Friday, 11 April 2014

A Few Notes On An Aussie Icon

The sulphur-crested cockatoo, Cacatua galerita, can be found all over Australia from sea level to tree-line in the high mountains and on adjacent islands. Four geographic races have been described. They also occur in New Guinea and on many islands such as Aru, Waigeo and Misool.

Cockatoos are popular pets. They can live for many decades and are often included in wills. They can no longer be exported from Australia but many make the northern pet trade through illegal exports from adjacent non-Australian territories and breeding by aviculturalists. They attract handsome prices outside Australia.

Cockatoos have a very loud, raucous call-probably a protective "strategy" that puts off potential predators. They cause mega-damage to fruits and nuts and farmers are allowed to shoot pesky individuals.
Cockatoos are quick to recognise potential food sources. They can descend on a bird feeder and empty it promptly. They have a great fondness for chewing on wood. Garden furniture is at risk when cockatoos are around. The wander around on roofs and chew on molding and shutters causing great economic loss. Resorts plead with visitors not to encourage the birds as they will often chew on furniture and even enter rooms in search of a free meal.
Cockatoos, as well as Rainbow Lorikeets, will gladly join you for lunch.

Some bold individuals even take to the trash bins!

A Sad Note
Within a group of cockies, you will often find one or two rather moth-eaten individuals.

Birds that look like this are suffering from Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease. This is a viral disease that is usually fatal. Some birds have an immunity to the ailment. It manifests itself in several ways. The bird's dander, the powdery coating on the feathers, is destroyed and the birds lose the ability to keep the feathers clean. So they always appear dirty. The feathers are affected. The shafts seem to not allow the feathers to open. There is feather drop and the topnotch is often lost. Birds acquire the infection in the nest and if they develop more or less normally, they eventually suffer diarrhea, vomiting and loss of appetite.

One of the sadder aspects of the disease is that the beak is often affected and can even fall off. When this happens, the bird's ability to feed is greatly limited.

Many parrot species can be affected by PBFD and it is disappointing to see a pet develop the symptoms and have to be euthanised.


Judith Gray said...

This is a great post. While I love the Sulpur-Crested Cockatoo's in the wild, I believe that they should not be allowed to be a pet. As you mentioned, these birds (similar to Galah's) always outlive their owners, leaving them unwanted and without a home. They are often put into horribly small "cockatoo" cages with no room to fly, much less move around like they would in the wild and don't have any quality of life as far as I am concerned. It is very difficult to find people to take on such pets once the original owners have passed away. I have been told that they can live in captivity for more than 120 years! Really good blog article and I like that you have highlighted the beak and feather disease also to educate people.

Mr. Smiley said...

Thanks Judith. I appreciate your comment.
D Rentz

Camera Trap Codger said...

I once befriended one in a department store in Bangkok. It wanted its head scratched, and scratched, and scratched. Finally I made my break, and the bird went bonkers -- screamed like bloody murder as I tried to make a discreet getaway. Never again.

Johan Hurter said...

Good read. However I was under the impression PBFD had to be diagnosed clinically? Not visually from birds that may be moulting.

Johan Hurter said...

Good read. However I was under the impression PBFD had to be diagnosed clinically? Not visually from birds that may be moulting.