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Sunday, 22 November 2020

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatoès à huppe jaune)

      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.



53 comments:

  1. White parrots are either rare or difficult to photograph.

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  2. They are destructive, incontinent vandals. Vandals with IMMENSE charm who assuredly have a permanent home in my heart. It is a little after dawn here and the first of the cockies have hit the feeders. To my delight.
    I do hope that you can come back to visit Australia again. Probably I hope it nearly as much as you do.

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  3. Hello,
    Beautiful photos of the Cockatoo! I agree, all the birds are my favorite. I enjoy seeing all the birds. Take care, have a great week!

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  4. What a delightful tribute to a bird with much attitude.

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  5. C'est vrai que ce sont de très jolis oiseaux. L'Australie hébergent de magnifiques oiseaux et autres espèces. J'imagine bien les dégâts dans les jardins, mais cela doit être un grand plaisir de les observer.
    Bonne soirée

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  6. Beautiful photos, David. It's a very pretty bird. Blue Jay is my favorite because of the blue color. I think it's a lovely bird.

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  7. This is indeed a beautiful species, even if it is a vandal! I hope you get to visit Australia again when Civic is one day over. Till then we just have our memories and dreams. Have a fun day, take care. Hugs to you and Miriam! Valerie

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  8. Handsome birds indeed. When I made my one and only visit to Australia they were endearing themselves to the human population by stripping the insulation off of the overhead power cables. I don't think I have a favourite bird though I'd give a lot to see another Collared Pratincole - these are rare visitors to these shores but watching their acrobatic flight as they hawk for insects is a sight I still treasure.

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  9. A lovely description of a bird I have never seen. I envy you and your memories of Australia and am happy that you can describe it so well that they become my memories now too !

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  10. Hari OM
    Well, you know I approve of your secret love!!! YAM xx

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  11. Your word-painting of this outstanding bird and remarks from other birders indicate this is a very special species indeed.

    Australia has long been on my bucket list of most desirable places to visit. I even had plane tickets for a trip at one point but fate intervened. One day ...

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  12. Lovely photographs.
    I hope you get to visit Australia again when Covid allows.

    All the best Jan

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  13. Beautiful birds indeed! They would approve of your choice. :)

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  14. Well, if Yam and Sue agree, you can't be wrong.

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  15. The vaccine can’t come quickly enough.

    They are gorgeous creatures!

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  16. What a gorgeous bird! Hope you get to travel again soon to see them.

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  17. These birds were introduced to New Zealand from Australia over a hundred years ago. They did not 'take' that well but some areas still have breeding populations. I have only seen one flock of them and was enthralled. I can quite see why you were so entranced.

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  18. Well, they certainly are a beautiful parrot and yes, they can be rather destructive..
    We had one as a pet once, in a very large cage outside with a swing, a joy to watch and teach to talk..eventually went to my husbands parents farm to live out it's days.

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  19. Beds made, and the room is ready, although I will wait a bit before I fire up the BBQ - now lets this vaccination sorted and we are away!
    Was watching some of these on Friday - I have to say that they are wonderful birds.

    Hope all is well - Stewart M - Melbourne

    PS: I think I have given up on the book and will start the whole process again! This time, I will Pay More Ready Attention to things like the address! SM

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    1. It would be wonderful to have the book, Stewart. I wonder if the first attempt resulted in the book being returned to them? I suppose they would have told you.

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  20. Hi David.

    A beautiful bird.
    Beautiful pictures.

    Greetings from Patricia.

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  21. Buenos días querido amigo, no me extraña que estés enamorado de esas preciosas cacatúas, a decir verdad, es un ave maravillosa. Por lo poco que se de ellas, dicen que es un ave sumamente inteligente aparte de su belleza.
    Seguro, que tendrás la oportunidad cuando pase esta maldita pandemia de volver a Australia para hacerles una nueva visita.
    Las imágenes mostradas son preciosas.
    Un fuerte abrazo de tu amigo y compadre Juan. Os deseo una buena semana.

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  22. I can understand your affection for this bird, David, but I find it difficult to separate the wild bird from the many that are kept as 'pets'. I don't have a problem with people keeping them as pets (perhaps I should?). However, with the wild birds' affinity with humans that you mention, it makes them seem less wild to me.

    I also understand your wish to return to Australia, and I hope that your wish is fulfilled. I nurse a 'Photographic Field Guide: Birds of Australia' by Jim Flegg, inherited from a dear friend, in the hope that I may visit one day in his memory.

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    1. I hope that you visit Australia one day, Richard. It is really quite fabulous. The cockatoos that I have encountered are still wild of course and they visit humans for a free meal in the the same way that birds visit your garden. As you know Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Blue Jays and Downy Woodpeckers will feed from the hand, but it makes them no less wild birds to me.

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  23. They are beautiful birds. I have a friend who used to breed them but she had one that was her constant companion. It had a lot to say and was very protective, heaven help you if it took a dislike to you!!
    Stay safe, Diane

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  24. Hi David,
    lovely set of images to keep you dreaming.

    Best regards, Corrie

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  25. Hi David.. The cockatoos are a funny and beautiful birds... I love this... Have a great week...

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  26. Hi David,
    I can understand your affinity with this bird, most certainly a very handsome Cockatoo, my only trip to Australia was pre birding and only to play Rugby, just shows how things can change.
    You both stay safe and well,
    John

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  27. Maybe you can name a favorite bird on each continent you have visited. I would be hard pressed to claim just one, too. I’ve only seen cockatoos in captivity so i enjoyed your photos of them in their natural habitat. I hope you get to go back and visit them in Australia again soon.

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  28. They are charming birds. I cannot imagine finding them in my backyard, though I think I would like it.

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  29. Haha ... no wonder this bird oozes an attitude of being proud. It literally has a feather in its cap!

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  30. This is indeed a very handsome bird!
    Loving your incredible photos as always, David.
    I hope you get to visit Australia again when Covid allows.

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  31. Beautiful birds! Stay safe and have a good week.

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  32. Ohhh, I have loved reading this post, David! Not just because I am based in Canberra myself and see these gorgeous birds all the time - in my garden, alongside our roads, flying above our house screeching - but because I adore them also. They are gorgeous and we have been lucky in that they have not destroyed anything in our garden yet. I have to say though, when we put out bird seed in winter, they are the first to come and eat it - a whole ring of seed is usually gone in a manner of minutes. It's so fun to watch. I hope you will be able to come visit soon!

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  33. not sure if you can see this. But I try!
    https://www.instagram.com/p/CH97IJ8Hrst/

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  34. Me encantan esas aves, son preciosas.

    Te contesto a tu comentario en mi blog, qu el ave que ves era simplemente una gaviota.

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  35. I agree: I can't name a favorite bird, because there are several that I am especially fond of, although a Cardinal might be my "top bird" (as opposed to "top dog"). Your information about the Cockatoo somehow reminded me of the non-native parakeets that now live in the wild year round in shoreline Connecticut US. They're unsure where they came from, and this article has some interesting (and sort of funny) information about them:

    One man’s joy is another man’s nuisance:
    https://www.damnedct.com/monk-parakeets/

    I didn't know Cockatoos were so destructive. And I chuckled at your friend's nickname for them. Which brings me to a confession: I sometimes call deer "rats with antlers" but I only mean that from the point of view that they eat most of the flowers I try to grow, which annoys me, but when I see the fawns, my heart melts. And I never wish them any harm. A few times now, a deer has been hit by a car on my busy street, and the police have had to put it down. That is always upsetting for me to hear, even though I know it has to be done for humane reasons.

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  36. Hi David, handsome white birds with a little yellow. I hope you can visit Australia soon. Till then enjoy your memories. Have a nice day. Greetings Carolin e

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  37. They are magnificent birds David. In my area in Perth we get the pink and grey cockatoo known as Galah, who also tend to rip out chunks of grass.
    Hopefully you will be able to visit Australia a few more times, and come to Perth too :)

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  38. Es un pájaro precioso y me encanta, pero no es mi pájaro favorito, aunque todos me gustan. Me encantan el Martin pescador, la abubilla y muchos más. Besos y espero que puedas volver a Australia.

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  39. I can surely see how you would be so fond of this bird. I hope you do get to travel to Australia again.

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  40. They are a beautiful bird, it's difficult to imagine, living in the UK, that you can see birds like this as part of daily life! We will have an opportunity to visit Australia in a couple years to see family so hopefully i'll get to see one of these too!

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  41. Hi David - EC gets it right with her description ... yet I know your love for these birds ... must be wonderful to see - I hope I can get down under sometime. Take care - Hilary

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  42. hello David
    You can only see such a cockatoo here in bird parks or zoos and of course with private people in cages, I have never seen such a bird in real life .... Nice to know that it is your libling bird
    Stay healthy
    Greetings Frank

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  43. I have a soft spot for the sulphur crested cockatoo as well, David. They're not native to southern Western Australia, though, so we rarely see them in the wild although there is a small feral population in several areas. Lovely as they are we don't want them becoming established here since if they were to do so here (as rainbow lorikeets have) the consequences for agriculture are likely to be severe.

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    1. And I would imagine they feel the same about humans too!

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  44. As a child, I dreamed of having such a parrot at home. Unfortunately, she was too big and we had a Budgerigar in a cage. Sorry, I don't visit you on a regular basis, but I don't have much time, a lot of work. It is always nice with you and so much cool information!

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  45. Spectacular images!
    Stay save
    We have to wait for better times together!
    Regards, Maria

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  46. My first introduction to these birds involved a single bird kept as a 'pet' here in the US. It belonged to the son of British friends; heaven only knows where he picked it up, but he loved it. It didn't love me. I still bear a scar from our meeting on the back of my right hand. Eventually, I began blogging, met some Australian bloggers, and learned a great deal about the species. My Australian friends seem to have a certain ambivalence about them, but they'd never wish them out of their lives!

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  47. It is really an extraordinary bird.
    Wonderful photos.

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  48. He looks like a bit of a dandy with his crest -- and very handsome!

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