The Coming of the White Birds

white bird
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo in our poplar gum

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos (Cacatua galerita, Cacatuidae) are common around Townsville in the Dry season but are seen more often in open spaces (e.g. the parkland in and around the Palmetum) than in gardens. They do drop in from time to time, however, announcing their arrival with the most awful – or exhilarating depending on the listener’s attitude – Skraaaak!

That’s what I heard this afternoon, so I wandered out for a look. There were two of them, high in the poplar gum, fossicking around on the dead branches as though hunting for grubs or beetles:

white bird on branch
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo searching for a snack

They didn’t stay long but while I was trying to spot them I finally saw another bird I had been hearing for a couple of days, the Torresian Imperial Pigeon (aka Pied Imperial Pigeon or Nutmeg Pigeon, Ducula spilorrhoa).

Seeing the two species at once has reinforced my feeling that we are beginning to see a change of season, since the pigeons are Wet season migrants. They are here much earlier than they were two years ago. I wonder if the Wet will arrive earlier too?

The phrase I used for the title of my post, The Coming of the White Birds, is borrowed from a much more significant wildlife study: it’s the name of a new documentary movie about a fifty-year study of the migration of these pigeons to their breeding site on North Brook Island, just North of Hinchinbrook Island. For more about the study and the movie, visit this page on the Wildlife Qld blog. To report your own sightings of these beautiful birds, go to PIPwatch.

3 thoughts on “The Coming of the White Birds”

  1. The Nutmeg Pigeons have been visiting quite regularly since the date of this post, often (in the last few weeks, anyway) arriving in the late afternoon. This morning I saw four or five in the top of the poplar gum, so perhaps they are roosting here overnight.

    1. They are still visiting but I have seen more of their movements and I no longer think they roost here – I think the poplar gum is just a stop-over on a longer daily return trip from somewhere north of us (Anderson Park? Rowes Bay? Magnetic Island?) to somewhere south of us (Ross River?).

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