Poetry | While we were on Twitter

A kingfisher swallowed a cane toad near Kakadu | A woman in south-east QLD

saw rainbow lorikeets fall from the sky | A flock of brolga fished for frogs in an algal

bloom | Outside Cairns, a bush-stone curlew bounced off the bonnet of a speeding

ute | Near Broome, a grey nomad pulled a blue-faced finch from the radiator of his

4WD | A satin bowerbird choked on a plastic bottle cap | A wandering albatross

regurgitated a squid jig | A woman in Parkes discovered a pile of dead galahs

Two red balloons were extracted from the swollen belly of a grey-headed

albatross | A marine biologist found a barn owl, face in the sand,

next to a half-eaten rat | Not far from Adelaide, an Australian

gannet drowned in a fishing net | A magpie strutted back

and forth on the bitumen beside his flattened mate

Flocks of bar-tailed godwit landed in a car

park that used to be an estuary | The

gang-gang cockatoo, emblem of

the ACT, did not return after

the bushfires | A boy

in Wollongong

wrote to Bun-

nings “We

found a



owl in



































Author note:

This poem is composed from information found in Australian newspaper articles and research papers.

It was inspired by a Sydney Morning Herald article titled ‘Off-the-shelf rat poisons killing owls too – and Bunnings asked to act.’

In the article, journalist Miki Perkins, cites BirdLife Australia-commissioned research that found 97% of dead powerful owls in the Sydney region (n=38) had second-generation anticoagulant rodenticides in their livers and 60% had levels high enough to cause impairment.

These poisons have been restricted from general sale in the US, Canada and the European Union but can be bought in supermarkets and hardware stores across Australia.

According to BirdLife Australia, there are about 25 rat poisons available at Bunnings stores, and all but two are second-generation anticoagulant poisons.



Overland’s Friday Features project is supported by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund. 

Johanna Bell

Johanna Bell lives in Darwin where she writes and works as an independent audio producer. Her written work has been published by Allen & Unwin, Scholastic, Overland, Meanjin, Griffith Review, Black Inc and Australian PoetryBirds Eye View, co-created with women in Darwin Prison, won a New York Radio Award, Australian Podcast of the Year and a Walkley Award nomination. Currently, Johanna is working on a verse novel about vanishing birds.

More by Johanna Bell ›

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  1. Thank you for your poem Johanna. For me it is yet another reminder of the term collateral damage. The more we humans continue to unthinkingly populate, over run and exploit our finite planet the more adverse are such effects on wildlife and our environment. Our collective desire to return to normal expansionary aspirational behaviour fanned by politicians and communities alike is the roadkill and rat-sack of our time.

  2. I live near remnant bushland and have a backyard with a small pool and fruit trees that attract birds. Small birds nest in the trees around my house. Nearby a similar block is being divided into multiple, closely packed homes with no space for plants. My joy is the birdsong I hear each day, how can we l keep those birds singing?

  3. Well put. Lots of falls from grace there – grace being the things we don’t know which could save aforesaid wildlife – but that’s a COP out – for we have known for too long we are the agents of environmental death – yet continue to continue on a downward path to wholesale death – our own included …

  4. Thanks Johanna. I’m playing a piano piece by Ravel called ‘Oiseaux tristes’, sad birds. Ravel described the piece as “birds lost in the torpor of a very dark forest during the hottest hours of summer.” Over 100 years on from its composition, the heating up forests – and the plight of the birds – exceed imagining. Your poem will be the emotional backstory when I play. Thanks.

  5. Johanna,through Radio National I was directed to a copy of your unforgettable poem. I want my children and grandchildren to see and hear it. We are privileged to have you in our midst.

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