Pukeko pests - and what to do with themby Rebecca Hayter
Rebecca Hayter finds it takes a lot of smarts to outsmart a pukeko.
The pukeko on my property are living in the bird equivalent of a desirable suburb; a wetland area beside native bush with sea views just across the driveway from their supermarket. There, in a revolving pattern throughout the seasons, the trees stock a selection of feijoas, pears, figs, damsons, grapefruit, quinces and guavas. Most of those fruit are delivered straight to the wetland on Pukeko Express.
The neighbours say they have never seen so many pukeko near my orchard. Pukeko are protected, but it is permissible to cull them in some circumstances and at certain times of the year. It’s irrelevant, anyway, because I am yet to get my firearms licence, let alone beat my gulp-factor about killing animals.
My friend Sheila told me I don’t have to kill lots of pukeko, just one. I can hang it up in the orchard like a gibbet in 18th-century England as a warning to other pilfering pukeko.
Then Ian told me, “You don’t have to kill any. Just fire a shot once a month to scare them off.” Still, both those suggestions require a gun.
Meanwhile, I took my ride-on mower into town for servicing, had dinner at the Roots Bar and was driving home in the car when the white bum of a pukeko crossed my headlights. I braked hard, but it flapped back and went beneath my tyres.
I could see it was injured so I stopped and hardened my heart to put the bird out of its misery. I made a sad apology, admired its warm blue sheen and left it for the hawks.
Two days later – yes, it took that long – I realised how stupid I had been. Fate had handed me a fresh, clean, dead pukeko and I’d left it behind. I briefly considered looking for other pukeko victims, but they were too messy for hanging in trees and I didn’t want to be the eccentric lady who picked up roadkill. No one would ever come to dinner again.
I needed to make a loud, legal bang in my orchard: a gunshot that wasn’t a gunshot. Finally, stupidity moved aside; in its place stood sheer brilliance.
My ride-on mower goes bang. I hate the bang. I select neutral, lower the throttle, turn off the key, put my hands over my ears and count to 20. It’s never enough. I uncover my ears and my ride-on bangs like a kid brother who leaps shrieking from wardrobes. Perfect.
The ride-on mower came back from town, and I mowed the orchard to get the motor nice and hot. I parked beside Pukeko Paddock, smirking happily with anticipation. Soon, those white bums would flee, never to be seen again. I turned off the key and heard the birds tweeting in the trees.
The mechanic had taken out the bang. All around me, pukeko filled their trolleys with my fruit and loaded them onto the Pukeko Express…
This was published in the December 2017 issue of North & South.
Witi Ihimaera's journey to Commonwealth war graves for a new documentary, In Foreign Fields, is both personal and political.Read more
What drove Catherine Olsson to take over the local pub on Great Barrier Island, and how does she cope with the tyranny of distance?Read more
It's important in winter to consume foods that enhance the immune system and help reduce the risk of contracting the office lurgy.Read more
It's Fashion Revolution Week and while NZ fashion brands are slowly making the move to more ethically made clothing, there's still work to do.Read more
Perhaps Labour's PR outfit should next turn their talents to Washington, where Donald Trump is turning the White House into a cesspit.Read more
Some experts are calling for confidentiality agreements in sexual harassment cases to be scrapped as the #MeToo movement gathers pace.Read more
The Employment Relations Act is very clear about what constitutes sexual harassment in New Zealand.Read more