Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

Sulphur-crested cockatoo study goes social

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Cockatoo resightings within the Sydney region. Data presented are for 14 cockatoos based on reports received via the iPhone App, for example icon #3 represents tag 003-yellow (Cockamel).

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Cockatoo resightings within the Royal Botanic Garden and surrounds for 11 cockatoos based on reports received via the iPhone App. For example icon #3 represents tag 003-yellow (Cockamel).

Wing-tags are being fitted to Sulphur-crested cockatoos (Cacatua galerita) as part of a joint study being conducted by the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust and the University of Sydney.

The study aims to assess how many cockatoos call Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden home, how far these birds travel to find food and if they nest within tree hollows within the Garden.

Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust Wildlife Management Officer, John Martin said they see up to 70 cockatoos within the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney.

'However, we don’t know if the same individuals are present each day; we suspect that a much larger number of cockatoos, for example, several hundred, could visit the Garden over a calendar year. We also don’t know where they forage or where they’re breeding, as a low level of breeding has been observed within the Garden,' Mr Martin said.

Thus far 20 cockatoos have been tagged at Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden. This is the first study to use plastic wing-tags on parrots.

University of Sydney Ecology PhD Candidate, Adrian Davis said Sulphur-crested cockatoos have become more common across the Sydney region over the last 50-years.

'By marking the cockatoos with numbered wing-tags we can also monitor individual birds breeding success and behaviour. All of the tagged cockatoos have been resighted within the Garden and most of them have been reported foraging outside of the Garden,' Mr Davis said.

'Over the first few months of the study the researchers have been very impressed by the reports received from the community. Cockatoos are highly mobile and our early results reflect this. People are seeing the wing-tagged cockatoos and want to know why they’re tagged. We’ve received more than 50 reports from some 20 people across 10 suburbs,' Mr Davis said.

The suburbs include Potts Point, the Rocks, Rushcutters Bay and Queens Park in the East; Bexley in the South; and Kirribilli, Manly Vale, Willoughby, Allambie Heights and Clifton Gardens in the North.

'People have found out about our research through internet searches and the Environment Line and have reported their observation via email or Facebook. This has been so successful we now plan to start tweeting about the tagged cockatoos,' Mr Davis said.   

Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, Wildlife Management Officer John Martin said they are also using numbered wing-tags to monitor Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis molucca) within the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney.

'Over the coming months the number of tagged birds will increase as tagging of both species continues, so we look forward to receiving further reports from across and beyond the Sydney region,' Mr Martin said.

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Photo: Stefanie Veith

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Sulphur-crested cockatoo research needs your help

If you see a wing-tagged cockatoo please report the tag number and colour (e.g. 142-green or 011-yellow) and location to cockatoo.wingtag@gmail.com. An option is to forward us pictures of the tagged cockatoos that you have observed.

Alternatively, sightings can be reported to the Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme (ABBBS).

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