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Alas, Casper is no white knight - sorry Cocky

AUTHORITIES trying to boost the prospects of the Major Mitchell's cockatoo are testing out a new approach - doing home renovations on natural nesting sites.

New research shows the birds, which are vulnerable in Victoria, are particular about their nesting sites - opting for hollows in native Callitris pine trees which are about 100 years old with trunks in excess of 75 metres.

''The hollow has to be about half a metre deep; they don't like it any deeper than that and they also don't seem to like it any shallower,'' Victor Hurley, a biodiversity officer from the Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment, said.

The problem is there are few trees with hollows that fit the bill.

So Mr Hurley has to monitor and maintain the few existing sites in the species' state breeding stronghold in Wyperfeld National Park, in Victoria's semi-arid north-west.

Sometimes Mr Hurley needs to evict tenants such as feral bees and other birds. He also hollows out small holes with a chisel in the hope the home extension will meet the birds' high standards.

There are fewer than 1000 Major Mitchell's cockatoo breeding pairs left in Victoria, down 65 per cent in 15 years. Last week a survey in Wyperfeld National Park counted just 17 breeding pairs compared with 63 pairs in 1995.