Early birds wake irate residents

By Liz Clarke Time of article published Sep 13, 2004

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Worse than loud music, worse than noisy neighbours, Durban's Berea residents have found that early morning sleep-ins are literally for the birds.

So fed up are they about their raucous ha-ha-ha-ing wake-up calls, that many residents feel that the Bostrychia hagedash, known to you and I as the Hadeda Ibis, is public enemy number one.

"I can see the outline of five of them sitting on the roof opposite every morning," said a disgruntled resident living behind Durban's Mitchell Park.

"At 4.30am precisely they make the same terrible cackling sound and that's the end of my sleep. Somebody told me that a century ago they were nearly extinct; well, I wish those days would return."

Karl Westphal, curator of Mitchell Park Zoo, confirmed that complaints about the noisy hadedas had been coming in thick and fast over the past few weeks.

"They are particularly vocal at this time of the year because it is the start of the breeding season and they are declaring their territorial rights. But I have to agree, it is a bit early and I think that has something to do with changes in the climate."

The hadeda has a distinctive heavy body with grey plumage, iridescent pink shoulders, a white cheek stripe and a red bill that curves downwards.

It is usually found in pairs, or a family group in suburban gardens. It likes to pull worms from lawns and has even been known to tuck into dog pellets. They also appear resistant to insecticides.

Westphal said that unlike the Sacred Ibis, its cousin, the hadeda doesn't have a collective nesting ground, but singles out a spot in its territory, usually at the top of a tall tree.

"The problem is that it makes the most noise in the early morning, just as it gets light, and late in the evening."

However, Westphal is on the side of the hadedas. "They are indigenous birds and we must learn to live in harmony with them. Some neighbours have noisy children, but that doesn't mean we want to harm them or get rid of them."

KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife are adamant that hadedas are protected and that those who try to rid their homes and gardens of these pesky yellers could find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

"There used to be a huge population of white-faced whistling ducks in Durban," said Westphal. "Now you never see them." The Hadedas may well go the same way. The sooner the better, say some.

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