The case of the curious cockatoo
Posted by Greta van der Rol
Cockatoos are very smart birds – very smart animals. One of my favourites is the sulphur-crested cockatoo, a big white bird with a big loud squawk and a big powerful beak that thinks nothing of chewing through an unopened pine cone. They’re great fliers, acrobatic show-offs and I’m sure they have a sense of humour, as well as an intelligent, curious streak.
Back when we lived in Victoria our property was beside a state forest where an enormous colony of sulphur cresteds lived. They would do an early morning warm-up wheeling overhead in noisy flocks before they started off for the day’s foraging and they’d do the same in the evening, gossiping together and enjoying the last of the sunlight before settling down for the night. They are the Australian bush’s pruners. They don’t seem to be able to sit on a branch without snipping a piece off and they’ll happily chew on any sort of wooden structure – verandas, window sills, fences.
They also live to a ripe old age. We’re talking fifty or more years here, so they’re a pet to hand on to your children. This is one of the reasons I HATE to see them in cages.
There are sulphur cresteds here in Queensland, too and I’m often outside with the camera, trying to get that wonderful photo of one flying by. If they see me, they’ll watch me as they go past, turning their heads to look at the camera – just like that one in the picture up there. One of my neighbours has a palm tree putting up a new frond. They grow like a spike before they unfurl and this has become a favourite perch for a lot of the parrots. Notice how they’ve bent the top of the spike to form a seat. Because the tree is a fair way away, it’s not the best picture in the world. Again, see the bird is looking directly at me.
A few moments after I’d gone inside I heard a very loud squawk, then another one. I grabbed the camera, hoping a bird was flying by and I could get that rare action shot. But no. We have palm trees, too. A cockatoo had perched on the leading spike not ten meters from my back door. He had no reason, just curiosity and I will swear to my dying day that he called me out. Once he saw me, the squawking stopped. He swayed up there in the breeze for a few moments, then flew away to join his mates.