home about.

But, recently, they were the scene of a stand-off of breathtaking effrontery involving some of the local bird-life, a stand-off worthy of inclusion in a David Attenborough documentary. Had I taken a video of the incident, it would have surely gone viral on social media.

A picture is reportedly worth a thousand words but, alas, I have no pictures. So you’ll just have to make do with my words instead. And a tad of your visual imagination.

A large kookaburra, king of the bush, positioned himself/herself proudly on top of the centre bollard. Within minutes, a pair of butcher birds, each about half the size of the kookaburra, took over the bollards on each side. The kookaburra looked nervously at one butcher bird, then at the other, feeling himself/herself surrounded, capable of attack from either direction.

Then, in miraculous synchrony, a thing of great wonder, the butcher birds made their move. In a trice, they had swapped places. Their trajectories were opposing arcs, as of low-flying ballistic missiles. The kookaburra would have felt the breeze – and not a benign one – from their flapping wings on his/her ears. At the conclusion of this slick manoeuvre by the butcher birds, the kookaburra was still perched on the central bollard with a threat from each side, but with the positions of his/her attackers reversed.

The kookaburra, flummoxed, took quick nervous peeks to each side. The butcher birds glared back.

Then, to my delight and to the kookaburra’s consternation, the butcher birds repeated the manoeuvre, quickly and gracefully. They swapped places again. The kookaburra shot nervous glances to each side. The butcher birds just glared.

The butcher birds did their trick a third time. Now the kookaburra had had enough. Intimidated, he/she hopped down to the base of the centre bollard, conceding defeat. The butcher birds glared down from a height with disdain.

One of the butcher birds then flew away. I imagined he/she in mid-flight saying to the one remaining, ‘We’ve got this guy’s measure now. You don’t need me. From hereon, you can handle the situation on your own.’

This remaining butcher bird continued to glare down at his/her quarry. Finally, the kookaburra shut up shop. He/she flew away to a position beneath dense bushes in my front yard, humiliated, but safe now from the perceived threat of aerial attack.

After a moment or two, the remaining butcher bird took off. Mission accomplished. Dominance established. Territory no longer in dispute.

Butcher birds, though highly intelligent, are as ruthless as their name suggests. They clearly know how to behave cooperatively. They are the orcas of the air, and their white-on-black colouring testifies to this. They have even learnt how to make humans do their bidding. But that is another story for a future moment when I get around to telling it.

Finally, I should add that butcher birds have a most beautiful song, arguably the most attractive in the entire bird world. For tunefulness, their song is on a par with the iconic warble of the Australian magpie. I can’t quite make up my mind which I prefer. By contrast, the raucous laugh of the kookaburra, irresistible though it may be, could not be described as melodious.

Pity the poor kookaburra. Nothing here to laugh about.