White Cockatoos of Australia
The long-billed corella (Cacatua tenuirostris) is endemic only to the extreme south-east of Australia from southern New South Wales through western Victoria to south-eastern South Australia. There are feral populations in other parts of eastern Australia, and in Perth, Western Australia, possibly as a result of caged birds escaping and breeding. 'Cacatua' comes from 'kakatuwah', a Malay word meaning 'a vice'. This refers to their powerful beaks.
The long-billed corella is one of six species of white cockatoo. Australia has three species known as corellas. These are the long-billed corella, little corella and western corella. Indonesia, the Philippines and the Solomon Islands each have a native species. It frequents grasslands, pastures, river banks, crops and grassy woodlands. It has also adapted very well to living in parks in urban areas.
This species feeds on roots and seeds, particularly those from grain crops. Corms, bulbs, roots and insects also form part of their diet. Ninety percent of the diet now consists of introduced food plants. The long beaks are used to dig for roots and seeds. They are often regarded as a pest in areas of grain crops or orchards.
Long-billed corellas form monogamous pairs. Hollows in large old eucalypts are preferred as nest sites although cavities in loose gravelly cliffs may also be chosen. The nest is not lined with extraneous material, the eggs being laid on decayed wood already present in the hollow. They feed and roost in groups, often congregating with other species and making a great racket with their screeching.
The long-billed corella ranges from 38 to 41cm in length, has a wingspan of 80 to 90cm and has an average weight of 567 grams. A clutch of 1 to 4 eggs takes about 24 days to hatch. The breeding season is from July to December. The chicks stay in the nest for about 56 days.
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This species has a sturdy body and a short tail. The plumage is mostly white. The face and forehead has orange-red splotches and feathers on the breast and belly may be a pale pink. The underside of the wings and tail are yellow. As the name suggests, the beak is long and white. There is a pale blue-grey eye ring. The crest is erectile and is raised when the bird is alarmed or excited.
White cockatoos as a whole are very susceptible to Psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD). Beak deformities and poor feather growth are indicative of the disease. The bird will eventually lose all its plumage. PBFD is chronic, incurable and highly contagious.
The long-billed corella is often touted as the best 'talker' of the Australian cockatoos. It is becoming increasingly popular as a pet and has an amazing talent for mimicking long phrases and sentences.
Cockatoos in general have a loving, devoted personality. They demand a lot of attention and stimulation if they are to stay free of destructive habits which arise when an intelligent bird is bored and/or lonely. Feather picking, excessive chewing, biting and screaming are some of the bad habits that cockatoos will resort to if they are unhappy. Provide plenty of healthy chewing opportunities, plenty of toys, plenty of attention and you will have a loving, entertaining companion.
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