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Penny

Penny

This is Penny. Penny likes cheese. Nothing unusual about that, almost all birds like cheese. Penny however is a connoisseur. Penny likes mild cheese and tasty cheese. Penny doesnít like cottage cheese, brie, feta, or parmesan. Only tasty cheese.

Penny sits on the railing and waits patiently, sometimes moving from one end of the deck to the other if he canít see someone through the window, and caroling beautifully every now and then. Penny knows where the fridge is and recognises the cheese box. He doesnít like taking cheese from your hand: he likes to stay a half-metre away, backing off if you come too close, stepping forward if you are too distant. Penny knows that humans are impatient things and will always give up and just put the cheese down on the railing for him if he waits long enough.

Despite his name (a nod to the Minister for Foreign Affairs) Penny seems to be male. His partner, almost identical to look at but very slightly smaller, is a bit shy. Little Penny (as we call her) comes in for cheese too, but not so regularly and she tends to be nervy. Big Penny relaxes and enjoys his cheese standing on the railing; Little Penny snatches it and flies off to eat it at a safe distance.

The Pennies have a nest out in the nearby bush and play a vital role on the security side. When a predator arrives looking for chicks and nestlings, the two Pennys harrass it relentlessly. The deadly White Goshawk is the most persistent of them. On the ground, the turbo-chooks attack it and drive it up onto low branches out of reach, then I throw stones at it until it moves too high in the trees for me, at which point the Pennys take over and dive-bomb it until it gives up and goes elsewhere.

Penny knows that cheese is served twice a day and has learned not to bother hanging around hoping for extras - except during the nesting season when we are more lenient. We know when they are nesting because instead of eating in Penny takes the cheese away to feed his family - but he never snatches it like Little Penny, he breaks of a small sampler and tastes it to make sure it is up to scratch before flying off with it.

Every so often a new Baby Penny arrives, short-tailed and fresh out of the nest. Baby Pennies are very nervous and hang round at a distance until they suddenly realise that the cheese comes from the humans, at which point they become bold to the point of recklessness, sometimes even trying to come into the house. That phase never lasts more than a few days: the adults drive the youngster off as soon as it can fend for itself.