Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Little Corella Cacatua sanguinea

Little Corella in broad daylight
Little Corella alpha leader of group in less light

My daughter and I were visiting our neighbour when, whilst outside for a while, a flock of large, screeching, white birds with yellow wings flew overhead and began landing in the back wattle tree. I honestly thought they were Sulphur-crested Cockatoos! They looked and sounded the same as they flew overhead and whilst in the tree and were about the same size too.

Now the thing I have yet to see is an actual Sulphur-crested Cockatoo eat Wattle seed so I got out my camera and started filming them eating Wattle seed. I ended up by taking some photos of the birds too but they were taken just about when it was getting dark. It wasn't until I uploaded the videos and photos to my computer that I noticed they didn't have the large crest like a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. Some had crestless heads (their crests were laying flat against their heads) and from what I could see of the birds' faces they had red between their eyes and their beak. After a bit of Google image searching I realized these birds were Little Corellas. Yah, another species to add to my Tenterfield bird list, I thought to myself!

Now, I've seen this same small flock of birds for a month or so. There is probably around 50 to 70 birds to the flock roughly. I actually thought the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos had thinned out, and just a small number of them remained, eating whatever seed was left. But obviously I was wrong, terribly wrong apparently. This actually means the really large flock of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos (over 200 individuals) have actually left Tenterfield not long after the Little Corellas moved in.

Here's the gist about Little Corellas, just on about 10 minutes of observation of them. They hang together in a flock. They absolutely love Wattle seeds. They allow you to get reasonably close to them, within about 20-30 feet of them, if you walk slowly. They spook easily. They panic and fly away if you or a large animal run passed or gets too close to them (walking slowly within 8-10 feet of them or running passed them at any distance within 20-50 feet of them). If eating from a tree, a few of the birds will fly back straight away into the wattle tree, the rest will fly into a nearby but distant tree (any tree species that has lots of branches so they can all land in the same tree) out of harms way. One of the birds in the wattle tree will call out to the others from the very top of the tree whilst keeping a close eye on what disturbed them. The rest of the flock then flies back into the wattle tree once there is nothing in their "comfort zone". About 90% of the birds squark/screech all the time during the time they are disturbed from when they are eating.

Little Corellas seem to be more accepting of humans and domesticated pets than Sulphur-crested Cockatoos. They seem to respond to humans in a social way if spoken to or approached in a gentle manner. They are curious birds but weary at the same time.

There appears to be one alpha bird of the flock. They feed together as a group and get spooked as a group. The alpha bird tells the others when its safe to come back and resume feeding. The alpha bird stands it's ground, almost as if it is claim the tree as it's own on behalf of the entire flock when they are nearby in another tree. There does not seem to be individuality (or each bird for itself) like with Torresian Crows when they are feeding.

All that I know for certain that they eat thus far is Wattle seeds. They are the only other bird species I have seen eat Wattle seeds here in Tenterfield. The other species to eat Wattle seed is the Australian King Parrot. I'll need to study the Little Corellas eating habits in the next few days to see what else they eat.


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