Wild Sulphur-crested Cockatoos
While I am posting on the topic of travel, I think I’ll share some pictures of wild Greater Sulphur-crested Cockatoos I took while I was in Sydney, Australia. I was only there briefly, and I decided to go to the Botanical Gardens, since I have an interest in botany and in birdwatching, and there are lots of wild birds living there. The most conspicuous animals there are the Greater Sulphur-crested Cockatoos (Cacatua galerita) and the flying foxes (large fruit bats).
Greater Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are not endangered and are quite common in their range in Australia. The subspecies that occurs in Sydney is Cacatua galerita galerita. This type of cockatoo is actually rarely kept as a pet outside of Australia. Most pet C. galerita are of the subspecies that occur in New Guinea and the surrounding islands. These would be C. g. triton and C. g. eleanora. They are a little bit smaller than the Australian Greater Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, and the triton subspecies has a blue eye ring. The eleanora and triton subspecies are often called “Medium Sulphur-crested Cockatoos.”
The Lesser Sulphur-crested Cockatoos (Cacatua sulphurea) occur in southern Indonesia and are critically endangered.
I was in Australia during the austral winter (late June) so the cockatoos weren’t breeding. Some large parrots will still visit their nests during the non-breeding season and I assume that’s what the two birds in the above picture were doing. Many large parrots display strong nest sight fidelity and will use the same nest sight year after year if they can. However, occasionally a nest will be taken over by other animals and a very poor quality nest sight may be abandoned.
The birds in the pictures with dirty-looking feathers are the juveniles, probably from that year’s crop of babies. Wild juvenile Greater Sulphur-crested Cockatoos often have a brown-grey “wash” to their feathers.
The bird in the above photo spent some time chewing on branches. Wild Sulphur-crested Cockatoos can actually be quite destructive and have even been known to chew on people’s houses. As pets, these cockatoos need to have many different items to chew on, particularly non-toxic branches from trees. I give my Lesser Sulphur-crested Cockatoo all sorts of wooden items to chew on and he spends a lot of time reducing them to splinters.
The cockatoos at the botanical gardens were not terribly afraid of people and this guy came right up to me while I was sitting on the ground. He started nibbling on my coat and when I stood up, he started to chew on my boot. My pet Lesser Sulphur-crested Cockatoo likes to chew my boots as well.
Pairs of parrots often preen each other, and this is called allopreening. Pet cockatoos often enjoy having their heads preened by their people. I do this all the time with my cockatoo. I’ll usually remove any dried sheath that’s ready to flake off of any newly sprouted feathers he has. New pin feathers are covered in a sheath as they sprout and this sheath starts to become dry as the feather grows and is ready to break out of the sheath. When preening a bird, I do have to be careful not to preen any new bloodfeathers. A bloodfeather is a new feather that’s growing in that still has a blood supply. These are easy to identify in a cockatoo – the blood supply can easily been seen through the sheath.
That’s all for this post! Next I think I’ll post an article I wrote for “Good Bird” magazine about my trip to New Zealand.
January 2009 News (the second article is about destructive cockatoos).