are 54 species of parrot in Australia, from the huge Yellow-tailed
Black-cockatoo to the relatively tiny Double-eyed Fig-parrot. Between
them they are found across the entire continent from the dry,
hot interior to the snow and ice conditions of the Snowy mountains.
What follows is information concerning four of Australia's best
known parrot species only. For more extensive information on parrots
please see the links page.
The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, cacatua galerita, is possibly the most iconic of all of Australia's parrots, probably because it is seen in all of the capital cities and because it is so noisy and big. It is common throughout the east and north of the country, and there are now populations established around Perth and in Tasmania. The combination of it being found in large flocks and its diet of grains and fruit has lead to it becoming viewed as a pest by many farmers, and indeed licenced shooting of these cockatoos does take place. It is frequently sought as a caged bird outside of Australia but is rarely bred here due to the ready availability of wild-caught specimens.
They are extremely loud birds, especially when in groups , and their intelligence can lead to frustration if, for example, a regular food source is removed, and this can bring out their destructive tendencies.
Sulphur-crested cockatoos, along with certain other parrots, are susceptible to a widespread viral disease known as Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD), which causes the birds to lose their feathers and grow grotesquely shaped beaks, leading to starvation.
The species is gregarious, and can often be seen in flocks of several hundred. They will usually congregate at evening time and can become excited with the coming of rain, with lots of acrobatic flying and much screeching. Feeding, as with many other species, is often found on the ground, and in these situations one or two of the flock will normally perch in nearby trees to act as sentries.
Breeding season is from August to January in the south and May to September in the north. Nesting takes place in a deep hollow high above the ground. Usually two eggs are laid and incubation takes 30 days. Fledging takes place after approximately 70 days. Natural predators include birds of prey and monitor lizards (goannas).
Lack of suitable dead, hollow trees for nesting, due to land clearance, is the main threat to all parrots in Australia.
Height 50cm, weight 750g-900g, life span>100 years
The Rainbow lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus) is common throughout its range which extends from Kangaroo island to Broome, WA and includes all of the east coast. In the north of the range the red-collared form takes over. It is found in all forest, heath and woodland where blossoms occur. It is common in urban areas where it is readily attracted to feeders.
It feeds relies on pollen but will also eat fruit and will take seeds from feeders. Large flocks often occur (sometimes in the thousands) and may descend upon a fruit orchard where they cause considerable damage. They have a brush-shaped tongue for licking nectar from flowers and fruit.
Mating is from September to November and nesting is in an unlined hollow in a tree, usually producing 2-3 eggs. Partners form close bonds, something which is reinforces by mutual grooming
They are easily attracted to feeders and onto hands. However, they will fiercely defend such food from other species, often chasing away birds several times their size.They are also likely to congregate in large groups and in such circumstances will make an enormous amount of noise.
They make good pets and are no longer a proscribed species, meaning that wild birds can be caught and kept as pets. They are excellent imitators of all manner of sounds
The Galah, Eolophus roseicapilla, is the most common and widespread of Australian cockatoos. It occupies open country in almost all parts of mainland Australia and are common in some metropolitan areas.
Sexes are similar, differing only in eye colour: the male has a brown iris, the adult female red.
The changes wrought by European settlement, a disaster for many species, have been highly beneficial for the Galah because of the clearing of forests in fertile areas and the provision of stock watering points in arid zones.
Nesting takes place in a hollow tree, usually quite a way from the ground, and the pair of birds will continue to develop the cavity to their liking. The hollow will be vacated after fledging has occurred (at about seven weeks), often to be re-used by the same pair in subsequent years. after fledging the young are guided to 'creche' trees where they are fed by older galahs and adults without chicks. Weaning is complete within two months of leaving the nest.
Galahs will form large flocks - over 1000 birds is not uncommon - and will use this flocking instinct for protection if a predator approaches. They have benefited greatly from the introduction of widespread farming (free grain, and water)
They are known for their apparent playful behaviour. They will undertake many activities that appear to have no purpose other than fun (sliding down a childrens slide on its back, landing on a blade of a wind turbine until they cannot hang on any longer and then repeating the exercise etc). The term 'galah has become associated in Australia with foolish behaviour eg "Doing the galah".
Galahs are highly social and are sometimes kept as pets. However, they form strong bonds with their owners and may well end up outliving them.
Typical birds are about 35cm long and weigh between 300 and 400 grams.
The Australian King Parrot, Alisterus scapularis is endemic to Australia and is found all along the eastern seaboard , stretching from southern Victoria to northern Queensland. It frequents rainforests to urban parks, normally being seen in pairs or small flocks of mainly green-headed birds. The male has a brilliant red head and chest with a blue nape, the female and juveniles have a brownish-green head and chest. They are normally seen feeding in trees but they will also feed on the ground. Their diet consists of a wide variety of seeds, berries, fruits and nuts and is supplemented seasonally by blossoms, nectar and pollen.
Courtship involves continuous contact being maintained by a shrill whistle being maintained by both birds and with regular feeding of the female by the male. Nesting is in a large hollow tree, where 3-5 eggs are laid. Males do not get their adult plumage until the fourth year.
In Australia King parrots are sometimes bred in aviaries and usually make relatively quiet, calm pets. Their 'talking' ability is quite limited but they do form strong bonds if raised from chicks.
Size 42 cm (16 inches) in length including a long tail, life span in wild unknown, as pets to 25 years.
Main sources for this information;
Australian Birds, Slater
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