Scientific Name: Pisonia brunoniana
Also known as: Birdcatcher Tree
This tree is a death trap for birds, in the autumn/winter after flowering it emits a very sticky substance which ensnares birds and leads to their death. Cats and other wildlife are also victims. It is generally small birds that stick to the tree, larger birds fall to the ground disabled and get “lost” in the ground litter. The seed pods feed to the ground and ground feeders like blackbirds and thrushes also become entangled in the fallen pods.
What can you do: If you find birds caught up in the tree, do not cut any of the birds feathers. Cut off the branch/twig and bring the birds to your nearest rescue centre. This tree is hazardous from February through to October.
How to stop the problem: Some people cut the trees out. A less effective way is to remove the pods from the tree following flowering or cover the whole tree in bird netting when flowering. The problem can be remembering to do this each year.
Unfortunately garden centres are selling these trees as ornamental garden/house plants. They often do not display warnings of the dangers of this tree to our wildlife. Contacting your local council and/or garden centre to voice your opinion with this death trap is a step in the right direction of getting rid of this tree from our area.
Fishing equipment is a huge problem for seabirds, hooks become embedded in beaks, legs, flesh or mouth and can be swallowed. Nylon gets tangled around legs, beaks and body. This leads to birds being unable to feed, fly or walk and cuts off circulation leading to the loss of a leg or foot and eventual death if left untreated. If you spot hooks or nylon lying around please pick it up and dispose of it – you could be saving a life!
Plastic rings from milk and cream bottles and other drink containers are a real danger as they get caught around the beak or neck and restrict or totally stop food intake. Ducks are the main species affected by this. We urge you to pick these up if you spot them. It is a good practice to get into cutting the ring in half after removing it from a bottle. The Prion below starved due to the plastic caught around the beak.
Cotton, String, Tape and Human Hair
Like plastic rings and fishing equipment, these pose great danger for birds. Being caught around the beak causes feeding problems leading to starvation and death. When caught around the legs or body they can become entangled in trees and are unable to free themselves and restricted circulation results in loss of toes, feet or whole legs.
Birds caught up in plastic supermarket bags are in great danger as they are unable to fly or get away from predators. Seabirds swallow them thinking they are food and die from obstruction.
Botulism is caused by build up of toxins in fresh waterways. The toxins have a paralytic effect resulting in birds being unable to hold their heads up. The birds become very ill and need to be brought to a rescue centre immediately. We urge the public to feed birds on the grassed areas beside waterways (rather than in the water) as bread is a big contributor to toxin build-up. Wetting the bread is also a good idea otherwise ducks will carry it to the water to feed
Oil pollution is devastating to birdlife, the sticky oil clings on to the feathers, resulting in hypothermia, the inability to fly and leaving them susceptible to poisoning.
Unfortunately birds don’t understand the dangers of powerlines. If you spot a bird hanging from powerlines it is important to call the power company and report it to the SPCA.
Steel spikes used as a deterrent for pigeons on rooftops around Auckland have become a death trap! While thought to be a humane solution, they have been seen to lead to a slow painful death for birds who are unlucky enough to become victim to the sharp spikes. There are nylon alternatives available in the United States which are much safer for birdlife.
Pruning causes a threat to nesting birds especially during the spring. We encourage everyone to carefully check for nests before pruning their trees.
While hitting birds is not always avoidable, please do stop to see if the birds needs help. In the case of ducks, it pays to check if there are any ducklings nearby.
Especially in the Waitakeres lots of houses don’t have curtains and birds fly straight into them, sometimes breaking the windows and often killing themselves. Mirrors in gardens create similar problems.
Cats and Dogs
The use of a small cow bell is a good precaution against cats catching birds. These need only be used in the spring/summer as they are often annoying to the cat. Cats can be trained from an early age not to catch birds. Dogs left loose often kill birds without their owner knowing.
Jet skis exceeding the speed limit which is 5 knots within 200m of the shore, have disastrous consequences for birdlife who find themselves in their path.
Slug Bait and Garden Sprays
Slug bait is a killer for birds. Quash is the safest option for birds and is what we recommend. However, if using other slug baits they can be put in a pipe or under an upturned icecream container that has a small “entrance” cut out.
Sprays used when birds are nesting we believe sometimes affect the young. They can develop with parts of wings or legs missing or other deformities.