HUNGRY students are having to lock up their vegemite sandwiches with opportunistic ravens stealing their lunch boxes from their school bags.
Schools across Perth have reported the ravenous birds, as well as bandicoots and parrots, helping themselves to the free picnic lunches.
Birdman Eric McCrum said ravens in particular were industrious scavengers renowned for their problem-solving ability and intelligence that allowed them to exploit our “wasteful suburban lives”.
“Ravens hang around wherever food is available and being incredibly observant they know children leave their lunch boxes where they can easily to get at them,” he said.
“Because they have a sharp poking beak they can pull bags out and tear them to pieces, pry open plastic lids and have even learnt how to manipulate zips by watching humans.
“Those poor kids who lose their lunches quickly learn to lock up their lunch.”
Darlington Primary School principal Lorna Woodley said students were reminded to keep their school bags zipped or risk losing their lunch.
“We have lunch thieves at the school particularly magpies, parrots and bandicoots who will swipe any food they can get to,” she said.
“Once parrots got into a kid’s bag, pulled out the popcorn, opened the packet and spread out the contents so they could have a picnic.
“Bandicoots are also very clever and opportunistic. If they find a lunchbox they can get into it and can even unwrap gladwrap.”
Mr McCrum said ravens were now more common in the Perth metropolitan area because their potential food source was much greater.
“Years ago ravens were kept to kept to bush areas but now there are food scraps everywhere from parks to schools to bins at truck bays,” he said.
“Being scavengers, ravens will eat just about anything from birds to roadkill,”
Max Howard from Birdlife Australia said ravens and crows were one of the most intelligent species in Australia and it was even believed they could count.
“Certain birds such as the raven have clearly benefited from human habitation and if they can get a free feed from a lunchbox they will give it a go,” he said.
“In the Kimberley, crows have learnt how to eat cane toads by rolling the toads onto their backs and avoiding the most toxic parts.”