Possums are Not Predators of Birds

by Andi Cockroft, CORANZ chairman

Relative to the Sporting Hunters Outdoor Trust’s contention that possums are not predators of birds, it’s worth noting the research which the trust’s spokesman Laurie Collins quoted.

Earlier this year I conducted a series of simple high-school type experiments to determine if the possum naturally consumes eggs. I used ordinary hen’s eggs. Again, note that although a hens egg may seem rather large by comparison to some of our native species, it is actually very small compared to a kiwi egg.

If you haven’t seen any of these experiments before, it’s probably good groundwork to read the four previous posts hereherehere, and here.

Starting from our main observation that possums don’t naturally touch hens’ eggs, even it an attractant is daubed over them. We have tried an egg together with plentiful supplies of other foods, an egg with but a single dog biscuit (a biscuit that was taken by the first visitor), and finally, an egg covered in Golden Syrup – the Syrup was consumed but the egg remained untouched.

Our final experiment involves an egg, some bread, and an egg that has been broken open to reveal the yoke. So our overall conclusions after 4 individual experiments over 4 nights in January 2020 have shown so far that possums do not naturally consume eggs. The whole egg involved in this series from day one has survived unscathed, despite having had one night smeared in Golden Syrup – a syrup that the possums consumed with gusto.

Because the tub used to hold the open egg was removed from the table – despite being lightly glued down, we cannot be certain whether its contents were consumed before or after it was removed. The contents were nonetheless gone by morning, but since the broken egg was on the ground anything could have eaten it – or the possum could have consumed it whilst it was on the table.

Overall however, it seems pretty clear that without any attractants, whole hens’ eggs are fairly safe from deprivation by possums.

The whole point of this series of experiments is to document the process, its outcomes and give sufficient information for anyone to replicate it in their own back yard (assuming possums are in evidence).

To be increase confidence in our findings of these rather simplistic observations, all of the above should be repeated with all manner of eggs both large and small, with both thick and thin shells. Naturally we would not want to use eggs from any endangered species, but exotic birds such as sparrow or blackbird would likely suffice.

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