Apologies to one of Australia’s iconic bands and their most well known song, but it was the first thing that came to mind with this story (even before I started writing). As the song goes, I was sitting on my patio (veranda) with the heat and humidity high, hoping for a predicted thunderstorm to bring some relief to this unpleasant weather, while the subjects of this story were having a field day in the trees. And, as in the song, I was in a complete sweat while taking photographs for this story. So with all of these things coming together, I think it was kind of apropos to associate this story with the band GANGgajang and Sounds Of Then (This is Australia). But this story is about another type of gang that, at times, makes sounds kind of like that of a raspy guitar, the Gang-Gang Cockatoo.
Our visitors have been coming around for the last couple of weeks or so, right on time around 6:30 pm, but only about three or four at a time; however, on this particular day we had a much larger contingent arrive and I really wasn’t sure what was going on. Everything was reasonably calm and orderly, with none of the usual racket associated with Cockatoos of any persuasion, and the groups sort of came and went or just waited around for something or other to happen. Even our two hounds appeared perplexed by the calm procession that went from tree to tree, as we sat on the veranda watching events unfold.
While all of this orderliness has been going on, it’s given me some opportunities to photograph these birds and capture some of the individuality and character that so many of them display. They tend to express unique mannerisms as well, which seems to be quite common with all the parrot breeds. Surprisingly, they have been none too concerned as I’ve moved about taking photographs and some even appeared to strike poses for me, coming out from under the branches almost as if to ensure that I got their best side. What’s odd is that I’ve heard from others that they have great difficulty in photographing the Gang-Gang Cockatoos, usually just hearing them in trees, too far away and hidden to photograph.
Gang-Gang Cockatoos apparently have a fairly varied diet, not just plants, but a couple of trees in our neighbour’s yard are particularly attractive because of the long seed pods (I think they might be an Acacia). Somewhat similar to one in our front yard that attracts the Black Cockatoos, though not the same type of tree. The Gang-Gang Cockatoos go to some effort to get just the right parts and, according to our neighbour, make a right mess with the bits that they don’t want, snipping off branches and discarding most of them. That said, I reckon the mess the Black Cockatoos make is far worse, as they shred branches and seed pod husks aplenty. However, it certainly appears that these particular trees are a delicacy, if previous visits are anything to go by.
And while I was watching the activities, a male and a female came to roost on a nearby dead tree to watch the goings on. After a few minutes, the male scurried down from its higher perch and, to my surprise, he appeared to do that in order to get the back of his neck scratched by the female, who seemed happy to oblige. I never knew that Cockatoos did this sort of thing; associating it mainly with monkeys and apes. Meanwhile, others had to do their own scratching. The mating pairs certainly keep close together all the time and it seems that there’s always something new to discover about the birds in our backyard.
Just as I thought that the Gang-Gang Cockatoos had departed for the year, as they weren’t around the following day, the next day they were back. It was a stinker of a day, over 35C and their arrival was several hours earlier than previously, at probably the hottest part of the day. What was surprising was that we could approach them almost to touching distance, and even when my wife and our neighbour were directly underneath or next to where they were feeding, they weren’t perturbed in the least. Maybe it was a combination of the heat, need to feed, maybe something in the seeds and I guess getting used to us over the last few weeks. One thing our neighbour did comment on was how last year he couldn’t get anywhere near them else they’d fly off and I must admit that we had experienced much the same.
It was obvious that the heat was affecting them, as there was clear evidence with partly open wings, staying still with eyes half closed and seeking any spot with the slightest breeze, yet still in the trees amongst the leaves where possible. And few were prepared to move about much at all, with some just seeming to be happy to rest and find comfort with what clearly was a mate. They were all very quiet today and seemed to find our yard a safe place to rest and possibly recuperate from whatever activity occupied the earlier part of their day. Even our hounds didn’t seem to want to bother them and they weren’t bothered in turn. I guess both considered that no one would gain from the effort in the heat that we were experiencing.
I have to say that I managed to get more photographs of Gang-Gang Cockatoos in the last five days than I have in the last five years. Even if they do return in the following days, I’ve decided that unless there is something exceptional happening, I have enough photographs to do for a while. Things are quiet at time of posting, so maybe they have finally moved on. Once the seasons begin to change, it’ll be another year before we see them again and I wonder if they’ll be as accommodating next time around?