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Plan to stop birds singing on quiet Aussie street branded 'ridiculous'

More than 20 towering trees were blanketed in nets, angering retirement home residents.

Complaints about birds singing outside homes at an Australian aged care facility resulted in a response residents have branded “ridiculous” and utterly “bizarre”. Rather than scare the offending Indian mynas away, property owner Australian Unity decided to instead cover the 23 towering trees in giant nets, sparking division in the small community.

Although the birds were kept away and the netting complied with state regulations, the sight of trees coated in metres of plastic netting was deemed unsightly by elderly residents who were wanting to enjoy a picturesque retirement on Victoria’s popular Mornington Peninsula. Others argued shade caused by the netting was causing foliage to die. But more worryingly, some say small native birds were becoming trapped inside the netting.

Responding to questions from Yahoo, Australian Unity said it was simply responding to complaints from residents about the birds and it applied the "most appropriate response at the time".

Left - a netted tree at the Australian Unity retirement home. Right - a row of netted trees a the property.
Some residence argue netting so many large trees was 'ridiculous'. Source: Katrina Larsen

"(We) began trialling a netting system on a number of trees in an effort to deter a number of Indian Myna birds which had been impacting some residents' health and wellbeing, and causing stress over time," it said.

While residents who had previously enjoyed the sound of the birds were sympathetic to the needs of neighbours who were irritated by the noise, it was the scale of Australian Unity's response that left them angered.

“We had the most terrible trouble because birds were becoming trapped,” one 72-year-old resident told Yahoo News. “It was the most ridiculous thing and many of us didn't feel like we were consulted.”

A visitor to the property, Katrina Larsen, agreed the streets appeared like something from a dystopian film set. “The trees were wilted, sad, and ugly” she said. “If you’re going to plant trees, you should expert birds, that’s just nature.”

Why retirement village owner later removed netting

Australian Unity maintains it consulted with residents, bird control experts, as well as wildlife management and control authorities. "The netting was installed by professional bird control experts in line with Victorian regulations," it said.

“Following the completion of the trial period in late February, the netting was removed. While we have seen a positive outcome regarding the Indian myna birds, we continue to monitor the situation as part of our ongoing commitment to the wellbeing of residents at Peninsula Grange," it added.

Left - close up of a netted tree. Right - a noisy miner inside the netting of a tree.
Although the netting was professionally installed, native birds would sometimes become trapped inside nets. Source: Katrina Larsen

Attempts to scare birds cause community division

Living with nature can be difficult for many people. A childcare centre in Sydney claimed it was spending more than $300 a week to clean up mess cleaning the area around its premises.

But efforts by humans to scare away offending birds frequently make headlines due to the division it can cause in the community. In 2022, a Sydney council sparked anger after it fixed spikes to branches to stop ibis from perching above park benches and defecating on them.

Bats too can often split communities. Several city councils have used loud noises and lights to scare away flying foxes, when they roost near areas inhabited by humans. In 2023, Sutherland Shire Mayor Carmelo Pesce controversially took things a step further and called for bats in his community to be shot, saying "they're dirty and they've got diseases". He later apologised for the outburst, saying it was a joke.

But not all methods do spark alarm. In 2023, a man's efforts to create a DIY scarecrow owl to keep magpies away from his pet's food bowl became a sensation after it appeared to instead draw the birds towards his home.

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