Page 52 - Sandgate Guide October Issue
P. 52

SAtory Leanne Palmer
distinct lilting sound that carries over the treetops will most likely be your cue to the arrival of the Yellow-tailed
Black Cockatoos. Or, once closer, you may hear a screechy alarm call. But to listen to them from afar as a group, where each sound, in turn, rises above the combined chorus, is truly a thing of beauty.
Their movements are largely dictated by the search for their favourite foods. Although they are not common in our area, the seasonal ripening of certain seed pods often draws them here. Look out for them at Dowse Lagoon, Tinchi Tamba Reserve, or flying high over our suburbs on their way through.
They travel in pairs or loosely formed groups in a rambling manner using deep slow wingbeats, sometimes adding sudden dips or acrobatic manoeuvres.
Like many parrots, they are charismatic creatures, capturing our attention with their beauty, grace, curious antics and intelligence. They are highly social animals and unlike most other birds, are known for the habit of sleeping in.
Preening is performed daily by using their powerful bills to gently clean and realign feathers. This is partly functional, partly social, and undoubtedly enjoyable. These birds know how to live well, or so it seems. Lifespans of up to 50 years are typical, and breeding pairs stay together for life.
Known by many different Aboriginal names throughout Australia – the Turrbal people calling them karara – they represent change and strength and are said to herald the coming of rain.
They have undergone a few scientific name changes and are currently known as Zanda funerea, the second part referring to the colour of their feathers, looking like they are dressed for a funeral.
Seeds, particularly those of casuarinas, banksias and eucalypts, form part of their diet, but unlike other cockatoos, wood-boring grubs are a crucial component as well. Seed pods are held in one foot while they work with their bills to remove the contents. Footedness, akin to handedness in humans, sees one foot used repeatedly to perform this tricky task.
Keep your eyes and ears out for them; once you know that call, there’s no way you’ll miss them.

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