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Rose-breasted Cockatoo and others

Life in the air

“Stick them in the freezer mate and we will come and look at them”.

Peter and Andrea Hylands

May 21, 2023

The Rose-breasted Cockatoo Eolophus roseicapilla is endemic to much of the Australian mainland, there are three sub species Eolophus roseicapilla roseicapilla (Western Australia), Eolophus roseicapilla albiceps (South-East Australia) and Eolophus roseicapilla kuhli (Northern Australia). Tree hollows are extremely important to many bird species including those from the order Psittaciformes. There are three superfamilies in this order, True Parrots, Cockatoos and New Zealand Parrots. This story was originally published in 2017.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Conserving nature

Some years ago now and at our wildlife property in Victoria, a long way from any farm or any kind of agriculture, set in a state park and surrounded by extensive forests, Australia's birdlife flourished on our lands, including numerous species of parrot.

The parrot poisoner

Loved by us, and clearly not be everyone, we discovered we had a ‘parrot poisoner’ in our midst. So our population of Galah's became smaller by the day, the dead birds were strewn around the lawn that surrounded our Victorian homestead. The birds would sit on the grass, heads touching the ground, and then just fall on their sides to die.

We thought we would ring the Victorian Department of Environment in the nearby regional city, Bendigo.

“Stick them in the freezer mate and we will come and look at them”

Weeks passed and precisely nothing happened, apart of course from the freezer filling up with dead parrots. I think we made another forlorn effort to get something done, but nothing happened. Eventually the poisoning stopped, and our poor old Galahs were then disposed of safely so as not to poison anything else.

The Rose-breasted Cockatoo is yet another example of a species of Australian wildlife that is disliked, a blame species on which much is blamed and where most of it does not make sense. In other countries the bird is prized by collectors and is, along with other Australian birds, quite valuable. In the USA, cage bred Rose-breasted Cockatoos sell for around AUD 4,250.

We do not like birds in cages and we also do not like the mass killing of birdlife, the point is that there is a strange dichotomy here.

Nesting sites vanish

Given the high rates of deforestation and land clearing in Australia, nesting sites for many parrot species on the continent are going to be increasingly hard to find. On our wildlife property in Victoria, European wasps, a relatively recent invasive species, along with non-native bees, were becoming a significant threat to tree nesting bird species, taking over their nests and killing the young.


Climate change is also devastating birdlife and habitats across the continent. This fact is denied by many of the country's politicians and the mass killing of birdlife continues.

Because Parrots live for such a long time, some species are persecuted and can be killed without requiring a permit to do so, the impact of a growing series of threats on populations, including the ones described here, are unlikely to be fully understood.

In Victoria for example, three otherwise long lived parrot species, the Long-billed Corella Cacatua tenuirostris, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Cacatua galerita and the Galah Eolophus roseicapilla are no longer protected. In Western Australia the Western (Long billed) Corella was listed as endangered until 2011.  

The mass killing

Corellas are not popular on golf courses. In Victoria these species will be killed in significant numbers, the extent of the killing is unsupervised and unknown. What is known, and the number includes some individuals from the delisted birds (presumably prior to delisting), is that between 2009 and 2017 the Victorian Government issued authorities to kill 157,444 true parrots and cockatoos across eleven species, many still 'protected'.

Below is an extract from Problems in Victoria caused by Long-billed Corellas, Sulphur Crested Cockatoos and Galahs: Parliament of Victoria: Environment and Natural Resources committee 1995.

Long-billed Corellas, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Galahs, referred to collectively in the Report as 'Cockatoos', are members of the parrot family.
Prior to European occupation, Cockatoos occurred in large numbers in parts of the region. Pioneer settlement in Victoria replaced the original major food of the Long-billed Corella in particular the Murnong or Native Yam, with exotic grain crops and weeds including Onion Grass. These reliable, accessible food sources rapidly became staples of the Long-billed Corella’s diet.
The removal of timber cover by primary industry combined with competition with rabbits and the uncontrolled use of poison led to a contraction in the range of the Long-billed Corella and a marked reduction in numbers.
The removal of competition with rabbits through the introduction of myxomatosis in the 1950s, and the availability of extensive food sources, are believed to have led to a regrowth in Long-billed Corella numbers. The birds are now thought to be extending their range to recolonise areas occupied prior to European settlement. The Galah has expanded its ranges outhward with the provision of water and reliable food sources. It can now be found throughout Victoria, with a distribution similar to that of the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. The number of Long-billed Corellas, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Galahs in Victoria is not known.

What appears to have occurred in this document is that assumptions were being used to assess the distribution and populations of these species rather than the findings from detailed research.

The total inability to live with nature demonstrated in the sign below, if it exists and is Australian it has to go. The biggest threat to native fauna is not of course other native fauna, but the people who stuck up this sign.

South Australia: State snapshot

Time to take a closer look at what goes on in the state of South Australia, which sometimes gets overlooked. So here is the situation for the Rose-breasted Cockatoo in South Australia. The species is not protected and can be shot ‘by landholders and their staff’. It is extremely unlikely that the situation is monitored in any way so the numbers killed each year are unknown. What is also extremely troubling is that it is legal to take the young parrots from their nest for commercial purposes (with a permit which is easy to get).

“All juvenile Galahs and Little Corellas taken under a trapping permit must be two thirds feathered (body fully feathered and tail not fully extended) before being taken from the nest”.