Is Australia’s growing love of Halloween putting our wildlife at risk? | Wildlife

Fears that popular Halloween decorations could endanger Australian birds, insects and animals have caused angst on social media platforms.

An online post that has been shared on local community forums across Australia has warned that fake spider webs are deadly to birds, butterflies and bees.

Please do not use this stuff to decorate! Fake spider web decorations kill birds. It’s strong enough to trap an owl and wreaks terrible havoc every October on small birds, including hummingbirds. It is also deadly to monarch butterflies and even bees.

— Kathryn Orr (@kcorr54) October 22, 2022

The spelling “neighbors” and the mention of hummingbirds reveal that the message, much like the party itself, is an American import.

But fake Halloween cobwebs are also a threat to Australian wildlife, according to animal welfare groups.

Sean Dooley, national director of public affairs at Birdlife Australia, said the leading native bird organization was concerned about the issue.

Dooley says it was brought up last year, with at least one anecdotal report of a bird entangled in Halloween decorations, but evidence of it occurring across Australia is “slim”.

Dooley says fine netting is always problematic, but especially when draped over bushes, it could increase the risk of birds becoming entangled.

“There’s a lot less chance of entanglement or interference when it comes to fences and areas where birds don’t normally feed,” he says.

“But if it’s among the outer branches and leaves of trees and bushes, that would greatly increase the possibility of birds being affected.”

The false spider webs could pose a risk to Australian birds still present in suburban areas, such as lesser honeyeaters, spines or silvereyes, which feed on the foliage.

Dooley says he doesn’t know if birds like owls could be trapped, as online posts suggest, but if the material was as strong as fishing line and nets, coastal birds as big as the pelicans would be unable to free themselves.

Dooley says he’s also concerned that it’s nesting season in Australia and Halloween material might look attractive to birds as nest liners.

“Because it’s not a natural fiber…they are hard to break so can entangle the baby birds. I saw it myself, a bird in the nest dying because it got entangled in some sort of artificial thread wrapped around its leg…it was pretty horrible, it fell out of the nest which was hanging just by its paw and died there.

Dooley says the wording of the message – that the fake spider web kills birds – “seems a bit extreme”. He says the birds are at risk of becoming entangled and can die when entangled. However, “it is important to note that, in the order of threats to birds, this problem lags far behind such things as habitat clearing or feral predators, in terms of the causes of bird mortality” .

“But it’s something that could easily be avoided.”

“Even though many small bushbirds are slowly disappearing from suburban areas, where there are still available habitats, small bushbirds like silvereyes, fairy wrens, thornbushes and small honeyeaters persist in urban spaces. and could be in danger.”

It’s almost Aussies going crazy for the Halloween party season

— The Airships Office (@jonkudelka) October 20, 2022

Professor Richard Kingsford, director of the Center for Ecosystem Science at the University of New South Wales, says we have no shortage of things we’ve introduced into the environment that could cause problems.

Kingsford believes that insects would be more vulnerable than birds because they could not disentangle themselves.

But he says that unlike a real spider’s web where they would be stuck and eaten, they would have a chance to escape.

“It will really be a matter of whether or not they get tangled in the wires and manage to escape. And even if they got away, were they damaged in the process? »

“I think we should always think about the indirect consequences of what we do.”

Kingsford says the appeal of sharing these posts should be to find evidence on “whether this is a real problem or not, and how big is it?”

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