Birds on roads are a recipe for disaster

Birds of a feather: Birds and roads are a recipe for disaster. Photo: AAP Image / Keith Lightbody Photo by KEITH LIGHTBODY

Contributed by avian medicine specialist Dr Madeleine Rowe of the Echuca Veterinary Clinic and the Melbourne Bird Vet

Spring is a wonderful time of year in Victoria, with the weather warming, more daylight hours and an abundance of birdlife.

But there are some downsides: for instance, more roadkill.

What with the number of wildlife hit by cars every day, have you ever stopped to wonder why so many birds choose to live along our roadsides?

It all comes down to the availability of food and housing: in Australia, many roadsides contain strips of remnant bushland.

This vegetation supports a significant number of wildlife, particularly when surrounding land is cleared for urbanisation and agriculture.

Many Australian parrots require old tree hollows for nesting, which take a whopping 100 to 200 years to mature, decay and form.

Therefore, when bushland is subdivided and cleared, these old trees are removed from all but the roadside, offering birds little choice of real estate.

The frequency of roadkill is often greatest during spring, when baby birds are leaving the nest for the first time.

Once a fledgling leaves the nest, it can take several days for them to learn to fly, and during this time they’re extremely vulnerable to collisions.

Fortunately, birds do learn the ‘road rules’ as they age, although adults are sometimes still hit by cars.

One American study found that speeds above 90km/h are difficult for a bird’s brain to process.

This is why many birds fail to register oncoming traffic on highways — their brain literally can’t comprehend the speed of approaching traffic.

Slowing down helps (reducing your speed by 10 per cent will reduce the chances of collision by 20 per cent) and remaining vigilant for young birds during spring will also reduce your chances of collision.

If you ever find an injured parrot on the road, carefully catch it in a towel, put it in a well-ventilated, secure box (such as a cardboard box with a towel at the bottom) and transport it to a wildlife carer or veterinary clinic.

Wildlife that is injured and successfully rehabilitated will add to the pool of animals that remember.

So over the years and centuries, birds will hopefully learn to avoid cars sooner.