A Halloween decoration popping up in suburban front yards across the country has become a serious threat to local wildlife.

Pumpkins, plastic ghosts and fake spider webs stretched across front porches, are annual reminders the spooky season is upon us in Australia.

However, a startling new trend has emerged in the run up to Halloween this year and it’s causing serious concern for conservationists.

Birdlife Australia public affairs manager Sean Dooley said there are lots of threats to birds living in cities and towns, but artificial spider webs are a fairly new one.

“We’re hearing of more and more people finding birds entangled in them,” he said.

Birdwatchers first reported the problem in the American hummingbird population, with the species regularly becoming entangled in synthetic spider webs stretched over the yards of California suburbs as early as 2020.

“They fly into it but then they can’t get out,” Mr Dooley said.

“If you do discover a trapped bird, don’t try and pull the bird out because you could break its toes or its legs.”

The best way to free the bird is to gently cut the web before slowly untangling them.

The timing of Halloween in the southern hemisphere presents its own unique challenges to Australia’s bird populations.

“The big problem in Australia is that Halloween occurs in the nesting season and you’ve got chicks that are leaving the nest and exploring and not very good at flying,” Mr Dooley said.

“So they’re more likely to get tangled up.”

Another issue is that adult birds collect the soft material to line their nests, and their young children become trapped in them as they try to leave the nest.

A WIRES spokesperson said despite public concern, they have not had any calls to their 24/7 rescue office relating to entangled marsupials or birds.

“However, they may have been entangled and then released by the homeowner or freed themselves,” the spokesperson said.

“If anyone does see an animal caught in the replica spider web or decorations please call their nearest wildlife rescue group or WIRES on 1300 094 737.”

However. they do urge people to never put themselves at risk by attempting to untangle a microbat, flying fox or snake. Only trained wildlife volunteers should handle these animals.

WIRES is asking the public to responsibly discard materials like the replica spider webbing as quickly as possible after Halloween to lessen the risk of an animal being trapped.

Small ways humans threaten wildlife

While Halloween decorations do present a danger to suburban bird populations, there are a number of other ways humans are causing harm to birds without realising.

“Our birds, especially birds in cities and towns, face an enormous number of threats,” Mr Dooley said.

“From roaming cats to vehicle collision to secondary poisoning from eating rats and mice that have taken rat bait.”

Owls, kestrels, falcons and magpies commonly ingest toxic loads of chemicals when eating vermin.

This can be particularly harmful to birds which are unable to break it down in their guts, leading it to build up in their systems over time.

Fruit and vegetable tree netting is another little known threat to bird populations, with many people opting to choose bird-friendly netting that will ward them off without trapping them.

The Aussie Bird Count is underway this week, and already 1.5 million birds have been counted by citizen scientists.

BirdLife Australia is hoping for a massive effort from citizen scientists across Australia to get to its goal of five million before the annual challenge ends on Sunday.


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By Rahul

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