Archive for the ‘Wild Parrots’ Category

Rainbow Lorikeets, birds of Cairns (Australia), and Twitter

March 5, 2018 Leave a comment

Today’s post features photos of the birds I saw while I was in Cairns, Australia. I primarily birded around the botanical gardens and the waterfront area (Cairns Esplanade).

Also, if you have a twitter account, you can follow me at:

I primarily plan to post wildlife pictures I have taken, many of which will feature parrots.

Rainbow Lorikeets were very common in the Cairns area. They were usually present in groups and they are very colorful, active and noisy. There’s a group of trees downtown they like to roost in,  and as the sun sets, hundreds of them gather in these trees and make an incredible amount of noise.

I saw the above birds downtown. They stayed upside down like that for a while and beak sparred with each other.

Lorikeets consume a lot of nectar and the bird above is licking nectar off of some flowers. Lorikeets have long, brushy tongues that allow them to maximize the amount of nectar they can get, and that allow them to reach deep into long flowers.

A lot of nectar-feeding birds simply lap up nectar and pollen without destroying flowers. Lorikeets, on the other hand, can be destructive at times. I took the above photo at the Cairns Botanic Garden. This mess was created by a flock of Rainbow Lorikeets feeding on flowers in a tall tree. The bird on the ground picking through the mess is an Australian Brush Turkey.

Here’s one of the lorikeets that was contributing to the mess. These birds were quite high up so the pictures I took of them aren’t great. Rainbow Lorikeets were (I think) the only bird I saw every day on my trip to Australia.

There’s a large group of Spectacled Flying Foxes (fruit bats) that roosts downtown in Cairns as well. They take off at night to feed on fruit, and gather in the roost tree to sleep during the day.

The below slide show contains more pictures of land-based wildlife I took while I was in Cairns:

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Below are photos of shorebirds and other water birds. The pictures are primarily from the Cairns Esplanade, but there are a few lakes at the botanic gardens that have a lot of birds around them. If you are in the Cairns area and like birds, you can’t go wrong by spending some time at the Esplanade. There are numerous shorebirds along the beach (especially in the early morning), and birds are abundant in the woodsy parks in the area as well. I managed to spend most of the day there, wandering around watching the birds.

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Red-tailed Black Cockatoos in Kakadu National Park

December 25, 2017 Leave a comment

I have five hours to kill at an airport, so I am updating my blog! Merry Christmas everyone!

Today, I will write about the Red-tailed Black Cockatoos I saw in Kakadu National Park, Australia, in September, 2017. I headed to Australia primarily to go birdwatching and see other wildlife, and my trip covered Cairns, the Cape York Peninsula, and Kakadu National Park. Two black cockatoo species (Black Palms and Red-tailed Blacks) were on my target list of animals to see and I managed to see both. Finding them was extremely thrilling!


Range of the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo. Map based on

Red-tailed Black Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus banskii) are impressive and charismatic birds. They are big (about 60 cm tall), are very loud, and have large, powerful beaks. Like all other black cockatoos, they are extremely rare in aviculture outside of Australia, and as a result the price for a single bird in North America can be very high ($14 000 or more).

Red tailed Black

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo photographed in Kakadu National Park.

Wild red-tailed blacks have a large and fragmented range in Australia. There are five subspecies: C. b. banksii (Bank’s Red-tailed Black Cockatoo), C. b. macrorhynchus (Northern Red-tailed Black Cockatoo), C. b. samueli (Inland Red-tailed Black Cockatoo), C. b. graptogyne (South-eastern Red-tailed Black Cockatoo) and C. b. naso (Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoo). The birds I saw in Kakadu were Northern Red-tailed Blacks.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo

A Northern Red-tailed Black Cockatoo photographed in Kakadu National Park. The lack of bright red in the tail indicates this is a female or a young male.

The various subspecies differ in their foraging habits, beak sizes, female colour patterns, and conservation statuses. Overall, red-tails are not globally endangered and are listed by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) as “Least Concern.” However, some populations are faring better than others. The South-eastern Red-tailed Black Cockatoo is rare (< 1000 birds exist in the wild) and is considered endangered in Australia. Additionally, Bank’s Red-tailed Black Cockatoos are declining in the southern portion of their range (northern Queensland).

Red tailed black cockatoos2

A family group of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos foraging in Kakadu National Park.

Adult male and female red-tailed blacks can be differentiated based on their tail colours: males have bright red panels on their tails while females have orange or pale yellow-orange stripes on their tails. Males younger than about four years look like females. The birds pictured above appeared to be an adult male and female with their offspring. I often saw red-tailed blacks in Kakadu in groups of three, which were most likely to be a breeding pair and their offspring. Red-tails usually only fledge one chick each time they breed, although two is a possibility. Even when I found a loose flock of about thirty or forty red-tails in a grove of trees, many birds were perched together in groups of three (see photo below).

Red Tailed Black Family

Three Red-tailed Black Cockatoos. An adult male (note the solid red in the tail) is on the left.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoos were common in Kakadu. They seemed to be comfortable foraging or resting up in trees, as well as foraging on the ground. I saw a few groups foraging on the ground in recently-burned forests (maybe they like toasted seeds?). Most birds I saw were present as pairs, trios, or in small flocks of up to ~40 birds. Active birds were generally quite loud and called frequently, so they were hard to miss. However, birds resting in trees were fairly quiet. Although the flocks of red-tails I saw weren’t huge, flocks can at times contain hundreds of birds, especially where food is abundant (such as at peanut farm plantations).

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo3

A Red-tailed Black Cockatoo foraging in a recently-burned open forest.

Red Tailed Black pair

Male (left) and Female (right) Red-tailed Black Cockatoos seen in Kakadu National Park.

During the hottest part of the day (it got to 40 C while I was in Kakadu), Red-tailed Black Cockatoos spend a lot of time resting in trees. I certainly couldn’t blame them – some birds I saw were panting and clearing feeling the heat. I also saw several red-tailed blacks drinking from a muddy, shallow billabong during the middle of the day. It was the dry season when I visited Kakadu, and most groups of cockatoos I found were close to a water source.

Red Tailed Black Getting Drink

Three Red-tailed Black Cockatoos getting a drink of water.

Overall, I saw three cockatoo species in Kakadu: Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, and Bare-eyed Cockatoos. Galahs (Rose-breasted Cockatoos) also occur in Kakadu, although I didn’t see any while I was there. I did, however, see a large flock of them at the Musgrave Roadhouse, on the Cape York Peninsula.

Galahs 3

Galahs (Rose-breasted Cockatoos) photographed near the Musgrave Roadhouse in northeastern Australia.


Galahs 2

Galahs in the Musgrave area of northeastern Australia.


I will share more of my wildlife photos from Kakadu in my next post. If you’d like more information on Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, please see the below links:

More Information

Conservation of South-eastern red-tailed black-cockatoo Calyptorhynchus banksii graptogyne

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo Recovery Plan

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo Information from the World Parrot Trust

Recordings of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos


Bare-eyed Cockatoos in Kakadu National Park

November 9, 2017 1 comment

I took a trip to Australia this September (2017), primarily to view birds and other wildlife. I spent time on the Cape York Peninsula (which is the peninsula on the northeast corner of the continent), the city of Cairns, and Kakadu National Park, which is in the Northern Territory. I took a lot of photos, which I am going to start sharing here.

I’ll start with photos I took in Kakadu, the location of which is shown in the map below:


I was there during the middle of September, which is the dry season in northern Australia. It was also hot (up to 39 C) while I was there, and some of the waterbodies in the park were dried up. However, much of the park is more accessible during the dry season, as roads won’t be blocked by floodwater.

I explored the park on my own in a rented vehicle I picked up in Darwin. My first stop in the park was at the Aurora Kakadu Lodge, so I could pick up a park pass and have a look at the birds on the hotel grounds. Some sprinklers were on, which attracted all sorts of birds, including a large flock of Bare-eyed Cockatoos (Cacatua sanguinea). The birds were attracted to the sprinkler water, as well as the nice green grass and plants being watered by it.

Bare-eyed Cockatoos

Bare-eyed Cockatoos playing in a sprinkler at Kakadu National Park.

These Bare-eyed Cockatoos were among some of the most amusing wild birds I have ever watched. In that way, they reminded me of the keas I saw about ten years ago in New Zealand. The Bare-eyed Cockatoos were very playful and would wrestle each other like puppies, tackling each other and rolling on their backs, all the while squealing with apparent delight. I’ve seen many pet lories, caiques, and cockatoos act that way, but it was interesting seeing wild birds play like that. Cockatoos even have beaks that are shaped in a way that makes them look like they are smiling, so they can be very charming animals,

Corellas playing

Wild Bare-eyed Cockatoos playing under a sprinkler.


No, he’s not dead – he (she?) had been knocked over by another bird and got back up shortly after I took this picture.


Bare-eyed Cockatoos

I took some video of these birds as well:

Bare-eyed Cockatoos (also called “Little Corellas”) were quite common throughout the park, both around lodges/camping areas and in wilderness areas. I saw several around the Cooinda Lodge, which is where I stayed while I was in Kakadu. They typically occurred in flocks of at least a few dozen birds, and sometimes a few Sulphur-crested Cockatoos would be associated with them. Bare-eyed Cockatoo flocks can number in the thousands, especially in agricultural areas.

Mixed cockatoos

A Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (foreground) and two Bare-eyed Cockatoos in Kakadu National Park.

I noticed that the wild Australian Bare-eyed Cockatoos I saw were a bit bigger than most of the captive ones I have seen in Canada. The reason is that most Bare-eyed Cockatoos in North America are the descendants of birds that were originally caught on the island of New Guinea. The Bare-eyed Cockatoos that occur on New Guinea (subspecies Cacatua sanguinea transfreta) are generally a bit smaller than the Australian ones.

corella map

Bare-eyed Cockatoo Range. Orange shows where they are native and purple shows where they were introduced. Map from

Although they can be active and playful, during the hottest times of the day, Bare-eyed Cockatoos (and many other birds) will usually rest in trees, preferably in the shade. I saw many flocks of resting cockatoos in trees, and on very hot days they would sometimes be panting. They usually rested in woodlands close to a source of water.

Corella tree 3

Unless there’s a nice, cooling sprinkler around, many cockatoos spent time resting during the hottest part of the day.

Corellas 2

A pair of Bare-eyed Cockatoos. The bird on the right was panting, as it was about 39 C outside.

Bare-eyed Cockatoos usually forage on the ground but will sometimes feed in trees, and they will eat a variety of grass seeds (grains), nuts, fruits, berries, roots, and insect larvae. They will eat a variety of crop plants, and can be very common in agricultural areas.

Corellas Grazing

Bare-eyed Cockatoos foraging on the ground.

Corella 2

A Bare-eyed Cockatoo forages in a tree.

Bare-eyed Cockatoos were the most common parrot species that I saw in Kakadu. The other common cockatoo species I saw, the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, will be the subject of my next post.


Parrot news! (Night Parrot, Swift Parrot, Orange-bellied Parrot)

September 19, 2015 Leave a comment

Back to posting! This post is about news related to three very rare and unique parrot species.

The first story is about the Night Parrot of Australia, which I wrote about HERE.  Night parrots are very elusive, nocturnal parrots from Australia. Sightings are very sporadic and therefore very little is known about them.  For a long time, it was even unclear whether or not the species still existed

However, some photos and videos of a night parrot were obtained recently, and you can see some here:

Since so little is known about these birds, and because they are likely very rare, a new reserve was created to protect them. The location of it is a secret, which is likely for the best so that poachers don’t go after the birds or so that large numbers of birders don’t overwhelm them.  One Night Parrot was caught and radio tagged so biologists could monitor its movements.

I am a birdwatcher and biologist and am always thrilled to come across a rare species. I can’t imagine how exciting it would be to find such an incredibly rare and elusive species!

Night Parrots look a bit like miniature Kakapos (another nocturnal ground-dwelling parrot) with more yellow, but Night Parrots and Kakapos are actually only distantly related.

One of the methods being used to protect the night parrots involves setting traps for non-native, feral predators (such as cats) that could kill the parrots. There’s more about this here:

Eliminating feral cats is always controversial, but in this case, doing so may end up saving an endangered species.

For another critically endangered Australian parrot, preserving mature forest may be the key to saving it. Swift Parrots are one of two parrots species that undergo routine migrations. The other is the Orange-bellied Parrot.  Both of these species breed in Tasmania and spend the non-breeding season in southeast Australia. To travel between mainland Australia and Tasmania, they have to fly across approximately 150 miles of water.

Both species are threatened by habitat loss. However, recent research suggests that preserving mature forests from logging could help conserve the swift parrot. Find out more here:

Many parrot species rely on mature forests, as old trees are more likely to contain cavities that parrots use as nests.

The Orange-bellied Parrot is also in serious trouble, in part due to habitat loss.  However, disease is now threatening the species, as one adult and several nestlings have tested positive to a virus called psittacine beak and feather disease. The disease can cause deformed feathers and overgrown beaks and can be fatal, especially in wild birds.

Captive-bred Orange-bellied Parrots have been released into the wild and initially it was thought they could have been the source of the virus. However, the virus has not been found in any of the captive-bred birds released, and viruses from wild orange bellies are similar to those that have been found in wild Sulphur-crested Cockatoos. Sulphurs are rare where orange-bellies breed so the virus may have spread to orange bellies from another species.

More information can be found here: .

The Parrots of the Rio Grande Valley

November 17, 2014 3 comments

I recently traveled to Harlingen in south Texas to attend the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival. One of the highlights of the festival (for me) was getting to see wild parrots, both with one of the festival tours and on my own.

The red marker shows the location of Harlingen.

The red marker shows the location of Harlingen.

People attending the festival could sign up for a ‘parrot tour’ of Harlingen. There are Mexican Red-headed Amazons (AKA Red-crowned Parrots, Amazona viridigenalis) and Green Conures (AKA Green Parakeets, Aratinga holochlora) living right in the city. During the parrot tours, three vans would head out in search of the parrots and the first van to find the parrots would let the other two know where they were.  The festival occurs outside of the parrot breeding season, which means the roosting flocks would be quite large.  When parrots are breeding, they will roost in or around their nests; thus they won’t form these huge flocks.

The tours started at 4 pm, which is when the parrots begin forming large roosting flocks. The parrots often forage and rest in smaller groups during the day but before nightfall they congregate in large groups. This is a very noisy process – the parrots will start calling noisily, and once a flock is assembled, they would all fly around, calling, until it was dark and they had found a suitable spot to sleep for the night. The parrot flocks would roost in slightly different locations each night so a bit of searching was needed to find them. The searching was done with the windows of the vans open, as conures and Amazons are very noisy, which makes them easier to find. The conures and the Amazons stayed in separate flocks.

The groups first went out in search of the Green Conures. The tour group I was with located a flock of them quite quickly. Most of the conures were perched on power lines, although a few were up in palm trees. Most were calling to each other and a few pairs were busy preening each other.  Even though it was outside of the breeding season, mated pairs would stay close to each other.

A pair of Green Conures preening each other. The other bird in the picture is a European Starling.

A pair of Green Conures preening each other. The other bird in the picture is a European Starling.

Green conures 2

Green Conures perched on power lines.

green conures 3

Green Conures

A few of the Green Conures had some red feathers on their heads, but that is normal for the species. Green Conures do breed in the Rio Grande Valley so the population is self sustaining. They begin breeding in March. It is unclear whether the population was established from birds who dispersed in naturally from Mexico or from pet birds who escaped or were released (or both).  As Green Conures do occur in northern Mexico, it is certainly plausible that they occur naturally in the Rio Grande Valley.  The same is true for the Mexican Red-headed Amazons.

After locating the Green Conures, the groups went in search of the Amazons.  When I did the tour, the group of Amazons was located along power lines and in trees in a residential neighbourhood.  Their loud calls helped us find them.  Tour leaders brought out spotting scopes so we could get better looks at the birds, and many people took photos, including me (although mine did not turn out very well).  At one point, the entire flock of birds (about eighty or so) flew away as though something had startled them.  We did later find the flock perched on power lines next to a church.

I later headed out to the Valley Nature Center in Weslaco (about a 20 minute drive west of Harlingen), as I read that parrots can be found in that area.  I looked through the nature center and took a walk on the trails. I asked one of the staff if parrots frequent the area and she told me to stick around the park by the nature center at 5:00 pm or so because a large flock of Amazons generally roosts in the area.  At about 5, I drove around the area (with the car windows open) and found a very large flock of Amazons about a block away from the nature center.  This flock was composed primarily of Mexican Red-headed Amazons, but I did count about five Red-lored Amazons in the bunch.  There was also a Double Yellow-headed Amazon with them.

Mexican Red-headed Amazons

Mexican Red-headed Amazons

Red-lored Amazon

Red-lored Amazon

Double Yellow-headed Amazon

Double Yellow-headed Amazon

The flock was incredibly noisy and more and more birds kept arriving from all directions.  The birds would call, preen themselves, preen their partners, or squabble over positions in trees or on the wires. They were very amusing to watch.

At one point they got up and flew to another location about a block away.  They settled there for a bit and then the entire flock circled around the neighbourhood before settling to roost in some large trees in someone’s front yard.

I enjoyed watching them so much that I returned to Weslaco a second time to seek out the flock.  Again, I had no trouble finding them – I just drove around the neighbourhood until I heard the flock.  I also stopped at the Frontera Audubon Center and did some birdwatching on their trails. Several turkey vultures were circling above the trails and I managed to get the below picture of one:

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

I also got a few more pictures of the Amazons:

Mexican Red-headed Amazons

Mexican Red-headed Amazons

Amazons on a Wire

Amazons on a Wire

Stay tuned for more blog posts about my birding trip to south Texas. I got to see some extremely rare birds and I will be sharing pictures of them!

Blue -thoated Macaw news! (..and horse news)

September 21, 2014 3 comments

Back to blogging again! I haven’t been blogging too much lately as I’ve been busy with a new job (I’m a wildlife biologist for an environmental consulting firm now) and I’ve been spending a lot of time working with this guy (the white/grey one):

HorsesYes, I bought a horse. His name is Amigo and he’s an Arabian/Andalusian cross. He’s about 12-13 years old.

Onto parrots: here’s a news article about Blue-throated Macaws out of Canada. Blue-throated Macaws look similar to the much more common Blue and Gold Macaws, but they are smaller, lack the green on the head, and have ‘blue’ beards instead of black ones. The feathers on the face are also blue on a Blue-throated Macaw (they are black on a blue and gold).  Blue-throated Macaws are critically endangered and have a restricted range in the wild, as they are found only in north-central Bolivia.

I hope this release works out well. I admit I’d be very hesitant to release a bird that’s been living in captivity for 14 years into the wild. Perhaps they’ll wait and see which birds seem most suitable for release before letting them go? This is certainly a very generous move on the part of the breeder of these birds.

New life for endangered macaws from Cowichan

Blue-throated Macaw

Blue-throated Macaw

According to the World Parrot Trust, for every blue-throated macaw in the wild, there are 3,750 African elephants, 200 rhinos, 12 giant pandas, and six mountain gorillas.

That’s about to change, however slightly, with the release of 17 birds raised in Shawnigan Lake.

Those birds are among 27 who are leaving April Sanderson’s Shawnigan Lake aviary this week. Five breeding pairs will remain in Toronto, where African Lion Safari will take over Sanderson’s breeding program, while the majority will eventually head to Bolivia to be gradually released into their natural habitat.

It is the result of a lifetime with parrots.

“I’ve had parrots since I was a child,” said Sanderson, who will still have three blue-throated macaws – her pets – when all is said and done. “I got my first one when I was nine, and I’ve worked with them all my life.”

Sanderson started breeding parrots for the pet trade, but soon discovered that wasn’t a business she wanted to be part of, particularly since many pet parrots end up in unfortunate circumstances.

“A lot of people don’t know how to care for parrots,” she noted.

Not wanting to give up working with the birds altogether, Sanderson decided to breed them for the World Parrot Trust’s conservation program.

That has involved an extreme amount of permits and contracts, and the birds have all been quarantined at her aviary for the last five years, with no contact with other parrots or even other parrot owners.

It has also required at least three hours of labour a day, seven days a week, limiting family holidays, and cost hundreds of dollars a month to keep them fed and sheltered.

“It has been hard for my family to understand,” Sanderson admitted.

Sanderson’s five breeding pairs represent nine different bloodlines, probably one of the most diverse breeding groups in North America, which will help prevent inbreeding in the wild.

Parrot release programs are controversial, which Sanderson readily acknowledges.

“There are two teams,” she explained.

“One wants to protect the existing population, and the other wants to release more birds.”

The wild population of blue-throated macaws is estimated at around 125, within an area roughly the size of Vancouver Island. Breeding pairs usually have just one chick per year. The survival rates of those few chicks are low, and Sanderson believes releases are necessary.

“With numbers so low, I don’t believe they can recover without human intervention,” she said.

The efforts in Bolivia are modeled after the successful Ara Project, which has helped reintroduce two species of macaw in Costa Rica.

The birds are closely watched, and will begin their time in South America in huge aviaries, where they will be able to build their flight wings, transition to the wild diet, and get accustomed to the climate.

Despite all her hard work, and that of everyone involved in Toronto and Bolivia, Sanderson has accepted that there won’t be a 100 per cent survival rate once the birds are released, but still feels it’s worth it.

“They’re not all going to make it,” she said.

“I’m not being naive about it. I know some of them are going to die, but what are the species’ chances? Our generation could be the last one to see them.”

© Cowichan Valley Citizen – See more at:

Crafty Cockatoos; Photo Album

July 11, 2013 Leave a comment

First, a link to an interesting article about the problem-solving abilities of cockatoos:

Cockatoo cracks lock with no prior training.

Goffin’s Cockatoos living at the University of Vienna were able to manipulate a complex lock to retrieve a nut. What’s extraordinary about this is that they were not trained to do that.

The fact that the cockatoos often explore their environment using their sense of touch seemed to help them solve the task. They would feel the nuts and bolts of the lock and learn how they worked by manipulating them with their tongues and feet.

My own Lesser Sulphur-crested cockatoo, Mitri, likes to play with nuts and bolts. He actually started to take his cage apart by removing nuts from bolts.



My husband had to replace the regular nuts with lock nuts (that Mitri cannot unscrew). Mitri is also good at escaping from cages.

The same research group at the University of Vienna also found that the Goffin’s Cockatoos could make their own tools to retrieve a nut out of their reach. Click the below link to find out more:

Cockatoo can make its own tools.

Mitri also uses tools, but not to retrieve nuts. He uses popsicle sticks to scratch himself.


One species of cockatoo, the Black Palm Cockatoo, uses tools as part of a courtship display.

Cockatoos are amazing birds.

On another note, I noted in my last post that I’m working in Waterton Lakes National Park this summer. I’ve been posting some of the photos I’ve taken there on flickr. Click the below link to see the album:

Flickr Photostream

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