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Commander Skyring

'Commander Skyring'
Gang-Gang Cockatoo

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Commander and Mrs Skyring live at Featherdale Wildlife Park, Sydney. Before I photographed them I was able to observe them together and they acted like any other married couple, sharing cuddles, grooming… the occasional squawky disagreement.

Mrs Sykring (grey face) started destroying the wooden perch as soon as she sat for her portrait. She was more interested in eating a peanut than paying me any attention. Then suddenly when she was ready, she turned on the charm. I got so many great photographs it was very hard to edit the shoot.

Commander Skyring (red face) was very different in personality. He remained composed throughout the entire shoot. He kept quite still, watching me closely. I felt like he knew I outranked him and he was waiting for my orders.

Gang-Gang Cockatoos live in small flocks in the south east of Australia. They set up supervised crèches for their young so parents can take turns feeding away from the nest site.

Like Commander and Mrs Skyring, Gang-Gang couples mate for life and often live until they are sixty-years of age.

GangGang_Map

Mrs Skyring

'Mrs Skyring'
Gang-Gang Cockatoo

more information

Commander and Mrs Skyring live at Featherdale Wildlife Park, Sydney. Before I photographed them I was able to observe them together and they acted like any other married couple, sharing cuddles, grooming… the occasional squawky disagreement.

Mrs Sykring (grey face) started destroying the wooden perch as soon as she sat for her portrait. She was more interested in eating a peanut than paying me any attention. Then suddenly when she was ready, she turned on the charm. I got so many great photographs it was very hard to edit the shoot.

Commander Skyring (red face) was very different in personality. He remained composed throughout the entire shoot. He kept quite still, watching me closely. I felt like he knew I outranked him and he was waiting for my orders.

Gang-Gang Cockatoos live in small flocks in the south east of Australia. They set up supervised crèches for their young so parents can take turns feeding away from the nest site.

Like Commander and Mrs Skyring, Gang-Gang couples mate for life and often live until they are sixty-years of age.

GangGang_Map

Pete

'Pete'
Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo

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Pete is one of the few birds that did not need to be photographed in my portable bird studio. Instead he freely walked up and down a log that was brought in for the shoot. I had to move fast to keep up with him and he had so many great moves and expressions it was hard to keep him in focus.

As the shoot went on he got more and more excited, pulling out his best moves. He was one bird that was born for the stage – think Elvis’ 1968 Comeback Special. There were a lot of impressive loud screeches, a crest that was so big sometimes you couldn’t see his beak, lots of dancing and flapping and general excitement about getting to perform.

Juvenile male Red-tailed Black Cockatoos resemble females until puberty, which occurs at around four years of age, but have paler yellow barred underparts. As the birds reach maturity, males gradually replace their yellow tail feathers with red ones.

RedTailedBlack_Map

Neville

'Neville'
Major Mitchell's Cockatoo

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Who is Major Mitchell? He was a Scottish- born Australian explorer and surveyor whose full title and name was: Lieutenant Colonel Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell. He wrote fondly of these Cockatoos but not so fondly of Australia’s countryside. “Few birds more enliven the monotonous hues of the Australian forest than this beautiful species whose pink-coloured wings and flowing crest might have embellished the air of a more voluptuous region.”

He was a brilliant man, but a proud one. He is known as the last person in Australia to challenge someone to a duel (held in September 1851, in Centennial Park, Sydney) after he and his Surveyor General’s Department were criticised for… excessive spending. “How dare you!” Fortunately both shots missed their mark.

Major Mitchell died of bronchitis in 1855 and is buried in Camperdown Cemetery in the suburb of Newtown, Sydney. His name lives on in the Canberra (Australia’s capital city) suburb of Mitchell and in Mitchell’s Hopping Mouse: a nocturnal Australian native rodent which looks like a cross between a kangaroo and a rat.

Like all female Major Mitchell Cockatoos if you look closely at her eye, Matilda has a light reddish-brown iris as opposed to male Neville’s black iris. Matilda was very polite while Neville was a show off.

Because of their white and salmon-pink plumage and large, bright red and yellow crest they are generally recognised as the most beautiful of all cockatoos.

To our ears, in contrast to their beauty, their song is sad and mournful.

MajorMitchells_Map

 

Melba

'Melba'
Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoo

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The first time I saw a Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoo I was driving in Clovelly a beach-side suburb of Sydney on ANZAC Day (memorial for those who have served in the Australian and New Zealand military) with friends. When I spotted this majestic bird sitting on a telephone line, I nearly crashed the car. I swung the car around quickly to get a closer look, the screams of terror in the car were soon silenced when the passengers witnessed what I was looking at. We stood and stared in wonder.

It was just so beautiful and so BIG! I thought it must have been an escaped aviary bird because I had never seen a wild bird that big in the city.

We headed down to the ocean and soon discovered a large flock feeding in the banksia trees. I went home and consulted my well-worn ‘Pizzey and Knight’s Birds of Australia’ and that was the beginning of my love for these incredible critters.

It really is a particularly large cockatoo. Adults can be 65cm (2 feet) in length. If you get the privilege of seeing them fly they will take your breath away. They flap deeply and slowly with distinctly heavy, fluid wingbeats and their loud eerie wailing calls carry for long distances.
Melba was hard to photograph because she was just so big. My portable bird studio that I use to photograph Cockatoos was designed for large birds but when Melba came in her head almost touched the ceiling and her tail feathers touched the floor. She was calm and confident, a gentle giant.

As with many Cockatoos, her habitat is being cleared but unlike some that thrive in the new open spaces, she needs trees to nest. That’s why she was in Clovelly on ANZAC day where there are trees lining the ocean.

YellowTailedBlack

Queenie

'Queenie'
Galah

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The Galah is one of the most common and widespread Cockatoos as they have benefited from European settlement – stealing grain and water from farms and houses. They can be found in open country in almost all parts of mainland Australia.

Like most large parrots, Queenie is intelligent. The Galah’s supposed foolishness (‘You flamin’ Galah!’ is Alf Stewart’s  trademark put-down in the TV series, Home and Away) comes from their intense curiosity, playfulness and hilarious call being interpreted as clownish.

Even though they are now widespread, a Galah’s life is hard from the beginning. About 50% of all chicks die in their first 6 months.

Fortunately Queenie is a survivor and a real lady.

Galah_Map

Seisa

'Seisa'
Palm Cockatoo

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I have never met a more curious bird than Seisa (pronounced ‘Say-Sha’) the Palm Cockatoo. When I was setting up, she did everything she could to see me; she managed to crook her neck around a very tight corner just so she could watch me. She was fascinated by all my equipment.

Once we started shooting she was gentle and shy, but what struck me most was her intense eye contact. She looked deeply into my eyes and listened very carefully to everything I said.

She was so other-worldly that I imagined I was photographing an alien species. As the shoot went on she trusted me more and more, and by the end she came up to me for cuddles and nuzzled into my neck.

Seisa lives at the Adelaide Zoo and has been lovingly raised by the zoo since she was an egg. She was hatched on 5th October 2010. It is incredibly hard to breed and raise a Palm Cockatoo so it is a credit to the zoo. Palm Cockatoos live in the rain forests of the Cape York Peninsula in north Queensland (a State of Australia) and the zoo is passionately trying to preserve this beautiful species from the effects of deforestation.

If a male Palm Cockatoo wants to breed he has to learn to play the drums. He must find a drum stick by breaking off a branch, then strip off the bark and drum with one foot by his nest-hollow high in a tree trunk. The sound travels over 100 metres (328 feet) and captivates the lady Palm Cockatoos. Once he finds a partner, however, his drumming days are over and the drum stick gets splintered for use in the nest. Sound familiar?

PalmCockatoo_Map

Bob

'Bob'
Long-Billed Corella

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Bob is a rescued Long-Billed Corella who I met at the home of Daphne, a dedicated WIRES (Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service Inc) volunteer in Sydney, New South Wales. WIRES rescue tens of thousands of native birds, possums, snakes and marsupials in New South Wales each year and is a charity that relies on donations.

Long-Billed Corellas originated in western Victoria and southern New South Wales, however flocks have started to form in Sydney and other capital cities after aviary birds escaped and bred. One of my favourite places to see them is in Centennial Park, Sydney where large flocks dig for roots, seeds and bulbs using their long pale beak as a hoe.

It was unclear at first if Bob would be OK with being photographed but in the end he loved it. Some of his poses made me laugh as he seemed to be an old professional who knew his best side for portraits.

LongBilledCorella_Map

Kirra

'Kirra'
Carnaby's Black Cockatoo

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I was very excited to meet Kirra the Carnaby Cockatoo.

I grew up in Perth in the state of Western Australia and often saw these Cockatoos, as they are endemic to the south west of Western Australia. If you were going to barrack for the underdog these beautiful birds are it. Their population has decreased by over 50% over the last 45 years and they are high on the endangered species list.

The problem is that the birds are fussy and humans keep knocking their tree-houses down. They only nest in mature eucalypts such as salmon gum and wandoo that need 100 years to form hollows suitable for nesting. With land clearing for farming, removal of nest hollows for use as firewood or just to make properties look ‘tidy’, the birds’ homes have been either wiped out or fragmented.

There is a wonderful documentary about the Carnaby’s called ‘On A Wing and a Prayer’ shown on the ABC which described the birds like this – “Playful, mischievous and highly intelligent, Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos are adored by thousands, hunted by many and saved by few. Hope for their future is in the hands of the local community and one man in particular, Senior Wildlife Investigator Rick Dawson”. Thank you, Rick.

The more people know about these beautiful birds the better chance they have for survival and the cheeky Kirra is a wonderful ambassador for her species.

Carnaby'sBlack_Map

Matilda

'Matilda'
Major Mitchell's Cockatoo

more information

Who is Major Mitchell? He was a Scottish- born Australian explorer and surveyor whose full title and name was: Lieutenant Colonel Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell. He wrote fondly of these Cockatoos but not so fondly of Australia’s countryside. “Few birds more enliven the monotonous hues of the Australian forest than this beautiful species whose pink-coloured wings and flowing crest might have embellished the air of a more voluptuous region.”

He was a brilliant man, but a proud one. He is known as the last person in Australia to challenge someone to a duel (held in September 1851, in Centennial Park, Sydney) after he and his Surveyor General’s Department were criticised for… excessive spending. “How dare you!” Fortunately both shots missed their mark.

Major Mitchell died of bronchitis in 1855 and is buried in Camperdown Cemetery in the suburb of Newtown, Sydney. His name lives on in the Canberra (Australia’s capital city) suburb of Mitchell and in Mitchell’s Hopping Mouse: a nocturnal Australian native rodent which looks like a cross between a kangaroo and a rat.

Like all female Major Mitchell Cockatoos if you look closely at her eye, Matilda has a light reddish-brown iris as opposed to male Neville’s black iris. Matilda was very polite while Neville was a show off.

Because of their white and salmon-pink plumage and large, bright red and yellow crest they are generally recognised as the most beautiful of all cockatoos.

To our ears, in contrast to their beauty, their song is sad and mournful.

MajorMitchells_Map

Nora

'Nora'
Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo

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What I love about working on these projects is the amazing people I get to meet. One is Josh Cook, he’s a carer for WIRES  (Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service Inc) who lives in Sydney and is an extraordinary human being. Josh has cared for many red-tailed black cockatoos and other birds in need. When I visited his house the first thing I noticed was the singing of so many birds – every room is filled with patients in care.

Josh goes one step further. His job with his company ‘Birdwork’ works with owners of birds to teach them a new way of thinking. Many people crave contact with birds but struggle with the idea of caging birds or clipping their wings. Josh teaches that there is a way to share a wonderful life. He teaches birds ‘free flight’, which essentially means to be like homing pigeons. The idea is that the birds are let out in the morning to spread their wings and fly around the neighbourhood to see their friends, get their exercise and then return home for dinner, a cuddle and to roost at night.

When I met Nora it struck me that she looked like a knight in a suit of armour. Her feathers were so defined they looked like hard metal pieces not soft, light feathers. She was incredibly human in all her expressions and when I came home from the photoshoot I found myself coming back to this image time and time again.

RedTailedBlack_Map

Slim

'Slim'
Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

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Slim lives at the Featherdale Wildlife Park in Doonside, Sydney. He was immediately comfortable with the camera and I would go so far as to say he loved the shoot as much as I did. Confident and curious in my company, he was a pleasure to photograph.

I love how his Sulphur-Crested relatives have moved into our cities and I am not the only one who loves their company. I came across ‘The Cockatoo Wingtag Project’ which is run by the University of Sydney and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney. The research project relies on yellow tags affixed to the wings of the Sulphurs that live in the Botanic Gardens. A Facebook page has been set up: facebook.com/cockatoowingtags and people have been asked to report sightings via this page.

The study has revealed that like their privileged human counterparts, the same Cocky may breakfast in the wealthy Sydney suburbs of Mosman, lunch at Potts Point then spend a long afternoon on a balcony in Kirribilli talking to his mates. The affection shown to these birds through posted photos and comments from the public makes me smile. Slim would be happy to know that this project is taking place.

Unfortunately, not everyone loves that Cockies have moved to the city. Cockatoos are often seen as destructive because they chew buildings. They need to chew to keep their beaks in good health and would normally chew trees but with fewer trees around, window sills often provide a tasty alternative. This is why wildlife experts say you should not encourage them to stay around by regularly feeding them. If there is a very special occasion, feed them natural foods such as banksia cones, native seeds, grasses and flowers.

Remember if they start eating a building, it’s not their fault, – they just have to chew!

SulphurCrested_Map

Rosie

'Rosie'
Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo

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What I love about working on these projects is the amazing people I get to meet. One is Josh Cook, he’s a carer for WIRES  (Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service Inc) who lives in Sydney and is an extraordinary human being. Josh has cared for many red-tailed black cockatoos and other birds in need. When I visited his house the first thing I noticed was the singing of so many birds – every room is filled with patients in care.

Josh goes one step further. His job with his company ‘Birdwork’ works with owners of birds to teach them a new way of thinking. Many people crave contact with birds but struggle with the idea of caging birds or clipping their wings. Josh teaches that there is a way to share a wonderful life. He teaches birds ‘free flight’, which essentially means to be like homing pigeons. The idea is that the birds are let out in the morning to spread their wings and fly around the neighbourhood to see their friends, get their exercise and then return home for dinner, a cuddle and to roost at night.

Photographing Rosie was like capturing a moment of a shy starlet on the red carpet.

RedTailedBlack_Map

Akalla

'Akalla'
Glossy Black Cockatoo

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Glossy Blacks are neither particularly glossy nor very black. The common name is a bit misleading. The Glossy Black Cockatoo is a dusty brown colour but in sunlight this can have a glossy sheen to it. The females like Akalla have distinctive yellow patches of feathers on their heads that set them apart from the males.

Glossy Blacks used to be regular visitors to Sydney but with the loss of their habitat their numbers have fallen. If you do get to meet one, they are not easily disturbed when feeding; they will let you stand quite close to them. When they feed they sit very quietly, the only noise you will hear is the soft sound of cracking cones. People often do not even realise they are in their company because unlike their noisy cousins, the Glossy Black is a very quiet Cockatoo.

The first time I met Akalla she had a virus and wasn’t herself. The second time she was still and calm, a very gentle bird.

GlossyBlack_Map

Little Stevie

'Little Stevie'
Little Corella

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Little Corellas are playful and cheeky. They have powerful screeches and screams just like Little Stevie Wright of 1960s Australian rock sensations, The Easybeats.

Little Stevie the Little Corella is a handsome devil. He has beautiful white feathers with tiny splashes of colour. He stood tall and was a very composed bird. I started seeing him as a feathered dandy. He had elegant, beautiful little legs in a pair of white stovepipe trousers with a matching white fitted suit jacket and white shirt. When Little Corellas play, they become very noisy. They have conversations with each other and show off by hanging themselves upside-down with their feet, beaks or both. So, although he dresses smartly, like all Little Corellas, Little Stevie loves nothing more than hanging upside down from branches and screaming – sending his crowd wild.

LittleCorella_Map

Jarra

'Jarra'
Cockatiel

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People have long known that Cockatiels are native to the outback regions of inland Australia, and favour the Australian wetlands, scrublands, and bushlands.

What has baffled most for years, however, is whether the Cockatiel is a crested parrot or is it a small Cockatoo? The recent answer from biological studies is that it is a Cockatoo. However, it is the sole member of a subfamily called Nymphicus Hollandicus.

How do these naming conventions work? The position of the Cockatiel in a scientific classification goes like this:

KINGDOM Animalia
PHYLUM Chordata (this means animals with a spinal cord)
CLASS Aves (includes all birds)
ORDER Psittaciformes (includes all Parrot type birds and Cockatoos)
SUPERFAMILY Cacatuoidea
FAMILY Cacatuidae (the only family in the super family is Cockatoos)
SUBFAMILY Nymphicinae (Cockatiel has its own subfamily named after mythical nymphs fortheir beauty)
GENUS Nymphicus (the only genus of the sub family is Cockatiels)
SPECIES Hollandicus (the only species of the Nymphicus genus is the Cockatiel named after New Holland – an early name for Australia)

Clear as mud?

So in simple language the Cockatiel is part of the Cockatoo superfamily but it is in a subfamily, genus and species of its own. Interestingly, despite it being small, its closest relative is the large Black Cockatoo.

In conclusion, Jarra is one of a kind!

Cockatiel_Map