Why are Sulphur-crested Cockatoos Getting a Bad ‘Rap’?

Young naturalists can investigate how to live in harmony with sulphur-crested cockatoos.
Susanne Gervay OAM
Sep 20, 2023
There are a number of things we can learn from cockatoos, including how to have good time.

Local birds are on the Australian curriculum and are integral to our wildlife program.  Sulphur-crested cockatoos are an iconic parrot. They are part of the Australian identity in both the city and the bush. Yet why are they getting a BAD RAP?

Some of the issues arising around Sulphur-crested cockatoos are that they have learnt how to open garbage bins. Then they teach and share the information with other cockatoos as they are a community. Councils are out in arms trying to stop the cockatoos opening bins. Neighbours are angry. Sulphur-Crested cockatoos also nibble our wood balconies and it can be worse. They dive bomb cereal and fruit crops. They play across the sky and cause mischief.

But Sulphur-crested cockatoos are smart, naughty, enjoy playing tricks, are flashy, very loud, and love affection. They’re fast and funny and ‘rock and roll’ to a rhythm. The challenge is, how do we live together?

This is the time for young investigators to find solutions, with the help of teachers and adults. The goal is to live in harmony with humanity and Sulphur-crested cockatoos.

What to do? Retain old trees around your property, as only the old trees develop the hollows which are required for nesting. Write to Councils to plant trees that are native to your area and grow native trees in parks and verges for a natural food source. Do not feed cockatoos, otherwise they do not feed in trees and grasses. Plant onion grass as they love to peck on this. That will get rid of the onion grass for certain. They are serious weed killers. Cockatoos are wary of birds of prey. Scare them by building kites that look like predators. In bushy areas, avoid using wood for balconies and windows and similar. Bird netting reduces the loss of fruit and branch structure by cockatoos. But birds peck fruit! So, then do we get rid of ALL birds including sulphur-crested cockatoos? That can’t be an option.

Kids watch the sulphur-crested cockatoos as they play tricks, squawk, flash their combs, love their community, are loyal to their partners, give affection. A special aspect, is their support mental health through watching them fly, play and frolic.

There’s so much to think about as we enjoy the antics of Sulphur-crested cockatoos. There are some answers in Who’s The Gang on Our Street picture book. As an educational consultant and children’s author, it’s an opportunity to support, encourage and inform, children and adults through Who’s the Gang on Our Street. It is a narrative non-fiction with backup facts. Written to delight young people, it celebrates the ‘gang’ of sulphur-crested cockatoos and the ‘gang’ of children. Creative imagery and information meets the K-3 Australian national curriculum on Australian birds. It also links into the social and emotional module where the sulphur-crested cockatoos have a social structure that embrace equality, inclusion, no bullying, loyalty and values that relate to the best of what we seek to teach children and us.

The Science curriculum emphasises:

‘By the end of Year 3, students use their understanding of the movement of Earth, materials and the behaviour of heat to suggest explanations for everyday observations They describe features common to living things. They describe how they can use science investigations to respond to questions and identify where people use science knowledge in their lives.’

Students use their experiences to pose questions and predict the outcomes of investigations. They make formal measurements and follow procedures to collect and present observations in a way that helps to answer the investigation questions. Students suggest possible reasons for their findings. They describe how safety and fairness were considered in their investigations. They use diagrams and other representations to communicate their ideas.’ https://v9.australiancurriculum.edu.au/

In some areas and States permission has been granted to SHOOT OR POISON Sulphur-Crested cockatoos. This is despite the WILDLIFE Protection Act 1975. There are other ways to work together because we love our Australian icon, Sulphur-crested cockatoos.

Support research to manage cockatoos in flocks and groups. There is the Taronga Clever Cockie Project and others.

Where to find answers on Bird Watching? https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/questions/bird-watching

Birdlife a charity, which over the past decade had developed conservation programs, restores habitats and recovery of threatened species.

Susanne Gervay OAM https://sgervay.com/whos-the-gang-on-our-street/

Image by Chris F