There are many things to love about Australia, not least of which are the birds. And it’s not just that there are a lot of birds—though there are—it’s also that the birds are remarkable. I’ve posted several times about specific birds: lyrebirds, kookaburras, magpies, brolgas, jabirus, and more. But among the feathered denizens of the land Down Under, it is the parrots and the cockatoos that are the attention getters. Because I’ve covered so much of Australia, I’ve seen many varieties of both. Fortunately, there are experts who spend months researching Aussie bird life. I’ve just come across a new YouTube channel where one of these experts shares both images and insights about his favorites among Australia’s birds. In this video, he focuses on Cockatoos—but if you visit his channel, you’ll find others.
Tag Archives: cockatoos
Trip 3:Monday, August 28 Part 1
Dawn on the Durack. We were camped at the water’s edge, so the scene was spectacular. Flocks of black and white cockatoos circled overhead. The light crept down the red cliffs and reflected on the water. Glorious morning.
After packing up camp, we had a leisurely morning, hiking up and down the river, admiring the birds and the view, sitting in the shade and chatting. John had to change a tire, which is the activity to which we owed our leisure time.
The spot was of such beauty that it was hard to leave. The river was clear, with a few waterlilies along the shore. The birds were astonishing: hundreds of white cockatoos, plus butcherbirds, kites, willy wagtails, and others I don’t know, including tiny brown and white shore birds, little yellow flower eaters, and more. I startled little lizard, who then posed for a photo. Some of cockatoos dropped in for a visit. The paperbark trees were in bloom. All quite wonderful.
As we departed, hundreds of cockatoos burst into the air and accompanied us for the first half mile. It was another spectacular day.
Off again across the vast green and gold emptiness. Gusts of wind kicked up puffs of dust from time to time, but it was otherwise a still, cloudless, blazing day.
Forded the Gibb River–the river that gave its name to the road we have been following–then stopped to take photographs and stretch our legs. Then onward again.
Into Drysdale Station at King Edward River, for fuel and soft drinks. A rather grim, utilitarian place carved out of the bush: broad, dusty yard surrounded by utes, jeeps, steel drums, water tanks, trailers, and corrugated-iron shacks. A few decorative trees seemed to be afterthoughts–a scattering of mango trees and sausage trees, all rather dusty and tired looking. But then, it is the end of the dry season. I suspect much in this area is a bit dusty and tired. Then back on the road.
We had lunch at the edge of the Drysdale River. Gorgeous spot. Paperbark trees and pandanus surrounded us. Red dirt, green water, blue sky. A black ibis and a white-faced heron waded nearby, no doubt with eyes focused on the tiny fish we could see darting about in the clear river. Dragon flies danced among the plants growing around us.
Continuing on, we crossed an area that seemed more like parkland, or a back paddock, than wild bushland. Taller trees were wildly spaced across a region of shorter grass (anywhere from ankle- to knee-deep, as opposed to the 7 foot-tall spear grass we’d seen earlier).
Many areas are blackened by the annual burn off, but new growth is evident in all but the most recently burned (or currently burning) places. Did see a few fires, as well as a lot of sand palms and 5 or 6 brumbies (wild horses).
The road became not simply worse by unbelievably worse. However, the wilder the road, the more spectacularly primitive and exotic the scenery became.
Australia is sometimes called the Land of the Parrot, and wherever I went, from the tropics to the deserts to chilly mountaintops, I could always find (and was always delighted by) at least a few species. I’ve already written of the stunning crimson rosellas and nearly ubiquitous galahs in earlier posts, but there are vastly more species than these.
Among parrots, few are more iconically Australian than cockatoos. (However, though primarily found in Australia, there are a few species that live on nearby islands.) There are 21 species of these handsome parrots, which are best known for the crests that they fan so expressively.
Cockatoos are fairly large birds, ranging in size from about 14 inches (including tail) up to the nearly three-foot length of the great black cockatoos of the north. Cockatoos have powerful beaks for cracking nuts, digging up roots, or prying grubs from wood. They are sometimes seen singly, but are usually seen in groups—and sometimes in large, noisy flocks, which can actually include two or three types of cockatoo. Like most parrots, cockatoos live long lives, with life spans generally running around 40 to 60 years, depending on the species—though some in zoos have been known to live close to 100 years.
Cockatoos are tree nesters, so even though I saw some in the desert, they only live in areas where trees exist—even if the trees are dead. In fact, I have often seen dead trees in arid regions covered with cockatoos, looking from a distance like a springtime floral display.
On my third trip to Australia, in Windjana Gorge, I was overjoyed to see thousands of cockatoos gathered for the breeding season. The courtship rituals we witnessed were charming—heads bobbing, small gifts being offered and accepted. Just adorable.
Of course, being adorable is one of the reasons cockatoos are popular pets. Being clever and affectionate is also appealing. Not all species adapt well to human company, however, and some are difficult to train.
One of the ones that are difficult to train is the glorious Major Mitchell cockatoo, also called a Leadbeater’s cockatoo. Pity, as they are so lovely, with their pale, rose-colored bodies and splendid yellow-and-red striped crests. But they are aggressive birds, and they don’t make particularly good pets. The aggressive nature of the Major Mitchell cockatoo pictured below manifested itself in its unwillingness to let me spend too much time photographing other birds, as I wandered through the aviary in Perth’s Cohuna Wildlife Sanctuary. It chased off its rivals for my attention, and then posed while I took several photos.