Cockatoos and Parrots

Long-billed Corellas by Julian Robinson

Families Cacatuidae and Psittacidae

Visitors to Canberra often express surprise and delight with Canberra’s cockatoos and parrots being such a visible and audible feature of the bird life of the national capital.

The birds of these two families have powerful curved bills which can be used for many purposes, including (according to species): opening tough seed capsules of eucalypts and casuarinas; manipulating seeds, fruit and insects; digging; and tearing wood and other hard objects. They have short muscular legs, and feet with two toes forward and two back, very suitable for climbing and grasping. Most nest in tree hollows.

Cockatoos and parrots mainly eat seeds, but many are also attracted to fruit, and sometimes eat insects and insect larvae. They can be attracted to suburban gardens if food is provided and are also drawn by the fruit and seeds of trees such as apples, plums, cherries, and the seeds of hawthorn, firethorn and cotoneaster and both native and exotic conifers. The abundance of food from these sources may have led to population increases of several species. Lorikeets, which are uncommon in Canberra, are mainly nectar feeders. Cockatoos in particular are fairly sociable, sometimes gathering in large flocks. In the winter flocks of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Galahs can be seen digging up onion-weed bulbs and other vegetable matter along the sides of arterial roads.

Cockatoos (Family Cacatuidae) are large birds with distinctive plumage and mobile crests. Their loud, often raucous calls are soon recognised. Sulphur-crested and Gang-gang Cockatoos and Galahs are the most common in Canberra while the Little Corella has established itself in recent years in inner Canberra suburbs. The Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo is also present. There have been occasional recordings in the Garden Bird Survey of many other species, including Cockatiel (63), Long-billed Corella (26), Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo (16) and Glossy Black-Cockatoo (9). Canberra is included within the range of the latter, which are occasionally sighted on the slopes of Mount Ainslie, but is well outside the range of the three which would be either vagrant or escaped birds.

Most parrots (Family Pscittacidae) seen in Canberra are brightly coloured birds, the most common being the Crimson Rosella, Eastern Rosella and Red-rumped Parrot, as well as the Australian King-Parrot in the cooler months. Other native species seen here occasionally include Little Lorikeet (29), Musk Lorikeet (7), Scaly-breasted Lorikeet (3), Purple-crowned Lorikeet (1), Australian Ringneck (15), Swift Parrot (10), Red-capped Parrot (2), Regent Parrot (2), Turquoise Parrot (1), and Princess Parrot (1).