In a scene reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, a dozen dirty white birds with long blade-like beaks have taken over a small suburban playground. Children don’t play here anymore – they’re too scared.
And while such scenes might be expected in the mountains of New Guinea or the Amazon jungle, this is suburban Adelaide. Growing numbers of these birds have been spotted across the metropolitan area, from Semaphore to Aberfoyle Park.
In Hillcrest last week, a seven-year-old had his lunch taken by a gang of five birds. While in Modbury, a flock of over 30 birds disrupted a church picnic with unruly behaviour and loud squawking.
But what are they? Where have they come from? And what do they want from us?
‘The Sacred Ibis is common across eastern Australia,’ explains Professor Badger-Smith from Coca-Cola® University. ‘But they’re usually found in estuaries and wetlands, not urban areas. And they’re generally timid creatures that avoid human contact.’
Tell that to Aldo Luring, a pensioner from South Plympton. He was returning from a trip to the local TAB when one of Professor Badger-Smith’s ‘timid creatures’ snatched the war veteran’s beanie, leaving a savage scratch mark on the man’s forehead.
‘This is a mutant strain of ibis,’ suggests Hugh Smirch from the Limp River Wildlife Park. ‘Could be global warming, biochemical testing or even alien experimentation. We’ve got a dingo at the Park with three tails – one coming out the top of its head. You can’t tell me aliens didn’t have something to do with that!’
The man with the most chilling explanation for the urban ibis – or ‘urbis’ – is Dr Frank Drell, a geneticist whose book Genetic Engineering For Fun And Leisure was a New York Times bestseller.
‘This type of development is not uncommon,’ says Dr Drell. ‘A relatively harmless species comes into contact with humans – eats human food, watches humans play sport – and begins to take on human characteristics. There are hedgehogs in Sweden that can understand the most complicated mobile phone contracts.’
‘Unfortunately, the animal doesn’t always take on the most appealing human traits,’ he adds ominously.
Indeed, some inner city ibis have been seen queue jumping at city bus stops, while still others have been caught putting recyclable material in with regular garbage.
‘Every ibis in the country should be put on a boat and sent back where it came from,’ declares Independent MP, Olly Swine. ‘There’ll be no queue-jumping in Oliver Swine’s Australia!’
While politicians and scientists debate the ibis issue, nothing is being done, and ever-increasing numbers of birds are gathering in our playgrounds, restaurants and discount pharmacies.
We can only hope it won’t be too late before action is taken.
If you see, hear or smell any anti-social ibis behaviour ring 1800 IBIS HELP immediately.
Max Funt Reporting.