back to article Birds are pecking apart Australia's national broadband network

Australia's national broadband network (NBN) is being pecked apart by birds. nbn™, the company building and operating the NBN, has revealed that “native parrots have recently been found feasting on spare power and fibre cables strung from NBN Co's near 2,000 Fixed-Wireless towers”. The company has used a picture of a sulphur- …

  1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    A culling program

    It's the only thing for it.

    1. Simon Sharwood, Reg APAC Editor (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: A culling program

      There's about a bajillion cockatoos in Australia. Good luck culling enough to make a difference.

      1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: A culling program

        Oh I know! They fly in flocks over my house at the crack of dawn. It sounds like the world's ending.

        Cull them all.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Cull them all.

          Beautiful plumage, though.

          1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

            Re: Cull them all.

            Culling doesn't work - what will work is a good recipe ... cockatoo cutlets, curried cockatoo, blackened cockatoo or similar ... humans get bored shooting and killing things eventually but they never get tired of a good meal.

            Here in Louisiana we used to throw Red Drum back when we caught them as a trash fish ... and then Paul Prudhomme invented Blackened Redfish ... Red Drum is now on the endangered list...

          2. Michael Thibault

            Re: Cull them all.

            Plumage is beautiful, you say! A little social engineering and the cull could be self-starting and pay for itself.

          3. mantavani
            Thumb Up

            Re: Cull them all.

            The plumage don't enter into it.

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Coat

        "There's about a bajillion cockatoos in Australia."

        Wot? And no one's tried popping a few on the Barbie?

        They sound like every other species of flying rodent, and I'm quite an admirer of the Korean rural rodent control policy

        But oh dear what a glorious headline opportunity sadly squandered.

        "Flying rodent tells NBN to flock off."

        "Flock that. Cockatoos couldn't give a XXXX how much NBN cost"

        1. Denarius Silver badge

          Re: "There's about a bajillion cockatoos in Australia."

          eating our local birds ? John, there is a local saying about that. To cook a parrot, drop a rock and parrot into a pot of water. Boil until rock is soft, eat it and throw bird away. In the NT the local story was wrapping cockatoo in foil or mud and baking in hot coals for two hours would do. Never tried it as barra were available.

          Oz wildlife, deadly and tough in both sense of the word. PS first brown snake of summer around yesterday. Regrettably, much of our local wild bird populations are reducing, except sulfur crested cokatoos. Many juvenile magpies are hit by 4WDs at speed on narrow lanes locally.

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: eating our local birds ?

            Ooh! I wouldn't mind noshing down on a cockatoo.

            1. hplasm Silver badge
              Paris Hilton

              Re: Ooh! I wouldn't mind noshing down on a cockatoo.

              Ooo! matron!!

            2. TheVogon Silver badge

              Re: eating our local birds ?

              "Ooh! I wouldn't mind noshing down on a cockatoo"

              I'm sure we can find you a large pecker...

              1. TRT Silver badge

                Re: eating our local birds ?

                A big, beautiful cockatoo.

            3. jgarbo

              Re: eating our local birds ?

              You haven't heard about the recipe for cockatoo soup.

              Take one cockatoo, plucked or not. Toss in pot of boiling water, a little salt added. Toss in one house brick. Boil for a few days. When brick is dissolved, chuck out cockatoo and eat the soup.

              That's how tough the buggers are.

            4. Toni the terrible

              Re: eating our local birds ?

              ooooo errr,

          2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
            Coat

            "Oz wildlife, deadly and tough in both sense of the word. "

            Oh.

            So one for the slow cooker then?

        2. Bill Posters
          Mushroom

          Re: "There's about a bajillion cockatoos in Australia."

          You can cook a cockatoo.

          Boil in billy with 4 or 5 river stones for a week.

          (Keep the water topped up.)

          Carefully drain the billy.

          Eat the stones.

        3. Clive Harris

          Re: Wot? And no one's tried popping a few on the Barbie?

          Fry me kangaroo brown, sport!

      3. Geriant

        Re: A culling program

        I dunno. There were several bajillion passenger pigeons in North America -- and they were culled to nonexistence.

        1. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Re: A culling program

          Passenger pigeons made the mistake, other than being delicious, of migrating south for the winter in large, low flying flocks. So low flying they were netted.

          Cockatoos do not migrate en mass making an eradication program in a country with such large wildernesses a very different proposition.

          Being native is not a necessary bar to culling or hunting, see the roo meat in the supermarkets. In NZ the once fairly uncommon native paradise shellduck has adapted to open farmland and farm ponds so well (they eat grass too) that it is as legal to hunt them, in the season, as introduced mallards.

          But better bone up on your NZ native duck profiles before you go. Shoot one of the rare native ducks you are not allowed to shoot and all hell will descend around you.

        2. hplasm Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: A culling program

          "I dunno. There were several bajillion passenger pigeons in North America -- and they were culled to nonexistence."

          Do Aussies want to stoop down to that historical madness?

          1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

            Re: A culling program

            Do Aussies want to stoop down to that historical madness?

            We did have a go at the emus once...

      4. Cuddles Silver badge

        Re: A culling program

        "There's about a bajillion cockatoos in Australia. Good luck culling enough to make a difference."

        Not a problem, we'll just introduce a new species to eat them. That's always worked well in the past.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: A culling program

          Cricket is the answer, as so often. Was reading a thing about WG Grace on one of his tours of Australia in the 1880s/90s. Apparently the England team were travelling for some inordinately long distance, and as WG put, amused themselves by having a competition to see how many of the local parrots each one of them could shoot from the moving coach.

          Good old WG. The man who wrote on the first page of his manual on batting, "one should always remove one's pipe before going out to bat". Execllent advice, I'm sure we can all agree.

    2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: A culling program

      Chop off a cockatoo. It will stop them reproducing.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Every living thing in Australia is deadly dangerous

    Is this nature saying:

    Down under, up yours!

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Every living thing in Australia is deadly dangerous

      Does this include the humans?

      1. Toni the terrible

        Re: Every living thing in Australia is deadly dangerous

        Yes

    2. Christoph Silver badge

      Re: Every living thing in Australia is deadly dangerous

      Except, according to Pterry, some of the sheep.

  3. Tac Eht Xilef

    So NBNCo ...

    ... failed to heed the lessons learned by every other telco & regional/remote broadcaster in the last 50 years?

    I wonder how much of their in-ground fibre is termite & wombat proof?

    (Reminds me of the scene a few years ago when they were relining street pipes around here (gas, I think). To measure it they rolled the sleeving out in sections along the right of way behind the houses houses, backing on to the local park, then knocked off for the afternoon. When they came back next morning, they found it shredded & hanging in chunks from the trees.

    Turns out the local possums & scrub turkeys loved the stuff...)

    1. BanburyBill

      Re: So NBNCo ...

      Plus ca change. In the early days of the Overland Telegraph to Darwin (~1870), they kept getting line breaks because the local Aboriginal people found that the ceramic insulators made excellent sharp edges when broken, so climbed the poles and made off with them. Chief Engineer Charles Todd (the town of Alice is named after his wife) deflected this by ordering old broken insulators be left scattered around the poles after construction and maintenance.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: So NBNCo ...

      along the right of way behind the houses houses

      Wow. Even the houses in Australia have houses..

  4. mt_head

    Reminds me of a bit from an old Emo Phillips joke/song (which I'm sure I will mangle):

    I walked into a pet shop, and said "Give me a parrot, please"

    He asked "Would you like a cockatoo"

    I said "No thanks, just the bird."

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As to culling, just offer it as varmit control holiday to yanks

    Certainly target provides far more colorful/interesting scalps than the old native population of the US ever did.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: As to culling, just offer it as varmit control holiday to yanks

      The non-native population of US provides for plenty of that nowdays. Just make your choice between New York sewerage crocks, Pythons in Florida and swamp rats in Louisiana. Bigger trophy sizes to put on your wall too.

      1. CentralCoasty
        Trollface

        Re: As to culling, just offer it as varmit control holiday to yanks

        Hey, this is a good idea... .we can deal with all sorts of varmits in the same stroke....

        ..... whilst the idiot trophy hunters are out taking pot-shots, the other crowd of parakeets will be busy shredding the camper-van's tires, window seals, roof vent, the tents, food containers, eskies, water containers - in fact just about anything that can get their beak into.....

        ...... so we end up with lots of dead cockatoos and lots of dead trophy hunters... a win win I think!

  6. Scoular

    Why have unprotected cables there at all

    The birds are well known to enjoy what they do and if the active cables are protected why bother putting in spares and not protecting them.

    It has all happened before The SF BART system suffered from cables being destroyed by gophers so all the buried cables had to be dug up and replaced by the armoured ones which should have been used in the first place.

    Being a dumb cheapskate costs money.

    1. Pirate Dave
      Pirate

      Re: Why have unprotected cables there at all

      "Being a dumb cheapskate costs money."

      Yes, but is the first step to a long and fruitful career in upper management.

      1. Someone Else Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Why have unprotected cables there at all

        No one said that the bean counters at $FATASS_CORP are the sharpest tacks in the box

    2. kain preacher Silver badge

      Re: Why have unprotected cables there at all

      Or some contractor saw dollar signs. They told them that it would be cost savings knowing they would have4 to be dug up and relaid .

      1. Captain DaFt

        Re: Why have unprotected cables there at all

        Or some contractor saw dollar signs. They told them that it would be cost savings knowing they would have4 to be dug up and relaid .

        Reminds me of what happened here back in the noughties.

        New highway project awarded to the lowest bidder, started falling apart as soon as it was opened.

        Mo problem, call in the company contracted to do repairs.

        Guess what? Same company.

    3. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Re: Why have unprotected cables there at all

      > Being a dumb cheapskate costs money.

      To be fair, they expect the network to be obsolete as soon as it's rolled out. Why add all those expensive plastic containers?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm surprised the NBN didn't tweet about it.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Joke

      ..or even get in a flap over it.

      1. John Tappin

        Now, now...

        you are just "parroting" old jokes...

      2. gc23
        Joke

        A pun in the hand

        I'm sure the problem ruffled feathers somewhere.

        1. ravenviz Silver badge

          Re: A pun in the hand

          They’ll just have to perchase some new spares.

  8. the Jim bloke Bronze badge
    Happy

    Australian bird calls are generally the opposite of melodious

    So "tweeting" is right up there with "white christmas" as something those drongoes from the northern hemisphere think is a thing.

    Some few birds are pleasant to listen to - so long as you can hear them over the flies. The game 'Gaints: Citizen Kabuto' used Australian wildlife calls as part of its background ambiance, supposedly to create the sense of an alien world... personally I found it comforting and familiar.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Australian bird calls are generally the opposite of melodious

      I used to share my house with a budgie. He could say "ploppy bottom" amongst other things. Saved me the bother. I often thought it would be fun to spend a couple of years down there teaching the native budgies a few choice phrases.

      Mind you despite their diminutive size budgies can be quite loud if they want to be.

      1. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: Australian bird calls are generally the opposite of melodious

        Most New Zealand birds tell you their name, their Maori name at least. The Maori listened to the birds, assumed they were telling them their names so obliged. And yes the Morepork (native owl) really does say 'morepork' in the night time bush. The keas, the mountain parrots who have destructive tendencies to match cockatoos will also go 'keeaaa'.

        I remember trying to sleep in a tent at Franz Joseph with the woman now my wife while two keas in trees 40m apart screamed at each other. Then again I have also been woken in the men's dorm at Franz Joseph youth hostel by a chorus of korimako (bellbirds) which was glorious. The English name gives a sense of the tone of the call of these birds.

  9. Jean Le PHARMACIEN
    Joke

    foul paste

    Pfffft now I need a new phone....

    Read this line and that was it..

    " into a foul paste.."

    Visions of mashed birds being fed to parrot ...or did it describe the parrot?

    Very clever..

  10. David Roberts Silver badge
    Trollface

    Wrong approach

    Just soak the covering in cyanide.

  11. JJKing Bronze badge
    Thumb Up

    Alternative tasking for them?

    There's about a bajillion cockatoos in Australia.

    Shame they couldn't be trained to attack cane toads.

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: Alternative tasking for them?

      Cane toads secrete ouabain from glands behind the head. Ouabain poisons the sodium/potassium ATPase which all cells have and which maintains an electrical potential difference between the outside and the inside (it moves more sodium out than potassium in). Without this nerve conduction and muscle contractions will decline and cells will lose the ability to regulate their water balance (you move dissolved solutes down their electrochemical gradient or pump them up it to get the water to move by osmosis.

      That is a difficult thing, like cyanide which poisons the citric acid cycle, to develop resistance to.

      Back in the Physiology Dept in Dunedin, NZ we used cane toads as teaching tools and research subjects (their urinary bladders were patch-clamped). So I am familiar with them. I also know to wash my hands or replace my gloves after handling live toads and not to rub my eyes etc.

      1. Adam 1 Silver badge

        Re: Alternative tasking for them?

        So what you are saying is that we should teach them how to hold a golf club instead?

  12. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    where's today's on-call?

    1. Pedigree-Pete Bronze badge
      Thumb Up

      On Call?

      and BOFH. PP

    2. Spacedinvader

      Huh?

      Posted at 7.01am...

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/11/03/on_call/

      1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

        Re: Huh?

        Then I shall blame a sticky cache on my browser.... :)

  13. batfink

    Yes they can be a tad noisy

    Used to have a flock of them lining up on my verandah rail, which being second floor was nice and handy for the nearby pine trees (the pinecones would suffer a severe shredding). The racket was tremendous when they'd arrive - no chance of sleeping through that or having non-shouted conversations.

    After they got used to the sight of us, they'd sit on the rail and "talk" to us. Clearly trying to communicate in some form, or maybe just discussing amongst themselves how quickly they could strip us to the bone...

  14. Orv Silver badge

    In event of radio failure, squawk 7600.

  15. Diogenes

    As i read this

    There is a flock of their nit quite so destructive, but just as noisy cousins, the koella (they have white crests and pink around the eyes) on the oval behind us and have been screeching since just after 3am, it is now6 am.

    It brings to mind, stories i heard when working for telstra of termites/ants developing a taste for the insulation of cables crossing the Nullarbour

  16. Slx

    Deadly surprises inside cabinets and boxes too!

    The telco cabinets and underground vaults are also home to deadly spiders and snakes, just to add to the fun!

  17. 100113.1537

    Pink and grey galah

    I've only seen sulphur-crested cockatoos as pets - and I steer a very wide berth. They are not only quite dangerous but bad tempered too and will pick on certain people while being quite docile with others. Put me right off keeping birds as pets.

    I have seen a wheat field in WA destroyed by a flock of pink and greys though. These are lovely looking birds that flash pink underwings when they fly, but don't ever mention how nice they are to farmers! The paddock I was shown was completely destroyed - it looked like it had been harvested with every stem cut about 15-20 cm off the ground. The ridiculous things was that only about a quarter of the seed was eaten as the birds just cut down the plants and moved on. And these are a protected species....

    1. Paul 129
      Angel

      Re: Pink and grey galah

      As I have a Sulphur as a pet, I can say they are the most lovable, adorable social creatures, They have a similar lifespan as a person. Give them a chance and they will tear a hole through a wall, cause some of the wood looked loose, and it is funny to see it chew through a 2inch concrete perch.

      Pets, and the other family members don't understand of course. They just see it as a lump of pure rage and aggression, that shrieks the way it does, cause it isn't making them scream like that.

      But it gives cuddles!

    2. Orv Silver badge

      Re: Pink and grey galah

      From what I understand cockatoos (and most of the large members of the parrot family) are quite jealous. They bond with one person and will try to "defend" them from any newcomers. So it's not surprising a bird whose owner finds quite pleasant is a screaming shuttlecock of rage to everyone else.

      I'm actually quite fond of them but I know I'm not up to the responsibility of a pet that lives that long and needs that much social interaction to stay sane.

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: a bird whose owner finds quite pleasant is a screaming shuttlecock of rage to everyone else.

        Pieces of hate. Pieces of hate.

  18. James O'Shea Silver badge

    Hmmm

    yellow-orange thing on head.... check

    makes lots of noise, but no sense.... check

    does things it's not supposed to.... check

    Are you _certain_ that those things are really Trump Birds?

  19. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    So this NBN has bad customer service?

    And it's network is cocka-too?

  20. harmjschoonhoven

    Not only birds

    When there's no deer, or quail, or whatever it is hunters shoot up in The Dalles around, bored gunmen have been playing target practice with the insulators on Google's electricity distribution poles. It's so problematic Google's moving their fibers underground.

    The fibers that are continually being shot down connect with Google's $600 million data center in The Dalles. It happens as soon as hunting season starts each November, so now a fed-up Google is building an underground path for it.

    https://gizmodo.com/5644050/bored-hunters-in-oregon-are-regularly-shooting-down-googles-fibers

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Not only birds

      "bored gunmen have been playing target practice with the insulators on Google's electricity distribution poles"

      That's been a problem for telcos since time immemorial. They shoot up the cables too if they're particularly bored.

    2. the Jim bloke Bronze badge

      Re: Not only birds

      Going back a few decades, indigenous Australian Aborigines used to like telegraph/power pole insulators to chip blades and tools from, taking down the line in the process.

      Smart maintenance crews would just leave some spare/broken insulators at the base of the poles.

    3. Orv Silver badge

      Re: Not only birds

      When I worked for the signal department of a railroad, that kind of thing was a constant problem. They actually switched signal designs to one that was less likely to malfunction from having a bullet put into it, after a fragment of a .22 slug jammed the mechanical relay inside a signal and caused a "false clear" incident.

  21. Shane 4

    Dangerous?

    Most dangerous wildlife we have here would have to be the 4WD/SUV drivers who think they own the road!

    1. FozzyBear Silver badge

      Re: Dangerous?

      Oh, so you live in the centre of Sydney too?

      The only time those 4WD's see any action is when the incompetent driver mounts the gutter

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  22. rsole

    Where's the news?

    I cannot see anything newsworthy about this. It has been going on for years, why should the NBN be exempt.

  23. clochard

    Not just Cockatoos

    Here in Blighty the crows have pulled out the wiring outside my house exposing it to the weather. The resulting static on the line caused my ADSL service to fail. It took over two weeks of texting (!) with Sky, and after receiving a new router on a new 12 month contract, to reach the stage where a crew was sent out to check and fix the wiring. Before, they "tested" the line many times ignoring my complaint of static and mention of recent bad weather. My conclusion is the next time this happens I will cancel my service and switch to mobile broadband because landline companies and the script monkeys who do tech support will be unwilling / unable to diagnose and fix a wiring issue faster than a month. Mobile broadband is getting faster (especially 4 and 5g) and cheaper, and any problem with the network would be instantly apparent to even the dumbest engineer.

    1. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Re: Not just Cockatoos

      Always get them to pass the problem up the chain, and never accept a new contract until after the connection is fixed...

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh dear: wrong cockatoo in your picture, too. Make the effort, Google "Galah" (the miscreants are not Sulphur Crested that you show).

    Stuff the broadband. The real frustration is that the perpetrators are often shot as pests, for the 'crimes' of being intelligent and inquisitive, whereas Australia prohibits their export as pets.

    They make beautiful and companionable pets, particularly for the elderly and housebound (just as long as you don't want Netflix or Amazon too, obviously).

  25. tempemeaty

    Sounds like a fish I've heard of...

    Maybe the birds classification should be changed to “Flying Piranha”

    XD

  26. Shart Tank

    Just wanted to say that everyone saying we should cull our native fauna is a complete waste of space. If I have to share the planet with you, you can share it with some native birds.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Culling ?

      @Sh*t

      Say that after a roo has jumped in front of your bike/car/truck for the 3rd time in a year. There a are limits to how slow one can go practically before a 4WD or motoring incompetent increases ones speed suddenly and expensively, aside from simply wasting time in transit to satisfy the selfish desires of some do-gooders who dont live within 50 miles.

      Or tell the kid who had a magpie blind him in one eye.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      At one time every single fruit tree planted in te garden needed a wire cage top protect it from the 100+ deer hers roaming the place. (suffolk)

      They got turned into prime venison, and the most Ive seen since is 15 at a time.

  27. DerekCurrie
    Unhappy

    In the USA: Beware of Cable Chewing Squirrels and Other Rodents

    Om Nom Nom...

    https://i.imgur.com/3P45TwO.jpg

  28. itzman
    Paris Hilton

    Sharkls like undersea cables as well apparently.

    But the parrots? They just wanna Twitter, let's face it.

  29. Mike 137

    Shame on you El Reg

    clickbait title -boring report

    1. Uffish

      Re: boring

      Some people have to specify stuff that will be installed in places they are not familiar with. A few cautionary tales are needed now and again so that "impossible" and "nonexistent" problems at least considered and looked for before it's too late.

  30. Tech In Training
    Holmes

    That parrot wouldn't move if you put 4,000MHz through it!

    I worked for Telstra (nee Telcom Oz) in the early 80s and it was well known then, that native birds would chew on damn near anything.

    Anything includes the weather caps at the pointy end of microwave wave guides, as found pointing at dishes on microwave trunk bearers. Live or not, they'd happily turn the mica(?) caps to dust. Then the inside of the wave guide would corrode or fill up with dust or bugs or whatever and down goes your bearer.

    This is why you don't see naked dishes up telco poles in Oz. Even nbn™ know it. The dishes on their fixed-wireless towers have protective shrouding and as stated above, all the "live" cable runs are armoured... Yes Prime (former Communications) Minister.

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