> From: Brian Fleming <>
> To: sonnenburg <>
> Cc: 'birding-aus @ deakin .edu.au' <>
> Subject: Re: UK birders, Frivilous Replies and Caper Whites
> Date: Friday, 30 October 1998 18:26
> sonnenburg wrote:
> > A couple of weeks ago I mentioned a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo carrying
> > a pink rose and asked for serious scientific comment. I can only say
> > that my replies can at best be described as frivolous, lacking totally
> > in meaningful reasoning. I would have thought that Melbourne based
> > students of ornithology could have offered more.
> > This behaviour has been described in Fairy-Wrens as furgling and there
> > was an article in Sunbird in July 1990. But what of Cockatoos?
> > Cheers
> > Roy Sonnenburg
> Dear Roy, Re Sulphur-crested Cockatoo carrying pink rose.
> I can't remember whether your cocky was carrying it in beak or foot.
> I have seen SC cockies feeding on dry thistle and artichoke-thistle
> heads - they often flew off carrying a head by the stem in a foot -
> (always the left foot incidentally) -if startled, and then went on with
> seed-extracting on a branch. Cockies will bite anything - to see what
> it's like? I have no idea why they eat bits off cedar window-frames
> either but they do - beak-exercise?
> I have also heard of a pair of Eastern Rosellas who bit off all the
> flowers from a flowering cherry - I doubt if they found nectar there
> Where lorikeets and other parrots have been feeding in gumblossom,the
> ground is always carpeted with dropped blossom. But i haven't ever SEEN
> lorikeets biting blossom off, they just lick at nectar. Perhaps the
> flower stems are broken by all the clambering feet?
> I don't think any of these remarks answer your query, but best I can
> do. No-one who has ever known a pet cocky doubts their intelligence, so
> perhaps we should admit they sometimes do odd or experimental things
> from curiosity or for fun.
> Best wishes, ANTHEA FLEMING
Hi Roy (and Anthea)
A belated response...
Regrettably I did not see (and enjoy) the responses to which you refer -
but I can imagine what some of them must have been. Sorry, but I can't
help but be amused.
But on the serious side, I'm sure its recognised by Birding-Aussers that
animals have a purpose in (almost) everything they do - basically related
to survival or maintaining the species. And as activities take energy, and
the source of that energy, food, is not as easily available, one could say,
as it is to us, animals must be as efficient as possible in their use of
that energy. So, we ask what is the survival or reproduction purpose of
the Cockatoo carrying a pink rose?
My son came up with an idea that may not be as silly as it at first sounds.
Rose petals are soft - he suggested maybe this bird was putting the petals
in its nest, making a softer bed for eggs/nestlings??????? Or maybe they
taste nice and the bird was carrying them to its mate, or young??? - I'm
guessing you posted your question in early-mid October - the breeding
season...... Maybe there's something in the smell of the petals also....,
or the colour, etc etc.
Re the food (survival) aspect, I have seen Ring-necked Parrot (sometimes
alone, or in small groups of up to 3 or 4, occasionally more) in our front
garden (semi-rural) standing on the path snipping off introduced daisy
flowers, and while holding the stem (I forget which foot, or if one foot
was preferred over the other), occasionally chewing some of the leaves,
petals or stem, then apparently "playing" with these until losing interest
and dropping them. They then either select another delicacy of the same
species, or fly off to other activities. I have not seen the birds
carrying away any of the flowers, however. But I am now watching for this.
And, under our Calistemon is often a carpet of (often otherwise unmolested)
flowers with short stems where the Ring-necked Parrots have been. I
sometimes wonder if they're removing this food source for rival species (eg
honeyeaters). But this would also disadvantage the parrots.....
I agree with Anthea's comment (above) re cocky intelligence. Some years
ago, during heavy rain, I investigated an amazing cacaphony of screeching
by Galahs uphill from our house. While continuously screeching, the birds
were taking it in turns to fly rapidly at the top of the guy wire
supporting a power pole, grabbing the guy wire with both feet, and with the
impetus caused by their rapid flight at the wire, they spun around the wire
which was very wet and slippery. They then spun all the way down the guy
wire to just above head-clobbering point with the ground, and flew off and
back up to the top. As I said, they took it in turns (more or less). This
continued for maybe 10 to 15 minutes (if I recall correctly). It seemed
quite obvious they were having a ball.... and it was very entertaining to
The New Zealand parrot, Kea, is notorious for deliberately letting down
vehicle tyres (by unscrewing and removing the cap), pulling at (or out)
wiper blade rubbers, and generally getting up to what we would call all
sorts of mischief. Is this basic survival or reproduction behaviour? My
anthopomorphic side suggests they do it for fun.
I also heard a hillarious story of a Kea that undid the zip of our friend's
tent, entered, and raided the honey and flour, coming out later looking
like a sticky albino. Obviously, that was related to food - i.e.
survival. But how and why did the bird learn how to open the zip? By
curiosity? By experimentation? Had it been able to smell food inside
tents, and learned how to get at it? You'd think it'd be very cautious of
the unknowns of the inside of a tent. I think I'm now asking more
questions than giving "answers".....
Perhaps there really is something other than just purely the basics of
species survival in this Sulphur-crested Cockatoo's rose collecting
Would you perhaps briefly discuss "furgling". I don't appear to have
access to "Sunbird" over here in the Wild West (WA).
and may we always have enquiring minds....