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Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Research is currently under way that involves wing-tagging Sulphur-crested Cockatoos (Cacatua galerita) within the Sydney region, Australia. Our aim is to learn about the Cockies' behaviour: site-loyalty, population size and foraging, roosting and breeding habitat preferences.

Wingtags allow all of us to identify and learn about individual birds. We encourage everyone who encounters a Cockie with wingtags to report their sighting - even if it's the same bird day after day, we are interested! This information helps us learn about individual bird's behaviour and that of the population.

This research commenced on 16th September 2011 when ‘Columbus’, Cockie 001, was tagged within the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney. To our knowledge this study was the first time plastic cattle-ear tags had been fitted to a parrot. Cockatoos have powerful beaks so we had concerns that the tags wouldn’t last very long. However, our worries were unfounded; Columbus (001) is regularly resighted and the tags remain intact. This hasn’t been the case for all tagged Cockies; some have partially chewed tags, others have removed one tag and still others have removed both tags. Overall the wingtags method is working well and allows us to collect a lot of behavioural data and engage members of the community to report their sightings.

In addition to reporting your Wingtag sightings, Cockies' breeding behaviour is of particular interest. Please report the tree hollows you see cockies inspecting and/or using to nest to our partner research program Hollows as Homes. This program asks people to report the tree hollows and nest boxes they see across Australia - whether they are being used by wildlife or not please report this important habitat

Report your Cockatoo sighting

If you see a Cockie with a wingtag please report the tag number and colour using our iPhone/Android app or via email. You can also forward us pictures of the tagged Cockatoos that you have observed.


We are tagging and tracking Cockatoos to find out how they are adapting to living in the city. Read more about the project above.

All of the study birds (and their names) can be seen here.

The wingtags are permanently attached through the birds’ patagium, a section of flexible skin that expands and contracts with the opening and closing of the wing. It’s similar to the loose bit of skin on the inside of your elbow. This method of marking birds with plastic cattle tags as wingtags was first used in the 1970’s on vultures.

Wingtags is a long term project. The tags will remain on the birds until they fall off or the tagged bird removes them. Collecting long-term data is necessary as the Cockies population is subject to natural variations and long term changes that can only be measured by tracking the Cockatoos for years.

The process is similar to a human getting a skin piercing. The tagging process is quick, and we aim to minimise the distress of the birds. After tagging the birds are closely monitored and we release them within half an hour of being caught. The Cockies tend to initially inspect the tag, but quickly adjust to flying and preening as normal. They are capable of chewing through the tags and removing them.

We spotted Brian (108) today, of course he preferred to use the window rather than doors.
Samantha, Randwick NSW

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