After several days of flooding rain, powerful seas and cold gale force winds causing much destruction along the coast, my wife and I decided to take a walk in our local Oatley Park Reserve to give our legs a workout. It was the beginning of our Australian Spring which always starts a few weeks earlier than in the Northern Hemisphere due to our hotter climate.
The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo were quite noticeably out house shopping in pairs for their next season family, while the occasional youngster from the previous season, sat alone, silently looked on. Usually they will return to the same tree hole, but there is often conflict and squabbling over accommodation when other Cockies or Rainbow Lorikeets bid for the same dwelling. As we see below in this prime real estate with views, which is inhabited each year producing 2 offspring on average. See how they squawk and raise their cones when they get excited, which is often, as a pair defend their claim.
The beautiful Angophora trees are prime real estate due to the frequent holes left from the unusual way branches fall away. Usually their is some construction required by males when purchasing a new home. The male uses his powerful beak to gradually chew out the hole to the required size as the female watches on and gives directions as to how she wants the house sized up. This can take several days of hard work.
Others return to the same hole, which is already naturally formed for them. This guy is keeping watch and guarding his home, knowing full well that this is peek home procuring period.
Walking around the ponds area which were flooding, as storm water flows into it, a pair of Chestnut Teal rest, while a lone Australasian Swamphen makes lovely reflection in the almost birdless pond.
This time of year when nectar blossom and flowers are very few, just before Spring, most of the seed eating Parrots are on the coast seeking seed baring cones from the previous Summer flowers. One is the Eastern Crimson Rosella. Of course the Rainbow Lorikeet is always here, nesting alongside the Cockies.
We also were delighted to see this tiny Silvereye in a mixed feeding flock passing through the park, which in some other parts of the world would be called White-eye. Both wrong – the eye is neither, it is only the ring around the eye that is white.
A bird that is heard and seen all through this park is one of my favourites, the Grey Butcherbird. As you know I do love hearing my backyard friend singing all through the day.
As we made our way back to the car we heard the loud raucous alarm call of many Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, so we looked up hoping to see a raptor passing over, but nothing. As we walked we saw several people pointing off the track to trees with families of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo. This was what the noise was all about. The Yellow-tails were resting and preening near the roosting area of the Sulphurs. As the saying goes ‘You seldom find Sulphurs around Yellow-tails‘ as the larger, more powerful, well organised and militant Yellow-tails will drive them out, especially when they have young with them, as these ones do. I shared footage of this some years ago where we witnessed this process.
The call of the Yellow-tail flock is unique, and like music to the ears of all birders. We always get excited when we hear their call, there is no other sound like it.
Yellow-tails usually only have one surviving youngster each year as can be seen in this little family preening together. The juvenile or immature sits in the middle next to the female as she preens it and the male usually sits a little bit away always looking out for the safety of the family, ready to act, as a good father/husband should. I apologise for the poor photos due to extreme back-lighting,as they were in front of the sun in diffused light.
The male has the pink eye ring, which the female lacks and is always keeping his eye on you. The good news for the Sulphurs, especially at pre-nesting time, is that the Yellow-tails will not be competing for nesting holes, they are just having a stopover, as they will most likely go back to the mountains in Spring to nest.
Here is a male preening.
After a few minutes with all the human attention the flock leader gave the call and flew off and they all followed further into the valley to find more native Casuarina trees, where they feed on the seed cones, which you can see above and below is what they are resting in. Notice the piece of tail feather that broke off as it left.
Cockatoos are very destructive birds, especially to trees which has become a concern for conservationists and scientists who are trying to address the problem. The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo is one bird that should never be fed by humans, as a flock bird they can become very aggressive if fed frequently and are quite capable of destroying verandas and houses (as they do to trees) when they don’t get enough of what they want, when they want it. The sometimes crazy and reckless behaviour of the young males is highlighted in my book.
Tourists are warned of the danger but thankfully they are usually one off situations. However, if one feeds a flock daily for a period of time it can be dangerous and people have been attacked and injured by the flock as the birds attempt to greedily and forcefully access the food. They constantly trim trees and sometimes ring-bark and kill them just for fun, or they may bite off the bark in search of witchetty grubs, a prized delicacy also for our original inhabitants. Look how this tree is left bleeding.
In conclusion, for those interested, having read last weeks post, the two young Crested Pigeon have fledged and survived the storms of the last few days, hanging on tightly to the tree throughout the gale force winds and teaming rain. A large aggressive abusive cohort of Noisy Miner attacked the nest a few days ago, and I managed to send them flying when I turned the hose on them. Now the pigeon family are going on daily excursions as they break in their wings and learn foraging skills.
If this is your first visit to my blog and website, I bid you welcome to my weekly birding blog. You may want to visit my Home Page where you can access other helpful information for birding and also helpful information that can be gleaned from studying the behaviour of birds.
As I observed the behaviour of these two very different specie of Cockatoo, during our walk in the reserve, I noticed distinctly converse behaviour patterns. The quieter more solid family structure, within the well organised flock structure is vital to the emotional security of the bird and in its intellectual development and future character. The more intelligent and disciplined Yellow-tailed is a quieter more organised bird than the raucous child-like showoff Sulphur-crested, which is part of the reason they can out maneuver and outsmart the Sulphurs. They work as a flock for the good of the flock. Their flock organisation skills are greater as they are more migratory and need to be committed to the flock, whereas the playful and crazy Sulphurs are more individual and competitive in their lifestyle, in the flock but more out for themselves. Sulphurs are more residential or territorial and do not migrate or fly far from their original roost and nesting area each day. It has been found that when Sulphurs don’t fly from their roosting area during the day, they will tend to be more destructive to the trees they roost in.
Notice in the rare photos above that though it appears the Yellow-tails are outnumbered 5 to 1 they are in control because they are working together to achieve a common goal, and achieve their goal with skill and commitment to the cause, whereas the Sulphur flock has no plan or answer as they are all out for themselves. This is how the empires of man throughout history rose and fell.
This is similar to the way community work together as a flock for the good of the flock, and not like the many who selfishly break the rules of the flock either to show off gloating over their achievements on Facebook or just refusing to conform or come under authority. It is flock cohesion and commitment to the common good of the flock that brings the reward of peace and security in life for everyone, and not the uncertainty and devastation that the dangerous selfish few generate. Maybe you can see a likeness to our current global situation. A braided rope is stronger than the sum of its individual strands.
‘The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.’ – Proverbs 12:26
‘If two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?’ – Ecclesiastes 4:11
Have an enjoyable week, stay safe and warm and those in lock-down stay sane and at peace by finding creative things to do.
W. A. Hewson (Adv. Dip. Counselling & Family Therapy).
‘To encourage people to make good life choices,
using birds to teach important life skills.’
NOTE: All photos, videos and music used on this website are photographed, composed, performed by the site owner and remains his copyrighted property, unless otherwise stated. The use of any material that is not original material of the site owner is duly acknowledged as such. © W. A. Hewson 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020.