Home | Bird Species Profiles | Cockatoos that Dig for a Living: the Long-Billed Corella

Cockatoos that Dig for a Living: the Long-Billed Corella

The world’s approximately 330 parrot species, while superficially similar in body plan, exhibit an incredible diversity of lifestyles.  To those I have highlighted on this blog I would now like to add the long-billed corella (Cacatua tenuirostris), a unique cockatoo which spends much of its time as does none other – digging in the ground for food!

A Distinctive Bill

A long, rather thin and pointed upper mandible (bill) immediately distinguishes the long-billed corella from other cockatoos.  Its favorite foods – roots, tubers and, on occasion, insect larvae – are equally unique for a parrot.  The beak functions as a very effective digging tool, and allows the corella to take seeds and other more typical parrot foods as well.

Range and Habitat

The 2 subspecies of long-billed corella live widely separated from one another, and are restricted in distribution to extreme southeast and southwest Australia.  Their ranges have shrunk in recent years due to a drier climate (they require standing water and high rainfall) and land use changes.  Feral populations are established in Perth, Sydney and other Australian cities.

Corellas favor open woodlands, savannas and the edges of watercourses and farms.  They leave their roosts to drink before dawn, and always employ a sentinel perched high in a tree when feeding.

In addition to roots and tubers, they feed upon planted grain, maize and fruits as well, and are hunted as agricultural pests in some areas.  Corellas nearly always nest in hollows high in living trees near water…the loss of these unique nesting sites may also be playing a role in recent population declines.

Corellas as Pets

Late to enter the pet trade, long-billed corellas are now becoming quite popular as pets in their native Australia.  Their abilities to mimic speech are said to be quite impressive, and captive breeding is now fairly routine.

Further Reading

You can learn more about the natural history of these most unusual cockatoos at http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/finder/display.cfm?id=101.



Image referenced from Wikipedia and originally posted by Snowmanradio

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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