X Breeding in the wild.

To: Graeme Chapman <>, "" <>
Subject: X Breeding in the wild.
From: martin cachard <>
Date: Thu, 3 Sep 2015 01:42:19 +0000
Thanks Graeme, that is absolutely fascinating!

But maybe I've misread something - how would the Galah looking into its own 
reflection actually have its reflection being a Major Mitchell's??

Please explain... thanks,

martin cachard

trinity beach


> From: 
> Date: Thu, 3 Sep 2015 10:23:30 +1000
> To: 
> Subject: [Birding-Aus] X Breeding in the wild.
> Cross breeding in closely related parrots in the wild is well known, but the 
> reasons why and the associated life history mechanisms are not.
> Many years ago when, with Ian Rowley, I was lucky enough to study Major 
> Mitchell's Cockatoos for some years in Western Australia, we were able to 
> document, using marked individuals, just what happens.
>  This was published in the journal "Behaviour", the paper entitled 
> COCKATOO" in Vol 96, Issue 1, pp 1-16.
> For those unable  or less inclined to access this reference, the abstract 
> reads:-
> Two species of cockatoo, the galah Cacatua roseicapilla and Major Mitchell"s 
> Cockatoo C. leadbeateri are sympatric throughout much of Australia. Both 
> species nest in tree-hollows of similar dimensions at the same time of year. 
> Their eggs which are very similar are laid every other day and are not 
> incubated until at least three have been produced. Parent birds often forage 
> a long way from the nest and so the early eggs are largely unattended. 
> Sometimes a pair of C. roseicapilla and one of C. leadbeateri both "own" the 
> same hollow and contribute eggs to the clutch. When confrontation finally 
> arises the C. roseicapilla being smaller, lose out and the C. leadbeateri 
> unknowingly incubate a mixed parentage clutch, and may rear a young C. 
> roseicapilla with their own offspring. Such cross-fostered C. roseicapilla 
> behave as, and associate with C. leadbeateri; they ignore other 
> C.roseicapilla. Parts of their behaviour repertoire are inate, parts are the 
> result of imprinting and parts, of later learning. They learn to fly and call 
> like C. leadbeateri and they also adopt the latter's much more varied diet. 
> Cross-fostered C. roseicapilla are probably responsible for those cases of 
> hybridisation in the wild between and C. leadbeateri that have been reported.
> So essentially, the initial reason for all this is a shortage of nest 
> hollows. Parrots, on the whole have traditional nest sites, that is they use 
> the same one year after year, so if an interloper comes along and pops an egg 
> in early in the peace, that's where the story really starts.
> My memories of watching one of our main young imprinted galahs, tagged NO, 
> are still vivid after 40 years; seeing her leading the flock of 50 or so 
> Majors, flying like a Major, calling like a Major - always at the head of the 
> flock because the galah had difficulty flying slowly enough.
> It was rather sad to watch her when she eventually became adult and tried 
> cuddling up to a handsome young male Major Mitchell, only to be continually 
> rejected by him, and effectively in limbo.
> For a long while I've been meaning to write an illustrated version of this 
> story for a more popular magazine. I have a stunning picture (made by me) of 
> a Galah looking at its reflection in a puddle where the reflection is 
> actually a Major Mitchell which I entitle " Mirror, mirror on the wall 
> ........"
> Graeme Chapman
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