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Australian Native Birds - Sulphur Crested Cockatoo
Cocky showing off it's Sulphur Crest
The Sulphur Crested Cockatoo is one of many varieties of Cockatoo in Australia
To my knowledge there are a number of different Cockatoo in Australia. The most commonly seen Cockatoos in Australia are:
- The Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, named for its upward sweeping 'yellow' crest.
- The Black Cockatoo, with a striking red tail this bird is very hard to spot in the shadows of the trees.
- Major Mitchell's Cockatoo/ sometimes called Pink Cockatoo, a truly beautiful bird!
- Gang-Gang Cockatoo, colorful with an unusual call, sort of like a creaky growl with an sound like a whip at the end. (I have only heard it once myself)
- The Galah, this bird is the lead comic in the Cockatoo world. ( If you are playing around or mucking up here in Australia, you are often, quite fondly referred to as a 'Silly Galah')
In this article I will be talking mainly about the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo which is by far the most populous.
Cockatoo showing some color
Sulphur Crested Cockatoo
The Sulphur Crested Cockatoo has the very majestic official name of 'Cacatua galerita'. Quiet grand isn't it ?
However in the Australian Vernacular, depending on the mood of the conversation, it is simply known as 'Cockatoo' 'Bloody Cockatoo' or simply 'Cocky'
This Cockatoo is probably the most prolific of all of the Australian Cockatoos and is found mainly down the Eastern Coast of Australia.
The Cockatoo breeding season is usually around Spring/Summer time In Australia that is any time from August on through to January. The Female Sulphur Crested Cockatoo lays anything up to three eggs in a rough nest constructed from materials like wood chips etc. usually in a tree hollow that the pair of Cockatoo have found.
After an incubation period of up to 27 days, both parents take turns in the incubation process and after the eggs hatch the nestlings are tended to by both parents.
After about 12 weeks the, by then, fledglings are taught by the parents how to fly and forage for food. This is quite funny to see especially when the fledgling is coming in to land!
The fully grown Sulphur Crested Cockatoo is quite a large bird measuring close on 2 feet long and a wing span to match. This size bird is quite formidable and, coupled with being very intelligent, consequently the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo does not have many predators and subsequently has been able to breed in large numbers!
Driving through the country side it is not uncommon to see flocks of these birds. They travel in large numbers and have become a huge problem for farmers, especially cereal growers.
Sulphur Crested Cockatoo as Pets
The Sulphur Crested Cockatoo although almost in plague proportions in some parts of Australia do actually make great pets both for adults and children.
I remember with great fondness how a Cockatoo saved our house from burning down!.
When I was a young boy many, many years ago we had this white Sulphur crested cockatoo.
He was christened (I believe with a glass of beer of which it became quite fond) with the name of 'Cocky' by my very pragmatic father.
"Why would you not call a cockatoo 'Cocky' ?" he said when he brought him home. Who were we to argue?
It was allowed to roam at large during the day and kept in a cage at night and covered up with a blanket because it's screeching would wake the dead. The cage was placed in the laundry on top of a 'copper' used for boiling water and washing the clothes. (Before washing machines were invented for the masses)
Early one morning while it was still dark we were all awakened by this unholy screeching and rushing out to trace the noise we found smoke billowing from the laundry and 'Cocky' was screeching and flapping it's wings like I had never seen (The blanket had been shaken off the cage) 'Cocky' was rescued from the smoke and the smoldering fire extinguished.
What had happened after we investigated was the fire under the 'copper' had not been put out and the metal cover had blown off with a backdraft and ashes had fallen onto the wooden floor starting to smolder. Thanks to Cocky giving us the warning there was only minimal damage done to the floor. Unfortunately though Cocky had got out of it's cage and in panic flew up into a tall pine tree next door. ( We did not realize it could fly as it was never tethered).
Next morning my very brave (some said stupid) brother climbed the tree and rescued Cocky and we kept him for many years after that!
So you can see I have an affinity with the white Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.
Keeping Cockatoos as Pets
A timely warning for those interested in keeping a Sulphur Crest Cockatoo as a pet.
Keep in mind that Cockatoo's have almost the same life span as we humans, they can live to the ripe old age of 70 and over. The oldest record that I can find documented is over 100 years of age.
Another factor is the sheer size of the bird. As birds go they are quite large, measuring close on 2 feet long and a wingspan to match. This makes them very time consuming when tending to their needs of Hygiene and they can be susceptible to normal bird diseases.
They are also capable of inflicting a nasty wound with their beak.
I was on the receiving end of a friendly nip from the above mentioned 'Cocky' when his meal was not delivered quickly enough :-)
They can also give some nice scratches from their claws (or is that talons, I never know) and when handling it is better to wear thick protective gloves.
On the plus side they are great company and they can be trained to 'talk' ( they are great imitators and pick up swear words very easily) and if acquired at a reasonable young age do learn to dance . It is something to see a Cocky dancing to music!
Personally I do not like to see birds kept in cages but if you really want to have a bird as a pet my suggestion is the smaller Budgerigar.