Being a beat writer is a great privilege but some weeks you simply have no idea what to write about. The real world is hammering away and the fancy-pants posts you half dreamt up are nowhere near ready to show the world, but there’s a deadline and Corey has extremely subtle ways of making sure that you don’t miss deadlines. However it occurred to me that I could take the opportunity to use up some of the images I have left over from my trip to Australia that didn’t quite fit in any of the articles I’ve already written. They are nice enough pictures, but not quite enough to stand alone. By a happy coincidence they are all linked thematically, so I think that’s a win.

The cockatoos are one of the three families of parrots, along with the widespread “true” parrots (which now include the lorikeets) and the recently split New Zealand parrots.  As parrots go they are generally on the large size, and generally have distinctly white, black and red or pink plumage. While they spread out a bit they are most commonly associated with Australia, where they are the largest parrots and among the most conspicuous. It doesn’t take much work to find one, even in busy cities, in fact they are often easiest to find in the many fine parks in cities like Melbourne and Sydney.

My first cockie was a pair I found in the same graveyard as the Bush Stone-curlews I discussed earlier in the year. The graveyard was generally pretty good for birds, with Olive-backed Sunbirds and Rainbow Bee-eaters, but it was a pair of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos that were a real highlight. This is the most widespread of the black cockatoo species, and not one found in the coastal south east that is where more Australians live, and it was a new species for me. Cockatoos can be very loud, but this pair were quietly sitting and preening on a branch above the path. If I hadn’t been looking for birds I could easily have walked right past them.

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) Male above, female just visible below. sadly none of my female shots came out, but you can see the yellow spots on her face. Just.

The second cockatoo I got some decent photos of was the Glossy Black Cockatoo. This is the smallest of the black cockatoos, and is found around Sydney, although it is not particularly common or easy to find anywhere in its range. They often feed quietly on the pods of Casuarina, which is where I found a pair in Ku-Ring-Gai National park to the north of Sydeny, but the denseness of Casuarina stands doesn’t make this an easy place to find them. I guess I was just lucky.

Glossy Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami) This time I only got the female.

Uncommon and hard to find certainly doesn’t describe the Galah, however. One of my earliest memories of visiting Canberra is huge flocks of the things on every bit of grass and lawn you could see. Their ubiquity makes one overlook them, but they are very attractive birds with a plumage pattern almos unique amongst birds. These particular shots were taken in Wilson’s Promontory National park in Victoria, where tame birds hang around the camping grounds.

Galah (Cacatua roseicapilla), Wilson’s Prom, Victoria

 In conclusion, if you haven’t been to Australia yet and you love parrots, why haven’t you been to Australia?

Written by Duncan
Duncan Wright is a Wellington-based ornithologist working on the evolution of New Zealand's birds. He's previously poked albatrosses with sticks in Hawaii, provided target practice for gulls in California, chased monkeys up and down hills Uganda, wrestled sharks in the Bahamas and played God with grasshopper genetics in Namibia. He came into studying birds rather later in life, and could quit any time he wants to.