Professional ‘bin chicken shoo-ers’ hired
SURFERS Paradise restaurants have taken the extraordinary step of hiring staff to keep pesky birds from harassing and scaring customers.
Owners say the intrusive but protected ibis are costing them business and overheads - and they also have their feathers ruffled by a lack of help from Gold Coast City Council.
Some owners claim council officers had told them to hire staff to deal with the bold birds which frequently fight Soul Boardwalk diners for their food.
But Surfers Paradise MP John-Paul Langbroek said it was the sort of thing council should be doing: "It's their core type of business.
"If the ibis are getting into rubbish and creating problems and a potential health hazard, that is council. They should be doing something about it.
"They should do more than they are currently doing which is telling the small business operators they should get bird shoo-ers."
Gold Coast Central Chamber of Commerce president Martin Hall said the chamber would help lobby council: "I would have thought this would be something the council should be jumping on board with."
Greek Street Grill owner Theo Kostoglou, who employs someone to be a "bird shoo-er", claimed a council officer told his staff restaurants needed to hire people specifically to keep birds at bay.
"I know some of my staff said that (happened)," he said.
"We hire extra staff to shoo them (the birds) away already and make sure the birds don't attack the food.
"As soon as the customer gets up to walk in and get cutlery the birds have just picked up the food and taken off or they sit there picking off their plate."
Surfers Paradise Beach Cafe owner Arthur de Snoo said hiring a "bird shoo-er" was not financially viable.
"If you were to hire someone it would be from 8-6pm, cost you $200 a day. Times that by 365 days and that is a lot of money," he said.
"It is not good for business or tourism. Council washed their hands of it - it is not good enough."
Esplanade business bosses say customers write negative reviews online, typically saying great views and food were ruined by the birds.
A council spokesman said this year 20 complaints had been made about ibis, up five on the year before.
The ibis population in the city had remained consistent at about 2500 birds.
"Council officers have previously advised restaurateurs that is their responsibility to manage the ibis situation on their own premises," the spokesman said.
Surfers Paradise Alliance CEO Mike Winlaw said "do not feed the birds" signs were erected but hadn't worked.
Moy Rivas, visiting from Houston, wasn't fazed when harassed by a pigeon as he ate on Thursday afternoon.
"I am not used to this back home," Mr Rivas said. "I thought it was cool - but it was trying to steal my food.
"I added (a photo of the pigeon) to my Instagram story."
PAID TO GIVE PESTS THE BIRD
HANNAH Ingram is a professional Surfers Paradise bird shoo-er.
Five months ago she was petrified of pesky ibis - a.k.a "bin chickens" or "rats of the sky" - plaguing Soul Boardwalk's eateries.
But now the 24-year-old Coomera woman is responsible for clearing Greek Street Grill's outdoor tables quickly enough to stop the birds picking at leftovers.
Part of her role is to spray them and chase them away when customers are eating "because they really bother a lot of people.
"I usually stand out front and I am the one who has to chase them.
"Most people (including staff) are pretty scared of the birds. I was petrified and wanted them gone so I would chase after them.
"(My bosses) were like 'We need someone doing that all the time'."
Ms Ingram said the same birds come back each day for a free feed.
"There's definitely one always around, he's got a mark on his back," she said.
"A lot of people ask if this is my full-time job and (say) I am a bird watcher."
Ms Ingram said ibis were intimidating and swooped in whether people were finished eating or not.
Often kitchen staff had to remake meals.
"A lot of kids are scared away and families end up moving inside because the kids can't deal with the birds. They'll literally sit over your shoulder waiting for you to finish," she said.
"We get a lot of complaints, people saying 'you need to control your birds' and we (say) they're not ours."
The Australian white ibis is identified by a long, down-curved bill, white body plumage and a black, featherless head and neck. When breeding a small patch of skin on the undersurface of the wing changes from dull pink to scarlet. The birds are common across eastern and northern Australia.
Preferred habitats are swamps, lagoons, floodplains and grasslands, but the ibis has moved successfully into urban parks and gardens. Food now ranges from crayfish and mussels to human scraps.
Source: Birds in Backyards