Hungry cockies strip apple orchard bare

Headshot of Shannon Smith
Shannon SmithAlbany Advertiser
Denmark Apples' Bill Lax with some of the Braeburn apples destroyed by cockatoos.
Camera IconDenmark Apples' Bill Lax with some of the Braeburn apples destroyed by cockatoos. Credit: Laurie Benson/Albany Advertiser, Laurie Benson

Local orchard Denmark Apples will not be at the Albany Farmers Market this year after its entire crop was wiped out by Baudin’s black cockatoos.

The hungry birds have stripped the trees of all apples, leaving very little in a condition suitable for human consumption.

Orchard owners Julie and Bill Lax said they had never seen anything like it.

“Every year they come, and you make sure that they don’t land,” Ms Lax said.

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“If they do, they snack and they’re easily shooed away.

“At the most we would lose about five to 10 trees, and that is manageable.

“This year, nothing would move them on. They have stayed close to the orchard for the past three months.

“They are endangered, they are beautiful, and they are obviously hungry.

“It is devastating to see your beautiful fruit on the ground and wasted as the cockatoos only want the seed — they split the apple in two and take the seeds.”

The couple employed extra staff over summer in the hope of saving their fruit.

They said because of their proximity to their neighbours’ property, it was against council regulations to use gas guns.

The orchard was established many years ago and was not designed for netting.

To set up a net now would be “cost-prohibitive”.

“We have employed people to ride the quad bike around the orchard and at the height of summer it was 4.30am- 7.30pm each day,” Ms Lax said.

“They are a very smart bird with personality. We noticed that they are not afraid of us and will look you in the eye in defiance. Some we call orchard specialists as they won’t leave the orchard.

“They fly low and under the foliage of the trees and they are very hard to spot.”

The couple saved a small amount of royal gala apples before the birds got to them, which they are selling at BP in Denmark. They are planning to have oranges and mandarins to sell later in the year and have urged people to support local small businesses in the months ahead.

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