The Travel Dispatch

The Battle of the Butcher Birds in Hervey Bay, Australia

This post was born 16 Oct, 2014 24 Comments
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Growing up in a time warp that very few people manage to escape from meant that I spent the first 18 years of my life within a 3 mile radius of my entire (and not completely sane) family. My younger years were spent being passed around like a hot potato from grandmother to grandmother, aunt to uncle, mom to dad, friend to foe. No kid is likely to come through that unscarred – and I was no exception.

One scar runs particularly deep and can be credited to my beautiful grandmother – Billie Jean. Don’t let her sweet, southern name fool you. She’s your stereotypical Irish Catholic, fiery red-head.

Don’t be fooled

A typical Sunday morning in her household involved a wake-up call that could be heard from the kitchen as my Poppy came in the door, arms full of groceries, only to be scolded 5 minutes later for forgetting the blueberries (which we’re 90% sure my grandma never asked him to get in the first place).

At that point I’d turn to my cousin in bed beside me and ask if it was time to get up yet. To which she’d reply “No, that’s only the first time she’s made Poppy go to the store. She’ll make him go back at least another 3 times before we have to worry about getting up.” So I’d hit the snooze button until I heard the final alarm. Think Will Ferrell but instead of “MOM – THE MEATLOAF” you hear “VINCENT – THE BACON.”

Later that day my grandma took us to Blockbuster (#tbt) to rent a movie she’d been dying to watch – The Birds (mind you this is the same woman who once rented Blow for us and after the first 10 minutes, marched us back up to the video store to berate the woman for letting a lady with 2 young children rent such a vile movie). Yet she thought an Alfred Hitchcock film was appropriate for a 7 year old.

The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock

After making us sit through the most numbifyingly horrific 120 minutes of our lives in which birds can be seen pecking out the eyes of farmers and there is no such thing as a safe haven – not the car, the phone booth, or even the bedroom – I hear “VINCENT – THE BREAD” and then my grandma turns to us and says, “Ok kids, get in the car. We’re going to the beach to feed the seagulls.”

A Not So Perfect Day in Hervey Bay, Australia

It was one of those travel days where everything went wrong. You know, the one where your flight from Sydney is delayed which causes you to miss your bus which causes you to miss your ferry which causes you to miss your planned afternoon activities on Fraser Island. On top of that, you’re too paranoid about missing the next bus to venture too far out so you decide to stay put, only the place you’re at consists of a sidewalk with a restaurant (if you can even call it that), a general store (yes – you can call it that), and a quasi-souvenir shop selling Sydney Opera House Coffee Mugs (yeah we’re in a whole different area of Australia).

We had 2 hours until the next bus so we decided to make the best of it and check out VK’s Café and Takeaway. It’s a quaint place with a wraparound porch, a nice view, good fresh fish, and a truly lovely staff. We had the place pretty much to ourselves save the one Australian couple at the table next to us.

VK's Cafe and Takeaway at Hervey Bay
Table with a view
Art at VK's Cafe and Takeaway in Hervey Bay Australia
Some decorative art

There was one rather odd thing about the place though – our table had a water bottle sitting on it. And no, not like the drinking kind. It was the kind I use to spray my cat with when he tries to lay right on top of my keyboard while I’m working.

My friend Tricia and I just gave each other that ‘wtf’ look, shrugged our shoulders, snapped a carefree pic, and put it out of our minds.

Tricia in Hervey Bay Australia at VK's Cafe
Look at Tricia. So happy and carefree. Little did we know what was in store for us…

Then our food came. And it wasn’t alone.

At this point the scar my grandma left started throbbing (think Harry Potter’s lightening mark) and I jumped up and started making noises I assume only dogs could hear as Alfred Hitchcock flashbacks blazed through my head. It just kept getting closer…

And closer…..

And closer……

Until BAM!

It’s right there in front of me, taunting and toying with me.

A butcher bird in Hervey Bay Australia
“Look deep into my eyes. It’s going to be the last thing you ever see”

The Australian next to us started howling with uncontrollable laughter and between breaths somehow managed to say “Relax, it’s only a butcher bird”. Yeah right, like that’s gonna f****** calm me down. By this point, I’m cowering behind a chair yelling over to Tricia – “Spray it! Spray it! For the love of God, SPRAY IT!”

I braved a look over and caught a frenzy-filled glimpse of her in full on battle mode with her long mane of blond hair swishing behind her back (Charlie’s Angels style) as she let those birds have it with that constant stream of water. With one last war cry, she finally broke them down and we watched them retreat back into the trees.

My heart started slowly beating its way back to normal. I took the bottle from her and looked around warily. There were more butcher birds lingering around the area but they kept their distance though one bold fella was on the table next to us taking french fries (I guess I should say chips) off the Aussie’s plate. The man didn’t even notice since he was still barreled over laughing his ass off at us (I was NOT amused).

He must not have sensed my ire because the next words out of his mouth were “They’re called butcher birds because they use their beaks to impale their prey.” (Seriously?!? Know your audience pal).

After he assured us that they don’t attack humans, we calmed down a bit and spent the rest of our time in Hervey Bay with our new local friend listening to him as he gave us an interesting zoology lesson on wildlife indigenous to the region (though I still held that spray bottle in a death grip).

His wife sat across from him diligently knitting and chimed in occasionally. They turned out to be a truly lovely couple and we had a splendid time getting to know them. If only the man could resist frightening us – “Oh you’re headed to Fraser Island, let me tell you ‘bout some wild dingoes……”

As trying as our 2 hours in Hervey Bay were, none of it mattered a few hours later when we finally found ourselves completely alone on Fraser Island…

Fraser Island Australia
Unfiltered heaven!

Have you ever been attacked by wildlife on vacation? Let me know in the comments below!

****A side note to my lovely grandmother. I just wanted you to know that I love you and thanks a million for all your Mickey Mouse shaped waffles. I’m sorry I used you for some jokes but I jest with love! They are all very fond memories and if you hadn’t made me watch The Birds, this funny memory from Australia would never have happened!

Why Suffer From FOMO When You Don’t Have To?

Taking on the classic “round-the-world” route, the next Travel Dispatch journey kicks off Nov 15 as I travel east to west, looping the globe over a period of 12 months with $25,000. Now’s your chance to get in on it from the very beginning!

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melody pittman
omg. i laughed out loud the whole time. first, your storytelling ability is amazing, and i can so totally relate, on a personal level, to being scared to death of the “wildlife”. i’m glad your day ended up so good, usually those that aren’t played by the rules end up at least being memorable. i am terrified of lizards and having only moved to florida a year ago, if one gets in our house (baby ones), i am leaving until someone removes it. terrified! i was at boca chicka in panama a few months ago and a horrible rain storm… Read more »
Bianca (@ItsAllBee)

hahaha each and every family has its own quirks and yours is no different. You grand sounds like a woot.


Birds freak me out! You never know when they are going to dive into you. I avoid the pigeons in NY as much as I can!

Mindi @ 2foodtrippers

Sometimes, the not so perfect days end up being great memories. Seems to be the case here.


Oh this story made me giggle! What is it with Australian birds ey? Are they all so violent? I remember getting swooped by some magpies one day and then another time I woke up with a possum sat on my bed!! Terrifying at the time but it all makes for a good story in the end 🙂


Ok, so first I gotta tell you that I love that first picture, the shape of the water current and the shadow looks stunning. Second, I gotta say you kept me laughing the entire post, although I know you are traumatized for life, you made me enjoy your suffering. Third, I’m doubting your grandmas movie taste. Fourth, sounds like you had a lovely childhood surrounded by family.


Hahahhaahah this was hilarious! I have never been attacked, but I have heard stories from my friends – sandwiches stolen by seagulls, camera stolen by monkey…


I love that your grandmother thought it was a great idea to feed seagulls after watching “The Birds” lol


I loved the story, especially the beginning and your grandma! I can´t believe you watched The birds at age of 7! And you are so captivating story-teller!

Adrian of Adrian's Travel Tales

Bahahaha! My mother is terrified of birds and would of gone crazy if this had been her. Sometimes you turn lemons into lemonade and it sounds like you were able to walk away relatively unharmed. 😀

Carissa @ Start Wandering

OMG I am laughing so much! I love this 🙂 birds here can freak me out sometimes to, but I can just imagine you behind a chair trying to spray a bird away….! That would make for some great viewing. Butcher Birds I haven’t ever crossed paths with really so I wouldn’t know how to act.


OMG. This is pretty crazy, I remember a similar experience (many years ago) in Hervey Bay! This really did bring back memories for me! What are the odds right?