ACT News


Canberra's playful cockatoos and cheeky corellas ruffle a few feathers

With easy pickings of fruit, berries, nuts, bulbs and seed in Canberra, cockatoos and corellas have plenty of time left to play, a hallmark of their intelligence, according to avian experts.

Biologist Tim Low notes in his best selling book, "Where Song Began: Australia's Birds and How They Changed The World", Australia's birds are the most aggressive, noisy, intelligent birds in the world. The parrot family is the smartest of them all, according to Canberra parrot expert Joe Forshaw. They distinguished themselves by continuing to learn as they grow, rather than relying solely on their instincts.

Orchardist Russell Kerrison said before flying foxes forced them to net their apple trees at Pialligo, they relied on video cameras and scare guns to keep the cockatoos out. "They are extremely clever animals," Mr Kerrison said. "They learned very quickly how to avoid us before the orchard was netted.

"One of the main deterrents we used was 'Bird Frite' which is like a fire cracker. They use them out at the airport to get birds off the runway. You fire it, it lobs into the air maybe 30 metres, and goes off with a very loud bang. Before long the cockatoos learned the noise like a shotgun going off, it makes a little 'poof' as it lobs the shell out.

"They would immediately fly out of the trees, but then fly low along the rows, below the level of the tree tops, then rise up sharply at the end where the trees were, because they knew there was going to be a bang and they had to fly low to avoid being anywhere near the fire cracker when it went off. They adapted quickly."

Mr Kerrison said if a large flock came, the seizable cockies would tear through dozens of kilos of apples in no time. The scare gun was good at getting rid of the big flocks. "They also learned not to sit in the canopy at the top of the tree, because I think they knew we could see them. They would sit down in the tree, so from above you could not really see them. We were constantly re-positioning the video cameras."

Meanwhile, corellas have been seen teasing rows of pigeons perching on powerlines, by pushing them off balance.

Canberra Ornithologists Group's chatline contributors this month say a flock of little corellas includes young ones play fighting with each other, rolling around on the ground and also playing with sticks.

A flock near the Woden town centre are intensely playful, swooping around, hanging upside down from street lamps, playing with paper cups, and having mock fights with each other. The long-billed corellas seem quieter and more placid, and often slightly embarrassed by the antics of their cousins, according to COG members.