Barely a week goes by without someone asking me to name my favourite bird. This, of course, is an impossible task. It depends on where I am at the time, my mood, even the bird I have just seen.
Without hesitation, however, I can tell you of one species of which I am inordinately fond - Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita).
This is a very handsome bird indeed, measuring from 44 - 51 cm, principally white, with a vivid yellow forward-curving crest, and a hint of pale-yellow on the cheeks. The physical description barely begins to describe this intelligent bird, however. It has panache, a confident swagger, and attitude to spare. It dominates other species wherever it is found, it sets the tone for the gathering.
I remember my initial encounter with it when driving from the Canberra airport to my B&B on my first visit to Australia in 1998. I stopped at a red light and glanced up into the tree on the sidewalk and saw my first Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. I was instantly enchanted and have remained so ever since.
It seems to relish the company of humans and may be found in suburban gardens, especially where feeding trays and water are provided.
It is not always a benign presence and can cause considerable damage. It's powerful beak is capable of decapitating flowers, removing the weather stripping from doors and windows, and destroying the seal on the windshield of your car.
My good friend, Sue Goldberg, who lives in Canberra terms them Sulphur-crested Vandals, and more than once has looked out to see all her flowers strewn on the ground. Despite their bad behaviour she loves them dearly and would not wish them ill even for a moment. It seems that humans present a challenge that cockatoos simply cannot resist!
Established pairs seem extremely affectionate towards each other and often maintain very close contact.
Courtship, however, is both simple and brief. The male struts along a branch towards the female, with crest raised. He bobs his head up and down and swishes it from side to side in a figure eight movement, all the while softly chattering to the female. Allopreening and copulation generally follow.
Large cavities in trees are selected for nest sites and breeding pairs maintain great interest in suitable sites, visiting them throughout the year.
Australia remains one of my most favourite countries on earth to visit - check that, my absolute most favourite place. There are so many interesting birds in so many unique families, with the excitement of discovery every day. None has captured my heart more than Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, however.
If ever we get COVID under control and can travel again, I intend to pay them a visit at least one more time. I have a couple of their feathers right in front of me as I compose this post, and that will have to suffice for now. That and my memories!
À la prochaine mes amis.