'Hated' Australian bird dealing with invasive species

'Hated' Australian bird dealing with invasive species

A bird that has been widely reviled in Australia for decades has undergone an image change. The reason is that it is helping to get rid of an even bigger nuisance – the invasive cane toad. The bird is the white ibis, which is indigenous to Australia. It is viewed as a pest by many Australians because of its propensity to scavenge food from garbage bags and trash cans. It even steals food right out of people's hands. People nickname them the "bin chicken". The word "bin" is Australian and British English for trash can. The birds are now being viewed in a positive light. They have adapted and learnt how to eat the poisonous and destructive cane toad. As a result, Australia's natural habitat is benefitting.

Cane toads were introduced to Australia in the 1930s. Sugar farmers thought they would help in eradicating a beetle that was devastating their crops. However, the toads soon began to wreak havoc as they rapidly spread across the countryside. They ate many insects and small animals to the point of extinction. Their toxin is strong enough to kill most native animals that eat frogs and toads. They had no natural predators in Australia, until the white ibis learnt to rid them of their venom and gulp them up. An Australian journalist said the ibises pick the toads up and "flick them about". The stress of this makes the toads release all their poison. The ibises then wash them in water and gobble them down.

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