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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

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