Aggressive Red Wattlebirds

Red Wattlebird

Red Wattlebird

This morning I was suddenly aware of a noisy disturbance just outside my office window. I looked up to see three Red Wattlebirds locked in a furious battle in the garden bed. In fact, I thought at first it was only two fighting each other. As I reached for my camera, they flew off, and I saw that there had been three birds fighting.

What caused this kerfuffle? I have no idea. As they flew off two of them were aggressively chasing the third one. The battle may well have continued elsewhere.

Red Wattlebird

Red Wattlebird

 

47 Responses to “Aggressive Red Wattlebirds”

  1. Ken Rolph says:

    We had a pair of red wattlebirds in our Melaleuca and Callistemon tree for some years. They seemed to think they owned it. In the morning the noisy miners would arrive, and get chased away. In the afternoon a gang of lorikeets would arrive, and get chased away. That was always the noisiest.

    The wattlebirds so believed that they were the king and queen of our backyard that they tolerated us with distain. They used to go for a dip in the dog’s water bowl, which was just outside our back door. They would dive in, come up, sit on the rim and shake their feathers, while looking at us.

    Havent’ seen them for a few years now. They never nested in the backyard.

  2. Wolvox says:

    I have an interesting case in behaviour, concerning a Red Wattlebird, whom We affectionately call ‘The Bullybird'(BB), in reference to it’s attitude toward other birds. My family has 3 cats(all neutered)-two toms and a queen. The queen is a gentle creature that rarely hunts and only kills insects, our older tom patrols our territory ceaselessly, ousting infiltrating dogs, cats and mice from our property and has little interest in ornithology, and our younger tom is the hunter. Our name for him is Shade, and he is jet-black. BB has been pursuing an obsessive vendetta against Shade for over a year now. During the daylight hours, Shade has only to show his face at a window and BB swoops at him. When I’m hanging out the laundry, all 3 cats will usually accompany me. BB swoops Shade mercilessly, again and again, completely ignoring me and the other two cats. It will land on the clothesline, easily within arms’ reach of me, and hurl it’s rasping insults at Shade, before soaring past me with a great WHOOSH to swoop him again. It is boundlessly energetic, and frequently performs feats of aerial acrobatics that I would scarcely have thought possible. BB cares nothing for our other cats, and seems disappointed when they’re around and Shade is indoors. My two brothers, my mother, and I stay right out of this war. We only observe. Anyway, why do you think BB does this? Does it recognise in Shade a hunter? Has he wronged it in the past, maybe killing it’s young? Or is BB doing this solely to entertain itself? Or is their another likely explanation? I would be interested to hear of any similar cases. Respectfully, Wolvox.

  3. Trevor says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with Red Wattlebirds Ken. They certainly can be very aggressive – at least they are in our garden.

    It is interesting that you say you haven’t seen them for some years. Some of our native species have had their ranges usurped by introduced birds like the Common Myna (an Asian species) and the Noisy Miner (an Australian native species of honeyeater).

  4. Trevor says:

    Thanks for your intriguing comments Wolvox.

    I can offer no explanation for the wattlebird’s behaviour. It seems quite bizarre – almost as if it has gone far beyond the normal protection of young or a nest.

    I wonder if it is a form of play, teasing and taunting the hunter as a challenge. I have heard of play routines amongst parrots in the wild – Galahs for example. With their beaks they will hang onto the guy wires supporting power poles and slide down to the ground, then fly up and do it all over again, screeching loudly like a group of children in a playground.

  5. Peter Houston says:

    Moved to Qld 3 years ago but was back in Melbourne for a visit a couple of weeks ago. Didn’t see a Red Wattlebird anywhere. What’s happened to them all? Lots of Littles (or Brush as they’re now known) which used to be relatively uncommon.

  6. Trevor says:

    Hi Peter,

    Not sure what’s happened to them. I haven’t been to Melbourne for over two years, so can’t comment from personal experience. I also haven’t heard anything on the various birding forums I subscribe to, so I can’t throw any light on your question.

  7. […] in bright flowers. It is a stunning picture and we enjoy seeing it in flower for so long. The Red wattlebirds also appreciate the flowers and visit the bush many times each day for a […]

  8. diane Cutting says:

    I photograph the birds in my neighbourhood in Canberra and this morning witnessed and photographed the whole thing of 3 red wattle birds locked in what seemed like mortal combat, it went on for about 6-7 minutes and it was 2 against the one hapless bird. I thought they were going to kill it but someone else arrived on the scene and they all flew away – I wondered if the third bird was a juvinile trying to hedge in on a female. Does anyone know what it was all about

  9. My cats too scared to go outside because a red wattle bird is on her the minute she walks out any door how do I stop this bird?

  10. Kylie wescombe says:

    How do I stop an aggressive red wattle bird from attacking my cat every time she steps outside? I now have to coax her outside 🙁

    • Trevor says:

      Hi Kylie,

      Sorry that it has taken so long to answer your question. Somehow yours slipped through the many questions and comments this site gets.

      The Red Wattlebird is defending a nest somewhere. It sees your cat as a definite threat. Once the wattlebird has finished nesting in a few weeks it probably won’t worry about what is in your yard.

      Solution: keep the cat inside until the breeding season is over. In fact, I would suggest that you find a way of keeping your cat inside permanently. Pet cats kill millions of native birds, native mammals and reptiles annually and have no place in our Australian environment. I am sorry if this upsets cat lovers but that is the reality of the situation.

      Furthermore, some domestic cats go feral and breed up in huge numbers in rural and remote areas. They are probably responsible for the local extinction of an alarming number of species. Extinction is forever.

  11. Alison says:

    I have a Red Wattlebird and a Brush Wattlebird that visit my garden and attack the Rosellas and dive bomb my cat.
    Does anyone have any advice? The Rosellas are losing feathers and the cat hides inside.

    I have a water spray bottle to scare the cockatoos away which works really well, but the Wattlebirds are too fast.
    Thanks

    • Trevor says:

      Hi Alison,

      I made a few little spelling corrections: by bush I think you meant “brush” wattlebird, and spay should have been “spray” bottle.

      The wattlebirds are nesting at this time of year. They see your cat as a threat and will defend their nest or young. In the meantime, keep your cat inside; cats have no place in the Australian environment anyway (see comments to Kylie above).

      I wouldn’t be too worried about the rosellas and cockatoos; they can usually look after themselves, or will leave and go elsewhere if they feel too harassed.

  12. Lea says:

    I don’t really like your advice RE cats – because I think a harmony can be reached if you are an attentive cat owner. My cat is belled, and is mostly an indoor cat, but likes to sit in her garden, or use her litter area out there once in while. I have plenty of birds that come into/nest around my garden, and my cat never harms them – the issue is people/humans, and not cats, remember that.

    My yard is tiny – about 3 metres wide, and 20 metres across – it’s minuscule. I would prefer my cat have access to it over birds, since they have the rest of Victoria, and my cat only has this one tiny space. But I do have birds come into the yard often, and so my cat is belled, and is mostly an indoor cat.

    My trick, which has worked wonderfully on the Red Wattlebirds is to play the call of one very loudly, and periodically into my garden when the breeding pair first begin to appear(around mid-Sept -to- mid-October). Doing it then will hopefully catch them before they actually lay any eggs.

    The Red Wattlebirds take it as a threat from a much larger bird of their species and move off to nest elsewhere.

    • Alison says:

      Hi Lea and Trevor
      Thanks for the advice.
      Yes I agree Lea, it’s sad that Trevor has a very limited view point in classing all cats as the same. Granted some do chase the wild life, but many don’t and there are a lot of very responsible cat owners that ensure that both cat and birds stay safe.

      • Trevor says:

        Thanks for your comments Alison, but you are very wrong and quite misguided in your opinions. My point of view is backed by solid scientific evidence, and it is because I care for our native birds.

        Fact: a recent CSIRO survey estimated that at least 75 MILLION Australian creatures (birds, reptiles, mammals etc) are killed DAILY by cats.

        Read that again: 75 million daily.

        Furthermore, cats have been the prime reason for the EXTINCTION of many mammal species in recent years. Extinction is forever.

        Other research has shown that cats left to roam as they please have life expectancy of 4 years, but cats kept inside permanently live, on average, for 14 years. So – if you love your cat – keep it indoors always.

        Read the details here: http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2014/10/31/4118217.htm

  13. Wolvox says:

    Hello, I receive notifications of further comments on occassion, and it’s fascinating to notice the timelessness of the internet in action. Four years onward and our cat Shade is still to this day bullied by the bully bird. However the bully bird has had children, and these have learnt from their parents that Shade is priority number one to harrass.

    As you can imagine, it distresses our cat greatly to have such a continual nuisance (especially during Spring) and he’s become much more of an inside cat. He makes half-hearted swipes at the bird and does that mouth movement cats do at potentially prey but is too well fed and too domestic to attack it. Interestingly, our other cat Ash is much more of a hunter (of moths, though once or twice he’s brought into the house a mouse), although he has never attacked the birds and they do not swoop him. In fact, the bully bird or one of his children was directly above Ash on a railing loudly hurling insults at Shade as Ash futilely chattered at the bird directly above him. Fortunately Ash didn’t even attempt to swipe at it, and we’ve had the luck of not having a decent hunter between our two cats.

    There is a strange sort of harmony now, we regularly feed the birds multigrain bread and have a variety of birds come to the house, from Magpies who generally prefer to peck about for worms or somesuch in the grass (probably better for their health) and the Myna birds who also love to loudly call warnings when the cats are around (they travel in packs). The Red Wattlebirds love to swoop and terrify any grey pigeons that get food. All the birds (much like most people it seems) universally despise the crows (who have a sort of humble awkwardness and shyness despite their size and distinctiveness) and made sure they don’t come near.

  14. SueC says:

    Thanks for the update Wolvox. Very glad neither shade or bb have come to harm.
    Our current house was chosen with a cat enclosure in mind. We have the netting variety which are much better looking than the hard galvo mesh runs. Although the really small birds can get in and out the larger ones like the wattle bird, adult blackbird and the parrots can’t.

    The wattle bird teases our white cat ghost, (who is deaf and would hunt if he had access) but completely ignores his tricolor bother.
    I’m wondering if solid color cats are just too easy to spot?

  15. Helen McHugh says:

    I have wattle birds attacking my black cat and now he has a severe limp and does not want to go outside. Is there anyway I can deter this from happening they don’t attack my mini schnauzers only my poor black cat. Can you give me some advice please.

    • Trevor says:

      Hi Helen,
      Sorry about the delay in replying to your question.
      The wattlebirds can be quite aggressive towards any threat to their nest, nestlings or recently fledged young that have just left the nest. They will attack birds much bigger: currawongs, crows, ravens, even hawks and eagles. It regards your cat as a very serious threat – even if the cat is unable to catch the bird. The bird is obviously very stressed by the cat’s presence.
      My suggestion is to keep your cat indoors until at least the end of the breeding season. In fact, find a way to keep it indoors or in a run permanently. Cats have no place in our Australian environment and are responsible for the deaths of millions of birds, reptiles and other creatures daily (CSIRO research), and the extinction of some species. I am sorry if these comments upset you, but that is the reality of the situation. I recently wrote about this in detail here: http://trevorsbirding.com/keep-cats-inside/

  16. Pat says:

    I feed wild birds, and last year I heard a distressed bird in my tree near my front door, it was a sparrow and saw a bird fly away with it. It looked like a red wattle bird. Just now I saw a red wattle bird chasing a sparrow and some squawking in a tree, but I think the sparrow got away this time. This one is a bit cheeky and may be new. He or she has swooped on me a few times. When the Magpies are feeding, they keep away from them though.

    • Trevor says:

      Hi Pat,

      In our garden the Red Wattlebirds are the “Bullies” amongst the birds, chasing all of the smaller birds. They will even have a go at some of the hawks and kites which occasionally visit.

  17. Gary says:

    It’s trevor’s website so he can say what he likes but his comments about cats are very myopic. Saying that cats have no place in Oz is, by extension, saying that we europeans, including trevor, have no place either, cos it’s the human impact on the environment – clearing, farming and all the massive built infrastructure of cities and modern civilisation, and all the introduced species that come with it etc- that is a far greater ongoing killer of native wildlife. Then of course he also neglects the fact that native wildlife kills native wildlife – an elementary fact of life trevor! Go into the bush and watch it happen; u can’t miss it cos it happens millions of times daily. Life ain’t quite as benign and simple as we’d all like it to be trevor. Anyhow, other than that – good site!

  18. Trevor says:

    Thanks for your comments, Gary.

    There is much to agree with and acknowledge in your comments, but please do NOT misquote me. I have never on this site said that cats have no place in Australia.

    Instead, what I actually said was: “Cats have no place in the Australian environment.” Quite a different proposition. Responsible cat owners look after their cats and make sure that they don’t engage in hunting our native species, a very destructive activity.

    As far as human destruction of the Australian environment, we are not alone in this. Almost every environment has been altered by human activity, even Antarctica. Sadly, we cannot turn back the clock of history. As a species we are very slow to learn from history and to correct the errors of the past.

  19. Anthony says:

    Been a postie for 40 years ,every breeding season, attacking magpies are part of the job,but this year a new bird has appeared the red wattle , very aggressive 🙁

  20. Bronwyn says:

    My backyard is netted and so my cat can’t get out. Over the last couple of weeks a wattle bird has been tormenting him so much that he gone off his food and been pecked at. I have been as well. How long does this nesting season last and what can I put in my backyard to deter these birds. It is my cat’s backyard not the bird’s.

    • Trevor says:

      Hi Bronwyn, That must quite annoying for you and your cat. The breeding season for Red Wattlebirds generally lasts from July to November so this behaviour will hopefully end in the next few weeks. In the meantime, try squirting the offending bird with a hose to discourage it. That might work and will not harm it in any way.

  21. Mick says:

    Hi Trevor. We have a Red Wattle bird that started coming around a couple of months ago, He has a crooked beak but feeds OK. After him hanging around with us on the verandah for a couple of weeks we started to feed him watered down honey which he loves. He is gentle with female humans and a bit rougher with males. Yesterday a visitor came around and was swooped, the visitor went mad and started beating the bird with a hat, the bird attacked back. After asking our aggressive visitor to leave, which he did,the bird who normally sits on my shoulder and licks my ear, attacked me gouging my eye and causing ruptures that required a visit to the doctor. Today he landed on my shoulder in the morning and stayed away from me most of the day, then landed on me again and attacked my face again. Lucky I was wearing safety glasses this time. What do we do as I think that any male visitors are now in peril?

    • Trevor says:

      This is certainly a difficult and concerning situation. Legally, you really should do nothing as all Australian native birds are protected. Because there is an obvious danger to you and any visitors, something needs to be done before someone loses sight in an eye. The only suggestion I can think of is to contact your nearest National Parks office and ask for the bird concerned to be trapped and relocated. I hope this helps.

  22. Anne says:

    It’s not only cats that red wattle birds swoop on. And I was also wondering if they swoop particularly on solid color animals.
    Since July, a red wattle bird has been chasing and swooping our black and very energetic American staffie dog, making her run from one end of the yard to the other from morning to night. The bird never gives up. It is excellent exercise for our dog in a way! But she is getting a bit bored with it now, and often tries to ignore the bird. However when I am in the yard, the bird never targets me. Unfortunately, the wattlebird totally dominates our yard and has chased all other birds, among them a couple of turtleneck doves who had nested for a number of years by the kitchen door.

  23. Marianne Gibson says:

    I can’t help feeling sorry for the poor Currawong who has the constant snapping of a red wattlebird hot on its heels, don’t know how he copes, the wattle bird is relentless

  24. sarah says:

    We have 2 of these awesome birds patrolling our yard every spring. We call them Maverick and Goose because of their dive bombing. They will pluck hair from cats and dogs . They line their nests with it but they are also very serious about their territories and protecting them from untrusted creatures. It took over a year for our birds to stop picking on my dog and cat but now they are trusted. Also not a bad idea to try to befriend them. You can buy a powder to mix into water for nectar lovers

  25. Judith says:

    We have only just started having problems with one. We have 3 chickens and 10 chicks and this blasted bird has started swopping and attacking the chickens and chick as they are free to roam around our backyard.
    .if anyone has any way to help deter the birds and save our chickens from being tormented, I would greatly appreciate it.

  26. TIMOTHY says:

    THE WATTLERS ARE VERY AGGRESSIVE IN EAST PERTH AND ARE BRUTALLY ATTACKING OUR 2 RAVENS WHICH WE HAVE BEEN FEEDING FOR MANY YEARS; THEY LOVE CHEESEBURGERS AND BUTTER AND PASTRY AND SWEETS AND CANDY; THE RED WATTLE BIRDS JUST EAT BREAD AND BISCUITS; WHEN WILL THIS DISTRESSING BEHAVIOUR END ?? ARE THESE BIRDS NATIVE TO PERTH CITY ??

  27. Trevor says:

    Hi Timothy,
    I have edited out the errors in your comments. Thanks for your comments and questions. Red Wattlebirds are native to southern Western Australia and are therefore a protected species by law. It is rather odd that they are attacking the Ravens because it is usually the other way around. My guess is that the Wattlebirds have a nest nearby and see the Ravens as a threat to their eggs and chicks.
    Now I am going to be a killjoy. Please do not feed any Australian native birds with human food. The types of foods that you list are actually harmful to our birds; it can kill them slowly. Just provide a bird bath with plenty of fresh water and they will keep coming back, and you might attract many other species as well. I hope that you understand.

    • Andrew Lyall says:

      Hi Trevor,
      Just a quick message to say hi and I found your comment about ravens usually attacking Wattlebirds funny. In my experience its always the other way around. Wattlebirds seem to target full black animals, especially Ravens, I see them bullying Ravens all the time. We live in Boya, in the Perth hills and have loads of bird species around, but its always the poor Ravens that cop it.

  28. John says:

    I do feed my garden birds with canary seeds, Cook rice, the Indian dove,the miners,the king doves we live in South Australia close to Adelaide hills. I put an apple a day ago cut in half hanging from my old standard rose and this beautiful red wattle bird did not leave the tree and has chasing out the new holland honey suckers plus any birds on the garden we always feed???? We been having a terrific fun with him or she she been on our tree from more then 24 hours I think she past the night eating the whole apple she still have another half to go

  29. John says:

    I do feed my garden birds with canary seeds, Cook rice, the Indian dove,the miners,the king doves we live in South Australia close to Adelaide hills. I put an apple a day ago cut in half hanging from my old standard rose and this beautiful red wattle bird did not leave the tree and has chasing out the new holland honey suckers plus any birds on the garden. We been having a terrific fun with him or she she been on our tree from more then 24 hours I think she past the night eating the whole apple she still have another half to go

  30. Carol says:

    These wattle birds should be exterminated because they are now killing all the other birds which soon will be extinct namely sparrows, turtle doves, canaries and others which once could be seen everywhere in the backyards. They destroy nests with eggs and kill hatched chicks. Future generations will never know or see any other birds except these wattle birds.Even fires kill less bird than them because fire occurs once in a while but they are there permanently everyday.

    • Trevor says:

      Hi Carol,
      What you are suggesting is illegal. All of our native Australian birds are protected by law. I question your suggestion that the Wattlebirds are actually killing other birds because there is no scientific proof of this. They may occasionally damage a nest and they certainly are aggressive towards other species but they are just defending their territory and food source.
      You also say that they will cause sparrows, turtle doves and canaries (sic) to become extinct. These are all introduced species and our native birds will be much better off if they do become extinct in Australia; they are robbing our native birds of their food and nesting sites. As for canaries you are quite confused because there are no canaries in Australia (except pets in cages). I think you might be confusing them with finches.

  31. Beth says:

    We just moved house and I was hoping we might be free of pesky, aggressive wattlebirds, but sadly not. I would love to see some small, sweet wrens and more New Holland honeyeaters, but all I hear is the wattlebird’s nasty gurgle. I’ve identified the possible culprit – a large bottlebrush – but as we’re renting there’s no possibility of removing it, nor would I want to. I was actually excited when I first noticed it, as I was hoping it might attract Rainbow Lorikeets (introduced, I know, but a personal favourite of mine). I’m wondering if I should chase off the wattlebirds with a hose, or if a fake owl would scare away all the lovely little birds as well.

    • Trevor says:

      Hi Beth,
      I assume that you are living in Perth because of your comment about Rainbow Lorikeets being an introduced species there. I am not sure of how you can discourage the wattlebirds. You could try a fake owl but I would not be surprised if the wattlebirds ignore after a few days – and even perch on it. Scaring them with the water from a hose might also work for a while – it’s worth a try.

  32. Jamie Anderson says:

    Hi Trevor – are you able to suggest any websites please which will help me identify what not to plant in our garden so that we don’t attract wattlebirds? We can’t stand their noise and wish to attract smaller more mellifluous native birds.

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