I have mixed feelings about Sulphur-crested Cockatoos (Cacatua gelerita). I rarely photograph them because they’re so common, not only in the wild, but also as pets and in zoos. Around Sydney they’re as ubiquitous as rats, noisy as buzz-saws, and destructive as borers. However, they are also intelligent, lively and entertaining, and can be attractive in their quieter moments. Such was the pair I saw recently in Lane Cove River National Park.
I had been for a walk along the riverside path, and hadn’t seen very much, and it was difficult to pick out bird calls over the sound of aircraft on the airport glide path. But on the way back to the car, I saw a pair of cockies in a dead tree by the path. The winter sunlight was behind me, so I stopped to watch. This first cockatoo stayed near the top of the tree, and after checking me out, resumed enlarging the hole in the trunk. A steady stream of wood chippings fell by the path.
The other cockie, however, was clearly on its lunch break. First, it flew down to a lower tree near me.
Then it sidled down to a privet branch and plucked a small sprig bearing a couple of leaves and several berries.
It then moved back up a little, transferred the sprig to its left claws (cockatoos are generally left-footed) and began feasting, delicately picking a berry at a time.
After the cockatoo had finished the fruit, it repeated the process several more times with fresh sprays of berries. As it ate, I gradually edged closer. This didn’t seem to worry the bird, and I ended up getting very close indeed.
Shortly afterwards a couple of walkers came along and the cockatoo decided to move back up the tree. By then I had plenty of photos, so I too left.
Back home, my wife reminded me of Cockie, the companion of our then 90-year old neighbour Mollie for 45 years. Cockie and Mollie are warmly remembered, though both have been dead for many years now. These photos were taken in the late 1990s:
The little girl in these two photos has long since grown up, and also features in last year’s FIBS entries about Vava'u and swimming with whales.
Despite its name, the sulphur-crested cockatoo is more closely related to the corellas than to the other Australian (so-called) cockatoos, though they are all part of the wider cockatoo family (Cacatuidae). They are noisily conspicuous over much of northern and eastern Australia, and feed on a variety of seeds, fruits, bulbs, insects and flowers. They nest in tree hollows, using their powerful beaks to enlarge the hollows.