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  • 08/12/2018 10:00 PM | James Goodrich (Administrator)

    I’ve briefly pondered why chickens cross the road but I’m more puzzled at why a chicken would depart a secluded tropical island paradise surrounded by trees gently swaying in the breeze, vivid white coral sandy beaches surrounded by sparkling azure blue ocean waters. Fortuitously I caught up with the man that could answer these questions 

    The following account resulted from a phone conversation occurring on the 9th November 2018 between the author and John Frisch. John Frisch held a Bachelor of Agricultural Science degree and was undertaking his Honours Degree at University of QLD under Dr Glenorchy McBride. John possessed knowledge and experience making him suitable to accompany Dr Glenorchy McBride in field studies conducted on the North West Island Feral Fowl.

    University of Queensland Animal Behaviourist and Geneticist, Dr Glenorchy McBride, wished to study the behaviour and dynamics of an isolated population of fowl.  Such a population was known to occur on North West Island, a coral cay off Gladstone in Central Queensland.  In 1965, Dr McBride and his small team visited the island and undertook a detailed field study and survey of the North West Island Feral Fowl (NWIFF). John described the NWIFF as “looking like some of my own bantams”

    John and his late father accompanied Dr McBride during the August 1965 field study visit.  The team was taken to and from the island by a local fisherman Lionel Wickham.

    Over the years John had camped on the island many times both before and after the island was gazetted as a National Park. He therefore saw the feral fowl population from when it was effectively in balance with the island ecology through to the disruption of that ecology following the complete removal of both the feral fowl and cat populations.

    John described the Island status in1965 as 'Unallocated Crown Land' on which the sole structure was a shack erected several years earlier by fishermen from Gladstone on the site of the old turtle-soup factory. John believed that the NWIFF originated from Burmese Jungle fowl (Gallus gallus domesticus) which were left on the Island when miners completed their mining operations. In an attempt to 'improve' the NWIFF, in the1960s a few roosters from domesticated breeds had been released on the island by Yeppoon locals who were known to John, however, because of the fierce territorial nature of the feral fowl and several other factors, John Believed it is unlikely that the introduced roosters made any contribution to the gene pool of the NWIFF. 

    John mentioned he observed large heaps of turtle bones adjacent to the shack.  These were remains from the time when the turtle-soup factory operated on the island.

    Phosphorite rock was mined at North West Island prior to mining operations being conducted at Christmas Island and Nauru.

    John was reared on a mixed farm near Yeppoon and owned about a hundred semi-feral Bantams of his own as well as other, domestic breeds, on the farm.  He often used traps or snares to catch the Bantams.

    At night John would climb the trees on North West Island in which the NWIFF were roosting, shine a torch light on the roosting Fowl and use a Rangoon-cane pole with a noose attached at the end to snare suitable individuals.  The birds that were relocated to Tryon Island were caught using this technique.

    The field study survey involved long hours seated in hessian hides observing the birds. Their territories were mapped and the birds counted within their territories. There were approximately 1500 NWIFF and 250 feral cats counted.

    NWIFF were very shy and extremely territorial with cock possessing well defined territories, the boundaries of which were strictly observed. Interstitial males opportunistically promptly replaced a dominant breeding cock bird following his demise or removal from the territory.

    John explained that spur length provided an indication of a cock bird’s age and he related an anecdotal yarn about the occasion in 1969 when he and his wife who (as was usual in those pre-National-Park times) were the sole campers on the island.  He sent his wife out with his rifle to obtain a young cockerel for the evening meal. John explained that instead of shooting a young cockerel, which was the usual fare, she returned with a rooster having 3 inch long spurs. The rooster and a couple of rocks were dropped in the boiling pot and John said:- “It was difficult to distinguish what was rock and what was chicken come meal serving time”. 

    To enable further studies of the NWIFF in an environment in which there were no cats, a breeding group of the Fowl was relocated by the McBride team to adjacent Tryon Island where there were neither Fowl nor cats.  At the time, Tryon Island was also classified as 'unallocated crown land'.  In subsequent visits to Tryon, none of the Fowl could be found.  Anecdotal evidence indicated that the Fowl had been eaten by campers who occasionally visited Tryon.

    Tryon Island is located 9.0 kilometres from to North West Island and has an area of 21 hectares (named after the naturalist Tryon)

    On North West Island, Feral Fowl were observed nesting among the entanglement of Pisonia and fig tree roots.

    Feral Fowl were opportunistic feeders.  Direct observations and examination of their digestive tracts showed that the Fowl ate figs, cockroaches, other insects, centipedes and mice and would also scavenge sea-bird carcases. They were also observed foraging along the high water mark. Their diet was influenced by the location of their territory.

    Feral Fowl breeding success was largely dependent on being synchronised with the annual arrival of thousands of migratory Mutton Birds which breed in burrows on the Island. During their stay on North West Island these birds provided easy pickings for the 250 feral cats which in turn dramatically reduced predatory pressure on the ground nesting Feral Fowl.  Once the mutton bird breeding cycle was complete, they deserted the island. Brooding Fowl and late-hatched chicks were then subject to intense predation from the cats. Late-hatched chicks were also at increased risk of dying because of entanglement in the sticky Pisonia berries.

    The shack on the Island was used by visiting campers and in 1965 by the McBride team.

    The feral fowl were observed from within hessian hides. To enable more detailed study of individual feral fowl, several attempts were made to trap them with simple “drop traps”.  However, the fowl were extremely wary and trapping was not successful. Snaring the fowl at night while they were roosting was however very successful.

    The Feral Fowl maintained a balance in the populations of mice, centipedes and cockroaches. Each of these populations increased markedly after the Fowl were eradicated from the Island. Baiting of mice after the Fowl were removed resulted in poisoning of significant numbers of Buff-banded land rails.

    John explained that although there was no permanent source of fresh water on the Island, there was a shallow depression towards the north-west end that would temporarily hold water and tree hollows maintained small quantities of water for at least several months.

    Birds were frequently observed in the early morning drinking water droplets formed by dew on the leaves of Birds Beak grass (Thuarea involuta) growing on the Island foreshores. The Fowl devised a method to harvest moisture when the opportunity presented.

    Feral Fowl would generally flee by running.  However, they flew strongly, flushing like quail and, unlike domesticated poultry breeds, were capable of strong sustained flight.

    John observed that Feral Fowl carcases had very little fat and that the breast meat was red rather than white as is the case for domesticated poultry breeds.

    Roosters were generally of two colour types, namely Silver and Red.

    There was little notable variation in the colouration of the hens.  Their feathers were predominantly mustard coloured with black edges.

    John Urane 

    9thNovember 2018

  • 19/11/2018 12:25 PM | James Goodrich (Administrator)

    2019 is fast approaching, and to celebrate the Management Committee have decided to introduce a variety of special offers for New and Renewing Members of The Pheasant and Waterfowl Society of Australia!

    In the not too distant past, the PWSA had very few Members. We all sat around a table, and had to get innovative. We had to develop a plan to invigorate new life into the Club. Today we can be happy to know that the Society is achieving some record Membership numbers, and coincidently seeing a surge in popularity for keeping Wildfowl in private Aviculture. 

    Before we get into the offers, here's some benefits to financial Membership with The Pheasant and Waterfowl Society of Australia:

    1. Bi-monthly Newsletters/Gazettes, packed with Club information, articles, event details, and the FeatherTrader
    2. Access to exclusive Member-Only areas of our Website
    3. Free advertising in our Bird-Keeper Database
    4. Bi-monthly meetings
    5. Aviary Tours
    6. Discounted Events
    7. Discounted supplies for Wildfowl and Poultry
    8. Access to freely advertise in the FeatherTrader
    9. Support a Not-for-Profit Society that has supported Australian private Aviculture since 1965!
    Here are our Membership Offers:

    Renew & Save

    If you renew your Membership before the due date, you'll receive a 20% discount off of your Membership fees! Simply renew online and use the discount code: RENEWALDISCOUNT when prompted to do so. 

    This offer has no expiration date. 

    Refer & Save

    If you are a current financial Member of The Pheasant & Waterfowl Society of Australia, and you refer a new Member to the Club, if they pass on your name to us we will give you one (1) month's free Membership. 

    This offer is unlimited and has no expiration date.

    Join & Save

    If you join The Pheasant & Waterfowl Society of Australia before 31/12/2018 we will provide you with the following:

    • Join for twelve (12) months and receive one (1) month's free Membership
    • Join for twenty-four (24) months and receive three (3) month's free Membership

    This offer is only valid until 23:59 on the 31st December, 2018

    To find out more information click the button below

    Join Us

  • 18/11/2018 11:56 AM | James Goodrich (Administrator)

    Wow! What an incredible day!

    We were joined by around twenty Members and Guests, kicking off our day at the private collection of John Urane. After a quick General Meeting we led into a presentation on the Incubation and Brooding of Pheasant chicks. 

    Everyone then had the opportunity to see how John has kept his Wildfowl for many decades. His collection includes Dark-Throated Golden Pheasants, standard Golden Pheasants, Lady Amherst Pheasants, Silver Pheasants, Kalij Nepal Pheasants, Mongolian Ring-necked Pheasants, Blue Mutant (Melanistic) Ring-necked Pheasants, Reeve's Pheasants, Black-Breasted Button Quail, show quality Silkie Chickens, Rosellas, Cockatiels, Gouldian Finches, Muscovy Ducks, and probably a few other species we've missed. 

    Following this we travelled in convoy fifteen minutes north west to Camira, and the property of Klaus Sietas. This gentleman was significantly involved in the early importation of exotic parrots from Europe to Australia, and in part is a slice of history which positively contributed to modern private Aviculture. 

    Klaus' collection includes Glossy Black Cockatoos, Major-Mitchell Cockatoos, African Grey Parrots, Scarlet Macaws, Blue & Gold Macaws, finches, Golden-Shouldered Parrots, and Lilac-Crowned Amazons. 

    If you'd like to keep up to date with The Pheasant & Waterfowl Society of Australia, you can Join Us and subscribe to our communications. 

    Here's a video of our day:

  • 31/10/2018 9:31 PM | James Goodrich (Administrator)

    What a fascinating topic for The Pheasant & Waterfowl Society of Australia to explore! So little is known about this particular bird, and its endemic history on North West Island; a coral cay northeast of the Queensland city of Gladstone. 

    The wonderful fertilising properties of guano were mined on North West Island for many years, followed by turtle soup canneries in the early 1900's. Two not so favourable points, but it is history nonetheless. 

    It is well regarded that the Feral Fowl population came to prominence as a food source for the labourers that worked there. When the manufacturing and industrial workforce abandoned the island, the birds were left to evolve in the wilderness. 

    There is a harsh reality to living on an island with no fresh water source, and that is rapid increases and declines in population density. During wet season, when the North West Island Feral Fowl breed, their numbers accelerate into the thousands. Once the dry season appears, cannibalism takes hold and the numbers depreciate. 

    This takes place year in year out, with only the strongest birds surviving. 

    Around 40 years ago some of these birds made their way over to the mainland to join passionate Aviculturalists and Wildfowl-Keepers in an attempt to test the purity of the 'species'. Reports indicate that the birds breed 'true-to-type', and could be a step forward from the original junglefowl. 

    The Pheasant & Waterfowl Society of Australia has now been lucky enough to obtain some of these birds, and in time we hope to release some to Members only. We have also secured some of the purest Red Junglefowl we have ever seen. This is another incredible benefit to being a Member of the PWSA!

    Interested in these Birds? Join the PWSA!

    If you've owned, bred, or had experience with these birds - get in touch with us! Either through our Facebook Page, or on our Contact Us page! More to come with these incredible birds, so stay tuned!

  • 19/09/2018 10:41 PM | James Goodrich (Administrator)

    Thanks to a kind donation from one of the PWSA's contacts in Tasmania, Brent Lance, we have been gifted bound volumes of 'The Pheasant' from the 1970's and 1980's. 

    The Pheasant was the previous publication before we launched 'The Duck'. It would be fascinating to sit down and view how the keeping of Wildfowl has evolved in the last 40-50 years!

    To enter this competition, you simply have to enter a photograph of any species of 'Wildfowl': Pheasants, Peafowl, Waterfowl, other Gamebirds etc.

    Where do you submit your photographs? Simply click this link and E-Mail them directly to The Pheasant & Waterfowl Society of Australia! 

    Enter Your Photograph

    Entries close on October 1st, with subsequent announcement via our Website and Social Media in the week following. 

    Best of Luck!

    PWSA Management Committee

  • 01/08/2018 9:54 PM | James Goodrich (Administrator)

    To celebrate the launch of our updated Website, we are running a competition on Facebook.

    We are giving away one (1) year's Membership to The Pheasant & Waterfowl Society of Australia. 

    To enter, all a person has to do is like and comment on the post. It's as simple and as straight forward as that. 

    The competition will close on the 14th August, 2018. In the 48 hours that follow the close of the Event, the PWSA will run a random number draw between one (1) and the total number of Likes and Comments received on the post. The number that corresponds with whichever Like and/or Comment will be the winning person. We will then contact them via Facebook to arrange their Membership.

    This competition is in no way sponsored or hosted by Facebook, and is solely that of The Pheasant & Waterfowl Society of Australia's own doing. All responsibilities lie with the PWSA. 

  • 29/07/2018 11:08 AM | James Goodrich (Administrator)

    We've just added some more Species Files!

    The Pheasant and Waterfowl Society is passionate about providing education opportunities on all Wildfowl species, with an aim to grow this section of the website on a weekly basis.

    The new pages are based on the Pacific Black Duck, Magpie Goose, Mute Swan, and Swinhoe's Pheasant!

    Discover More

    To get regular updates, subscribe to our mailing list or join as a financial Member!

  • 24/07/2018 12:55 AM | James Goodrich (Administrator)

    Today marks the launch of our brand new website!

    Personally, we couldn't be happier. The team set out, with a clear vision, to provide a more comprehensive and modern experience for Members of our Society. 

    There had previously been a number of challenges, or perhaps things which made a volunteer's life a bit more demanding. Now we've combined multiple aspects of The Pheasant and Waterfowl Society of Australia into one website. 

    The main addition is that of the Membership Management system. Not only is the administration side vastly easier and more automated, but we can now offer a unique variety of benefits to Members that previously we couldn't. 

    This includes the Bird-Keeper database; effectively a directory of Members who nominate to advertise their birds online!

    We've also launched Feather-Trader. This is the first time, since our inception in the mid-sixties, that we've had an online space for Members to advertise their birds. It is certainly an improvement from calling up the Exchange Steward!

    To top that all off, we've created around sixty information files. Ranging from bird species, to diet, across to Avian Veterinarians; it's all there to make our website as worthwhile as it can be. 

    Please make sure you keep an eye on the site, as we continue to upgrade it in the coming weeks. We hope you enjoy this new space, and find continued value in being associated with The Pheasant and Waterfowl Society of Australia!

Want to find something on our Website? 

Search below.

Postal Address:

460 Middle Road,

Greenbank QLD 4124

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