Last Wednesday I saw this pair of cockatoos perched at the top of the fig-trees across the park from me in Larkin Street, Waverton. I had seen them earlier, brunching on the ripe figs.
Now they flew down across the park towards me.....
…and landed on a nearby tree-stump. The stump was 5m tall, weathered, and forked in two near the top. Prime cockatoo real estate!
The stump was also so close that I was unable to frame both branches in a single photo. One cockatoo was intent on examining the right-hand fork, starting with the hollow at the top.
The other cockatoo took the left-hand fork, climbing down to a promising-looking hollow a little way down:
It examined this hollow very thoroughly:
…before deciding it wouldn’t do, and climbing back up to the top and flying off to another tree.
The right hand bird was rather nonplussed:
It climbed out of its cavity and screeched at its mate to come back:
It then waited to hear the response:
But answer came there none, so a series of full-blown screeches followed:
Again, there was little response:
So it tried again:
But after receiving no reply beyond the odd screech, it eventually gave up and flew off after its mate:
The mate was now inspecting a large hole in a different tree. It seemed to be extolling the virtues of this new discovery as a nesting site:
The second bird, however, appeared quite disdainful:
Now it was the first cockatoo’s turn to have a screech!
In the end, they may have decided it was just too hard to agree. They went off to have some more figs in another tree, and perhaps to plan their next “open house” inspection.
Sulphur-crested Cockatoos (Cacatua gelerita), also called White Cockatoos, are members of the corella section of the parrot family, and are frequently seen (and heard!) in flocks around Sydney. Their range actually extends to northern and eastern Australia, New Guinea and to parts of Indonesia. They eat a wide variety of foods including seeds, fruit, bulbs, and the occasional insect. They mostly feed on the ground and are commonest in areas with open grassland.
While I assumed from their behaviour that the Waverton cockatoos were a breeding pair, I could not be sure. Female birds reportedly have a reddish eye colour, but it darkens with age. Even when pixel-peeping my photos I was unable to see any sign of red in either bird, so perhaps one was an older female. Cockatoos are monogamous and typically mate for life, where “life” can be up to 40 years or more in the wild, so older females are not uncommon. Their breeding season is only a few weeks away, so it made sense that this pair would be investigating suitable nesting sites.
Like the lorikeets I wrote about last week, cockatoos generally nest in hollows in old trees (where “old” can mean a couple of centuries or more.) If needs be, cockatoos’ beaks are powerful enough to enlarge these hollows to the desired shape—or even to refashion exposed house timbers! They are amongst the most intelligent and playful of birds. Have a look on Youtube for “cockatoo teasing”.
I’ve previously written about another cockatoo pair I encountered a year ago, but that couple had already chosen their property and were proceeding with renovations.