Magnetic Island North Queensland
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A young koala's beach adventure

December 5th 2002
Going fowl on ferals

Guinea Fowl I noted with interest last month's column by National Parks about feral animals on Magnetic Island. I have a property in Horseshoe Bay which is infested with one of the feral species mentioned in the article - the guinea fowl.

For many years I have observed the large number of guinea fowl running freely around the privately owned lands of Horseshoe Bay but it wasn't until I moved from Picnic Bay just over 12 months ago that I could not help but notice the large number of guinea fowl compared to the number of native birds. There were almost 4 dozen guinea fowl on my property alone compared to about 6 curlews.

What really struck me was that there were less curlews on 10 acres in Horseshoe than I had on a house block in Picnic. Sure there seemed to be more free roaming dogs in Horseshoe but I could not help but think there may be other factors influencing the numbers.
I was curious to know more about guinea fowl and whether these interesting creatures might also be impacting on curlew numbers. I decided to learn more about them and my investigations have revealed the following:

Guinea fowl (Numida meleagris) are an African species which eat seeds and insects;
they are classified as "poultry" by Townsville City Council and also by all relevant poultry books that I have examined;

* they certainly are not Orange Footed Scrub Fowl, Scrub Turkeys, Swamphens or any other Australian native wildlife;

* under Council regulations they are banned from free-ranging anywhere in the Council area even on the mainland;

*obviously they are also banned from free ranging on our beautiful Island, located as it is within the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef zone;

* a few guinea fowl were brought to Magnetic Island and went feral many years ago;
they have been expanding their habitat range and numbers ever since;

* they were originally brought to the Island for their well-known table qualities. They are delicious and are apparently found in some of the world's most expensive restaurants. Even the guinea fowl clubs - whose breeders apparently have emotional attachments to some of them - rave about their fine table qualities;

*guinea fowl have many nutritional qualities that make them a very worthwhile addition to the diet. Second to turkey in Kcal - having 134 Kcal per 100 grams -the meat is lean and rich in essential fatty acids;

*Townsville retail outlets sell them frozen for $18.90 --about 2 to 3 times the price of other frozen chooks;

My personal observations are:

*they often congregate and feed side by side with curlews and generally scratch around like other chooks and in doing so compete with Magnetic Island indigenous birds such as kookaburras and curlews and even with wallabies (because they also eat seeds);

* they have dominated the native curlew habitat and outnumbered curlews on my place by about 44 guinea fowl to about 6 Curlews although recent night time spotlighting counts put the curlew population at just 3 individuals on 10 acres;

*they often cause environmental damage to the ground with their scratching which in dry times like now is causing clouds of dust to rise which may cause faster erosion when the wet eventually arrives;

My research and observations lead me to believe that:

* this ratio of introduced guinea fowl to native curlews (44 to 6 or 3?) is completely out of whack and is most concerning. Imagine the curlews on your place being outnumbered 15 to 1 by an introduced competitor - and noisy competitors at that;

* they compete very successfully with native they must put pressure on native species numbers especially in large numbers and especially in times of drought when their food supplies are short;

* anyone who calls themselves a Magnetic Islander has a responsibility - especially in times of drought - when natural food is short -- to help the native wildlife which has been here far longer than any person emotionally attached to guinea fowl;

* their loud noises - especially at dusk are an unnatural invasion to one's privacy.
I am becoming particularly anxious because they are now invading the curlew's last retreat on my place - the area right beside my home where I have been watering the new garden (from my well) and a few insects are appearing. Nice food normally for the curlews but currently being demolished by the guinea fowl.

Emotional Aspect

Some residents apparently regard them as pets but to me they are just noisy chooks -- uninvited ones at that! I would feel the same if my property was being invaded by guinea grass, guinea pigs, European rats, Indian Mynah Birds, English Pigeons or Sparrows or any other feral.

Whilst I am an animal lover (a dog breeder and Championship Show judge before I moved to Magnetic Island but I choose not to have a dog on the Island) I have no more emotional attachment to guinea fowl than I do to a piece of KFC.

This is not about whether I "like" guinea fowl. I happen to think they are interesting to observe. Guinea fowl even look impressive in big flocks, darting around with their peculiar gait and antics. They are fun to watch. I can understand why people like them. I like them. I like most animals. (An exception might be plovers which attack me anytime I walk to the back of the block but I accept plovers because they are here naturally and I am intruding on their territory - after all plovers were here before me or any current resident).

So I like guinea fowl but would prefer to rid my property of them. At the same time I dislike plovers and want them to stay. Am I a fool? Hopefully not. It is purely my love of Australian natural life which motivates me to want to remove the guinea fowl from my land. Like the guinea grass which also thrives here, I think guinea fowl do not belong on Magnetic Island. Especially free ranging as they do.

To those who regard guinea fowl as pets please remember some people think of guinea fowl as pests. Please think about your beautiful Island and please be aware that the Council is prosecuting others in Horseshoe Bay for free-ranging other fowls.

The first hundred or so rabbits released into the Australian bush probably also looked cute and were regarded as pets by some people (not the people who released them to breed for their hunting and table qualities) but eventually rabbits were recognised by every thinking person as a pest.

Guinea fowl were released in a small flock and now they number many. Some say in the hundreds. It is apparently the largest flock of free ranging guinea fowl anywhere in Queensland. If that is so, I think it is shameful. As a community I think we really should do something about it.

The bottom line here is that I could legally remove these feral fowls from my land and there is no requirement for me to notify or consult with anyone. Technically I could even be prosecuted for having them on my land. 44 to 6 (3?) on my block alone is too many.

However, I would not be able to do anything about the rest of the Bay so they would remain roaming around the Bay.

I write this simply to inform readers and perhaps to hopefully prompt others to consider possible solutions on their land pursuant to the article by National Parks in last month's issue.

If anyone has any similar concerns please write to me at funnyfiles@bigpond.com as I earnestly seek written ideas on possible solutions to this problem. (There is no point in ringing the booking office of my business as most times I am not there and when I am I really do not have much time free for non-work matters). If you do not have e-mail please write to me at 115 Horseshoe Bay Road.

In the meantime if they are your "pets" please be responsible and keep them off my land.

Steve Anslow
Horseshoe Bay


Going fowl on ferals
 
14 comments
 
John F. Forster
December 9th 2002
Eat 'em.
 
Jenn
September 7th 2004
get a life and leave ALL animals/birds alone and let nature take its course. Other than that...Eat 'em
 
m.white
March 2nd 2006
steve,
guinea fowl were once described to me as mimiature
cassowaries. i own two and they are smarter than
than the common hens;which were also introduced.
dogs and cats were also introduced and they foul
up the nature strips of most home owners.
the cat kills native species and it passes on diseases such as toxoplasmosis and leukaemia to humans.
finally our own species were introduced and we have wiped out the habitats of a lot of native species. appreciate the guinea fowl for their
valuable work in eating insect pests such as
green ants, aphids and cut worms as well as wild seeds from the grass around the place.personally, i'd much rather listen to the screeches of guinea fowl than the cacophonous sounds of motor bikes and lawn mowers.
cheers,
m.white.
 
Ronnie Kane
July 15th 2006
I enjoyed your article and hope you have all enjoyed a great meal of guinea fowl and have consumed your problem.

I live at Gympie on 5 acres and the next door neighbours, also on acreage but across the road from suburban residential homes (all about 30 perches in size) have 11 guinea fowl that constantly remind me of their presence with their almost incessant "squeaky wheel" calling sound. It is worse than a dog constantly barking. The Cooloola Council cannot help and they said they intend to keep the guinea fowl as pets and to remind them of South Africa, where they used to live. They are driving me mad! Do you have any suggestions other than playing music constantly, ear plugs or moving??
 
Tony Graham
November 2nd 2006
We must protect the Guinea Fowl and all other birdlife from..........CATS.It was announced last year that all the cats had been removed form Kangaroo Island lets see Maggy be next
 
Ray Kirkham
January 4th 2007
Want to get rid of a dozen or so then send them to me at Moura or if you can find a nest send the eggs only so I can incubate them. So that we can control insects and ticks etc on our small block
Phone 0749973151
Ray Kirkham
10 Minogue St Moura
Qld 4718
 
CarlNC
January 20th 2007
They are wonderful animals and produce the finest and best eggs for human consumption on the planet. You are very fortunate to have them whether you realize it or not.
 
Bill Stevenson
January 20th 2007
Hello from far away, North America in fact, I quite admire the views of m. white and of Ray Kirkham. Let me say you have a treasure when you have free ranging self maintaining guinea fowl. As you can attest they consume pesky insects and Lyme Disease caring ticks (not sure if you're troubled by those) without any toxic or dangerous chemicals. I cannot speculate why you should or should not have more curlews I think that you witness guineas and curlews raging side by each implies a harmonious coexistence. It's a shame that we allow ourselves sometimes to be so annoyed by such marvelous creatures as guinea fowl, hardly should they be equated to "guinea grass, guinea pigs, European rats, Indian Mynah Birds, English Pigeons or Sparrows or any other feral" each of those are unique examples and bear little relationship to guinea fowl. Indeed I keep about 50 presently of the guinea fowl on my 40 acres of land to free range as a toxin-free control of dangerous and troublesome crawling/flying annoyances. Their eggs are superior in flavor and slightly lower in cholesterol than the more common chook eggs, and the shells are more rugged too. In so far as using indigenous as a prime motive to exclude the birds I'll assume you are moving away and taking all non indigenous peoples with you from the island. Seems fair to me! Otherwise guineas have no more than migrated there as humans did, probably long before your time there btw. You're correct there are guinea fowl owner groups and organizations such as the Guinea Fowl International Association http://www.guineafowlinternational.org/ and a forum for discussion of all subjects guinea fowl related such as http://www.guineas.com/anyboard9/forum/ We'd surely welcome more input and info exchange from your region. Let me suggest you make a peace with these guineas and celebrate their good and continue to work on how too you might attract more curlews without sacrificing the guineas. Often differing species can benefit one another since more watchful eyes will be alert for dangers. I want to thank you for doing some research before expressing your views but I encourage you now to appreciate what you have. Thank you. Bill
P.S. To Tony Graham, cats present little danger to guinea fowl usually unlike they do to many other small wildlife. In most cases cats either make a peace or more often avoid guineas altogether. Large wildcats such as cougar etc. can take guineas but guineas have great flight ability. Their high risk period is during the night, roosting in trees makes them subject to Great Horned Owls here.
 
Warren Wood
April 11th 2007
Steve Anslow, please tell why did you leave Horse Shoe Bay and go to a place that is over run with insect controling Guinea Fowl that are driving you insane? May be to much doggee dirt at HB.
 
Hayden
May 18th 2008
I have some Guinea Fowl on my 12 acre acreage. we love them they lay eggs and they are good eating. but if you want to control them use a 20LB bow or more power full and pick them off they are naturally curious so they are easy to shoot. Don't poisen them because that is slow and crule and will probaly kill half the native wild life as well. if you want my adivise catch and sell them or inform your local councl or wild life ranger.
 
Helen
April 5th 2009
I am fortunate to have gained a beautiful Guinea Fowl which has come into my garden unanounced and uninvited. It provides me with endless enjoyment through its beauty in stature,colour and design. The noises it makes is delightful, particularly as an antidote to city living and I understand it will enjoy all the little insects in the garden.
 
jake
November 6th 2009
i am after some to run around our farm and keep snakes away
 
Emma
February 14th 2010
I am after some guinea fowel to keep the snakes away. if you could trap them I would come and colect them from you.
 
Jeremy
March 26th 2010
I live in the whitsundays and we have quite a healthy populations of curlew, although I have never seen more than three in one spot unless they have chicks. My uneducated guess is that they don't normally flock in large nubers and therefore the population on your property may be quite normal and healthy. There are other feral's higher on the wanted list than Guineas..


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