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Bird Watching Stories
(Go Back to Wild Bird Page Contents)
»  Aransas in the Fog:
Whooping Cranes
» No Barbeque this Summer 
» Barn Swallow "Mama"  
» Just How Does a Bird Eat Bees?  
» My Birdwatching Adventures in Costa Rica
 » Just Another Golden Eagle  
 » Four Birds in One Tree: 
A Few Days of Birdwatching in England
» Four Calling Birds??? 
» A Very Unique Cardinal 
» Narcissism or Territorial
Defense: Macho Cardinal
» The Last Companion Carolina Paroquet 
» The Ever-Popular Chickadee  
» Convergent Evolution: Meadowlark and Longclaw 
» Barrel Cactus Confrontation 
» Galahs Playing Around and Around and Around ...  
» Who Made Up This Stuff?
Bird Call Mnemonics
» Mesmerizing a Goldfinch 
» The Best Mimic?  
» Prairie Chickens and Woodcocks:
Missouri Ornithology
» Mob Mentality: Who is Really in Control of the Skies?
» The Owl Who Sat Down Beside Me 
» Meeting Hot Shot: The Toddler Peregrine Falcon  
» Seeing 'Sea Parrots'
in Alaska
 » A Rare and Unusual Bird 
Meeting Roger Tory Peterson
» Raven Showoffs 
» Reddish Egrets a nd Canopy Feeding 
 »  Robins and Worms 
Hear, See, Smell, or Feel?
» Hospital Halucinations 
» What Are You Doing Here? Scissortail Flycatcher 
» Wild Bird "Attacks": Just Misunderstandings? 
» Drunken Waxwings and an Unusual Hummingbird Feeder
 » Acorn Woodpecker Defending its Stash
» Why Woodpeckers Don't Get Headaches: Built in Shock Absorber 

By Lynne Page   Illustration by Jeff Riebe  

“Patterns of Movement in the Western Long-billed Corella (Cacatua pastinotor in theSouth-west of Western Australia,” 
by G. T. Moore and L. A. Moore,  Emu, Vol.92, Part 1, May ’92, pp. 19-27.

This article has one of those long, not-too-intriguing titles which give no hint of the little gems contained within. The authors report on a study of movement of indivduallv tagged Long-billed Corellas (a white cockatoo) in the central wheat belt of Western Australia. The conclusion is that the movement of the cockatoos has 3 phases, corresponding to 3 phases of a bird’s life.
The juvenile phase begins with the fledgling’s first flight and continues for 2 or 3 weeks. During this period, the young, with their parents, move from the nest site to a location where food, water and sheltering trees are available in a small area. In fact, at the chosen site, these 3 vital resources are never more than 100 to 200 meters (roughly 11 to 22 yards) apart. Here cockatoos from several breeding districts gather together.

In the immature phase, the juveniles, still with their parents, move about 55 km (about 34.5 miles) to the location in which they will continue to spend their summers. The rest of the year is spent in the breeding district. 

The adult phase begins when the birds start to breed. In this phase, the cockatoos continue their seasonal travel between the breeding district and the summering area. At both these locations, the authors studied the distance the birds traveled while foraging for food and found it was shortest when the birds were incubating or feeding nestlings. 
While learning about these overall patterns of movement may not be an earth shattering event for owners of pet birds, several specific observations by the authors make the article well worth reading. For example, breeders of cockatoos might be interested to read that female corellas generally begin breeding when 3 years old, while males are usually five. Most clutches are started between mid-August and early September (remember that Australian seasons are the reverse of ours and most chicks fledge by the end of November. Feeding independence is usually achieved by March, but some of the young continue to beg until June. The authors also observed that the male and female of a breeding pair were rarely separated except when one was incubating or feeding and the other was foraging. 

My favorite passage of the article describes the fledglings’ steps toward independence:

“When a Corella nestling left the nest, its flight was strong and direct hut it had difficulty in turning and its first landing was usually a crash landing in the canopy of a tree. On two occasions, when Corellas fledged with their parents nearby, the parents and, in one case, the neighboring pair as well, flew to the fledgling and guided it to a safe landing site about 500 meters away. Once the fledgling had managed to perch, the parents stayed with it or returned to their nest if they had another nestling to feed. During the seven to ten days after the nestlings had fledged, the parents and their young gradually moved to areas where other family groups and the immature flock were congregating. During this period, the young were left, in a tree where they usually perched under the canopy but fairly close to the ground. After this period, they began to spend an increasing amount of time with their parents and other members of the flock while they foraged. Initially, the young birds walked around with the other birds and only occasionally attempted to pick up seeds or other objects such as small stones. Within two or three weeks they had become more adept at foraging and were able to pick up and dehusk seeds hut were much slower than the older birds. They were still dependent on their parents for the bulk of their food.” 

While reading this firsthand account of the chick’s all-important introduction to its world, under the watchful eye of its parents and other flock members, I kept thinking of the many fine articles in the Pet Bird Report stressing the great responsibilities of humans who raise parrots. Anyone who undertakes to teach a parrot those vital early lessons has a very big suit of feathers to fill. 

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