Do the Gang-gang Style with your favourite Red-head this winter
If you wander into your backyard one morning and discover a bobbing red crest and a rhythmic crunch, this probably won’t be the first red-head you’ll catch in its prime this winter.
Gang-gang Cockatoos love to visit backyards and parks in the wintertime to munch on their favourite foods. They are especially fond of dining in Canberra, and as a reward for their loyalty have become the ACT’s animal emblem.
Male Gang-gang Cockatoos are easily distinguished by their wispy red crest, which looks like a feather duster. The dark red of their crest and head stands out against their slate grey bodies. This has given Gang-gangs the nicknames Red-headed Cockatoo and Red-crowned Cockatoo.
You can help look after Gang-gang Cockatoos in your Backyard
During the winter, when breeding season is over, Gang-gang Cockatoos can be found in the south-eastern parts of Australia, including Victoria, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory, and South Australia.
Gang-gangs spend most of their day feeding in trees, and sometimes also forage on the ground for fallen fruits or pine cones. Their diet is varied and adaptable, and includes native plant seeds, introduced plant seeds, berries, fruits, nuts and insect larvae.
Try to plant some native plants so that Gang-gang Cockatoos have a quick meal close by. Some of their favourite foods are eucalypts and wattles.
Be a Backyard Buddy
Gang-gang Cockatoos love:
- Eating saw fly larvae. They are one of the rare birds who enjoy eating these insects, and often munch through a whole clump.
- Gnawing on branches and the entrances of tree hollows to sharpen their beaks.
- Their nest hollows. They usually return to the same nest hollow year after year to raise their family.
But they don't like:
- Their nest and food trees being cleared away. This forces Gang-gang Cockatoos to breed in unnatural hollows such as rooves and garages.
- Psittacine cirovirus disease, a beak and feather disease that is fatal to Gang-gangs. It is spread by contaminated nest chambers. If you see a sickly or injured Gang-gang Cockatoo or other native animal, please contact a wildlife carer.
Be a Buddy to Gang-gang Cockatoos
- Plant locally native plants that Gang-gang Cockatoos can eat from, such as she-oaks aka casuarinas, eucalypts, and wattles.
- Be careful of low perched or low flying Gang-gangs when driving in areas with many trees, especially near hawthorns.
- Throwing away any woodchips - you can use them as mulch in your backyard and Gang-gangs may collect bits to use as lining for their nests.
- Spraying pesticides and chemicals in your garden. The pupae and maggots in acacia galls are a good food source for Gang-gang Cockatoos.
- Cutting down old or dead trees. These provide valuable nesting hollows to Gang-gang Cockatoos. Tree hollows usually only start to develop after 100 years.
Don't be surprised if Gang-gang Cockatoos:
- Growl softly while eating. Don’t be alarmed, as this just means the Gang-gang Cockatoo is very content while eating. Growling is how they show it.
- Allow you to walk close enough to be able to touch them. They’re calm and social birds, and human company doesn’t bother them.
- Leave their cute babies in a crèche in a tree with many other Gang-gang youngsters. When parents go looking for food, often their babies will roost together in the same tree.
A few more Gang-gang Cockatoos facts
Gang-gang Cockatoos profile:
- Gang-gang Cockatoos are small for cockatoos, usually around 33-36 cm long. The females are not as brightly coloured as the males, and have a grey head and body with a barred breast and orange-red underparts. Female Gang-gang cockatoos can sometimes be mistaken for Galahs due to their colouring and small size.
- Gang-gang Cockatoos retreat to higher elevations to breed during the summer time. They choose to live in mountains, alpine woodlands and tall wet forests and gullies, preferring heavily timbered and mature wet sclerophyll forests to build their homes.
- Apart from softly growling while eating, Gang-gang Cockatoos communicate in an ‘er-eck’ or a ‘gr-raer-iriek!’ sound. These calls have been likened to the drawn out sounds of a cork being removed from a bottle, and a rusty hinge on a gate. These sharp and distinct sounds are characteristic of cockatoos, who are usually quite loud and gregarious.