Marianne CannonCockatoos, crimson rosellas and currawongs

How well do you know some of our iconic and most common Australian birds? I talk with ecologist Sue Stephens about the destructive, snowy-white sulphur-crested cockatoo; the vividly-coloured crimson rosella; and the black and white pied currawong, and why it’s often an unwelcome visitor in your garden.

Sulphur-crested cockatoo - Cacatua galerita. Photo John Turnbull

Sulphur-crested cockatoo – Cacatua galerita. Photo John Turnbull

Sulphur-crested cockatoo is a large parrot, commonly 50cm (20 inches) long with snowy-white plumage and a yellow crest. It’s a favourite with tourists but not so well-loved by locals because of its playful but destructive habits, damaging plants and even buildings.

They are highly intelligent and very long-lived birds, often living to 80 or even 90 years old in captivity and they can learn to talk – and swear!

Learn more about their interesting habits and preferences, and why you should never feed them.


Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans). Photo Bernard Dupont

Crimson Rosella (Platycercus elegans). Photo Bernard Dupont

Rosellas are some of Australia’s most beautiful coloured parrots, with many different coloured varieties around southern and eastern Australia The crimson rosella has rich red feathers over most of its body, black striping over its shoulders, a blue tail and wings and an unusual cream-coloured beak.

Unlike its bold cousin the rainbow lorikeet, crimson rosella is seed eater and a generally shy bird that keeps to tall trees, unless people have been feeding them – always a bad idea as it aids the spread of Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease. Learn more about its habits and hear its beautiful, bell-like calls.


Pied currawong. Photo tatters

Pied currawong. Photo tatters

Pied currawong is a large, mostly black bird with white wing patches and a bright yellow eye. They have a very distinctive flying pattern of two flaps and a glide. Learn more interesting facts about this very common Australian bird and why you might want to discourage it from your garden.



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Marianne Cannon

About Marianne Cannon

Marianne Cannon has been broadcasting as Real World Gardener on radio 2RRR 88.5fm in Sydney, since September 2009, and the program is now syndicated to radio stations around Australia. It's about growing your own, the abc of plants, and how to create sustainable gardens to fit into today's environment. Not just a show about plants; it has a strong green and ecological bent, with co-presenters addressing issues such as native animals and plants, water conservation, composting, reducing waste, protecting native species and more.

4 thoughts on “Cockatoos, crimson rosellas and currawongs

  1. When I first came to live in the southern tablelands of NSW over 30 years ago, I had a myriad of birds, small and large, visiting my garden. Wrens nested in shrub roses, blackbirds (yes, introduced but very friendly and beautiful songsters) in shrubs, magpies abounded, small honeyeaters dined on my fushsias. Then the currawongs moved in! The only small birds I now see in my garden are sparrows! Even the wattle birds have had their day.

    I have a tall pine tree in my garden which provides the perfect nesting spot for a pair of currawongs. Short of removing the pine, which I don’t want to do, I can’t see any way of discouraging the damn things. I don’t have any berry producing plants in my garden. I do have a fig tree but I net that (always hoping of catching a currawong). And I gleefully pelt rocks at them. However, I have no control over what is planted in the neighbourhood. Or what foods are left outside for other birds or animals.

    I often see them drop bits and pieces – scraps of bread, chop bones, bits of sausage on weekend afternoons, etc. They definitely will eat anything. I do, however, often find sparrow remains – with the innards removed – on my lawn in the breeding season, so that’s a benefit, the only benefit as far as I’m concerned.

    I also used to have blue tongues breeding in the garden, but haven’t seen a little one for years, and rarely see an adult either.

    Do they really need to be protected? Or should we think about protecting other bird species? Currawongs have adapted too well to urban areas and have become a pest and a threat to wildlife.

    • Hello Laura,
      I’ve delayed replying to your post because I wanted to give your vexing question some thought. I understand your problem because I’ve had the same issue.
      What resolved it in the end, was when the food supply for the Currawongs went, so did they.
      What I can tell you, is that ultrasonic bird scarer devices are useless because birds can’t hear any better than we can.
      Perhaps letter dropping your neighbourhood so that food left out food dogs (chops etc) are picked up sooner could be a solution.
      Birds are very clever and putting rubber snakes in trees or likenesses of Powerful Owls only works for a short time. As soon as they work it out that the scary thing won’t harm them they’ll come back.
      What has worked on big construction projects is playing alarm calls of the particular bird when they’re around.
      Other than that, I don’t have a solution other than shooing them away.

    • Thank you Libby.
      If you go to my blog site at you will find many other birding information under segments named Wildlife in Focus. If you do a search using the title, you’ll come up with all of those segments.
      If you’re in Sydney, I broadcast every Wednesday on 2RRR, 88.5 fm at 5 pm.

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