Cockatoos and the First Snow of the Season

What a difference  a few weeks can make. In late March, we had record-breaking heat and now an early snowfall!

The heavens in Australia are rarely silent: bird-song is everywhere and it pays to watch and listen for the subtle differences as they can usually portent a change in the weather. For instance the call of the Currawong of signifies approaching rain; the laugh of Kookaburras or the whip of Bell-birds in the morning signifies the day will be still and hot, or when the Kookaburra laughs during a thunderstorm it means it will soon clear.

Cockatoo and Quercus Palustris

Cockatoo and Quercus Palustris (image courtesy Fairfax media)

Cockatoos are an amazingly noisy, inquisitive, highly intelligent (captive birds are easily trained to talk), long-lived bird. They are abundant whether you are in the country-side, the bush or the city.

Because Cockatoos are so intelligent, they actually suffer from a very human condition – boredom – and this can lead them to become destructive; Cockatoos have been known to strip decorative woodwork from houses, chew the lids from wheelie bins, gnaw through car antennae and generally make a right mess. One of the reasons you seldom see the light-weight asphalt roofing shingles (so common overseas) used in Australia is because Cockatoos treat the entire roof as complicated chew-toy, so we have to stick to concrete, terracotta or metal roofing.

Cockatoo at the local Café...the Café actively feeds these birds and it is a local tourist attraction :-)

Cockatoo at the local Café…this Café actively feeds these birds and it the tourists love it 🙂

Another cheeky customer

Another cheeky customer

I love them; their antics always make me smile, but understandably, few people actively encourage these birds into their yard.

Yesterday dawned bright, but when the local White Cockatoos gathered in massive, noisy, chattering numbers, I should have known that the weather would change.

Cockatoos gathering

Cockatoos gathering

And change it did!

By midday a frigid, howling gale moved in bringing sleet and snow to the Central Tablelands. With the soils still warm from summer, it didn’t settle in many places and the event was quick: all I got as pictorial evidence was the shot of the last of the snow on my polycarbonate roof when I got home from work.

Last of the snow and sleet melts from the cold change

Last of the snow and sleet melts from the cold change

But, just like the mountains bring in the leaf-peepers for autumn leaves; it also brings the snow-chasers.

I found a you-tube link of a video of yesterday’s event from one such chaser: snow in the central tablelands. The snow doesn’t start until about 5 minutes in, but still it is a nice video showing the farming areas around here.

Today is still cold and windy, and quite sensibly, the Cockatoos have all flown away.

Happy Gardening 🙂

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54 thoughts on “Cockatoos and the First Snow of the Season

  1. I didn’t realize the cockatoos would be doing so much mischief; but I can see what you mean about the intelligence…! Still, it must be great to have those birds all around. The countryside on the vid is lovely – I checked the elevation – no wonder you get some snow! Enjoy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • They are such a cool bird to have filling the skies…and very cheeky! Often when I am weeding, they will silently land on a tree branch and then squawk in unison to scare the heck out of me. I’m sure they take great pleasure from it!

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  2. I can’t get over those cockatoos! Wow, imagine looking up into a gum tree and seeing them all like that. My brother in law had one as a pet.. It cost so much money and it talked and laughed up a storm. There’s a childrens’ song here about a kookaburra laughing in an old gum tree. Your wildlife is very different than ours.. So exotic. This is one of my favorite posts I’ve ever seen out of all the blogs I’ve ever read.

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  3. I agree, Cynthia, this is a fantastic post. I also can’t believe that you have had snow when you are so close. We’re all in shorts and T-shirts still! Just goes to show that our weather is just as mad as our wildlife. We have had kookaburras nesting in the Canary Island Date Palm behind us for the last two years but their laugh still makes me laugh every time. It also makes me laugh when they start up unusually early occasionally and Paul gets ready for work, only realising it is 4am once he is dressed and ready for breakfast!

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    • Thanks Janna! You gotta laugh at how amazing Australian wildlife is. When I lived in Sydney I always used to think that the weather in the upper Blue Mountains would follow the rule of being about 7 degrees colder than the city, but that is rarely the case 🙂

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  4. A fascinating post. I love your cheeky cockatoos. I can’ t imagine what it must be like to have a tree full of them in the garden. I love learning about the wildlife in other parts of the world.
    And to go from heatwave to snow in a month is amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, both events are pretty freaky. We rarely get 30C weather in summer, let alone autumn (it’s more common to get snow here than heat) and now it’s beanies and jumpers all round. Brrrr 🙂

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    • Cake and Belgian waffles, would you believe! The staff have taken to giving the birds sweet treats and whenever you walk past there’s always dozens of cockatoos on the tables and pot-plants. The tourists absolutely adore the spectacle 🙂

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    • I do hope you have a great time! Mid-autumn is probably the best time to visit as most of the country is a little more tame (fewer bugs, less heat, fewer people on summer holidays and so on) but there are still plenty of birds, the ocean is still pretty warm for a swim and all of the attractions are still open

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  5. How magical to have wild cockatoos! And thank you for the post including the currawong’s song; it sounds bell-like but with overtones of “starling” and they certainly do look like they are corvids. 🙂 I have a friend in Green Point, so now I will email her to ask if she has wild cockatoos as well!

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  6. HOW COOL! I love those birds but in our country they are usually in cages:-) Your place looks so tropical compared to where we live. Your winters must be mild-right? How cold does your winter get? A tree filled with those birds-AMAZING!

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      • You can grow year round! We do not live in the Pacific Northwest-our winters dip below and in the double digit wind chills! Spring is here and I always look to see what made it through for sometimes, I am pleasantly surprised + other times:-(-LOL

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    • It is true, there are so many beautiful birds here in Australia. I shall have to try and get pictures of my favourite bird, the Rainbow Lorikeet – one of the prettiest birds you’ll ever see

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  7. I so want to visit your town! We have smaller green parrots in San Diego, super noisy! Great video too. I panicked at first when I saw the other car coming near the beginning. “wrong side of the road!” Then I realized…

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  8. We have a lot of birds on our 4 acres. We have a lot of trees so they tend to breed here. We don’t have big white cockies but we do have native black cockies that breed on our property as well as currawongs that came up to our kitchen windowsill to eat cubes of cheese that we put out for the grey shrike thrushes and a pair of kookaburras that are raising a hilarious baby who sounds like a cross between death metal being whispered and some kind of demon when he is practicing his “talking”. I love the photo of the cockie eating cake. It says just about everything that anyone ever needed to know about the charismatic nature of cockies :). SNOW?! And here I was thinking that “I” was cold! Cheers for the lovely post Matt 🙂

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      • Someone planted some non native hakeas here and the black cockies adore them. They are black cockie crack. They are all over our property and every 2 years (it takes them 2 years to raise a baby) they come back and raise a baby on our back block. We had currawongs and kookaburra’s this year (even though the kookaburras ate most of my baby chickens I still love them). We occasionally get a big white cocky sniffing around the bird baths but they are quickly chased off by the other birds. Same goes for the eagles and hawks. We are right on the river and there is a massive big sea eagle that flys around looking for prey. We had a white gosshawk sitting on the chooks fence checking out the baby chicks (like pick and mix apparently 😉 ).

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      • I love the black cockatoos – their call is so mournful. I didn’t know kookaburras ate baby chickens (I thought they stuck to rodents/mammals). Poor chickens – is there anything that doesn’t eat them? 😦

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  9. Weather-forecasting birds! Almost as amazing as a tree full of cockatoos. Is snow common in your area? Having spent most of my life in Southern California (and little time in the surrounding mountain areas), snow is virtually a foreign concept – the first time I saw it fall, on a trip north of Sacramento, I didn’t even recognize it for what it was.

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    • Thanks Kris, we get about 6 snow falls a year and approximately 2 of them are heavy enough to close about 60 mi of highway; but most times they are quite light. It is a little uncommon for snowfall in April; typically July – October is when the heaviest snow will fall. I do love the snow on the mountains behind LA (is it the San Gabriel mountains?) the image is so iconic!

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  10. I didn’t realise you have snow where you live. My knowledge of the different climates within Australia is abysmal! Observing the bird behaviour to understand the weather patterns is pretty cool. Your images of the birds is great too, they seem so exotic to me although parakeets live in SE England now and we have them in Rome.

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    • We do get a bit of snow each year – our temperatures are basically identical to Oxford or London but with 2.5 times the rainfall and brilliant sunlight like the Mediterranean coast. I know I’m biased, but I think the combination of warm sun and cool air is as close to gardening nirvana as you can get 🙂 Do you have the Rainbow Parakeets in Rome…I’ve heard they have become a pest in some parts of the world?

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  11. I just remarked to my spouse that if we lived in Australia we would have cockatoos in the back garden. She didn’t seem as enchanted by the possibility as I was. What fascinating, entertaining, and handsome birds!

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    • They very entertaining – especially when they get together to achieve a task like emptying the contents of a discarded soft-drink can for a sugary drink – I’ve seen two or three try to upend the can on their wings so that one can have a drink – I wish I had taken a photo 🙂

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  12. Your picture of the cockatoos gathering is absolutely gorgeous! I’d no idea how destructive they are but have often dreamed of living where they and all kinds of colorful,noisy parrots can be seen flying free. How beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hello from Sydney Matt. I found you via Cynthia! The magic of WordPress. You do have the best of both worlds in terms of weather. I was telling Cynthia we don’t get distinctive seasons here. Have you noticed the climate getting warmer? 29º C in Sydney today. (28ºC=82ºF). We get lots of rainbow lorikeets here but all our small birds (like wrens) have disappeared.

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  14. Hi Mary – glad to have found your blog, too!
    I remember seeing the segment on the abc and thinking…wow, how amazing to have so much productivity in such a small space. It really is an inspiration 🙂

    29C? Gosh that is hot for April, even by Sydney’s standards. Here it is breezy and bright, and they are forecasting 20C which is also very hot for us, although from tomorrow we are back to tops in the single digits for the rest of the week with and some really foul weather due in on Monday – the forecast is gales and sleet and a top of just 5C! Brrrr…

    I sold up & escaped inner city Sydney (I had a terrace house, so I know about tiny courtyard gardening!) a few years ago and yes, I have noticed the climate getting warmer & warmer. I read somewhere that the east coast of Australia was one of the areas of the planet warming most quickly (due to the east coast current getting stronger and pulling warmer tropical water further south) and the one thing that I have noticed most about the changing climate is the disappearance of spring. In Sydney, it has been reduced to maybe 3 weeks starting in August which is crazy!
    Thankfully, the ocean’s influence is much less noticeable here in the mountains and the seasons are still relatively stable, but I guess that will only last a few more years before our climate changes to something like Armidale.

    The smaller birds are the ones that struggle the most with the warming climate. I know that Sparrows were an introduced pest, but when I was younger they used to be everywhere in Sydney – these all but vanished about 10 years ago and now Sparrows are quite rare.
    Thankfully with established mixed hedgerows and space I can plant all sorts of things to attract the smaller birds to the garden, which gives so much pleasure 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know how I missed this reply in April.

      Spring and Autumn are both disappearing from Sydney. I still have the noisy mynahs but their numbers have dwindled; they used to dominate. The currawongs in my street imitate the beeping noise of trucks backing; it’s a cup-de-sac. Rainbow lorikeets and Kookaburras and magpies are frequent visitors. I love the black cockies too but I have to be out of Sydney to see those.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. hi matt, I’m in the southeast and the white cockies have only turned up around here in recent years- they dont often come into our forest but occasionally one will check us out – we do have an awesome birdlife though – the yellow tails visit as do the glossies to clean up on the she oak nuts- and talk about cold -we dont get snow but are having thick as frosts and I am noticing big changes in our weather patterns- nice to meet you

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! Nice to meet you as well 🙂 The frosts seem to have arrived early this year (or maybe I’ve become used to them arriving late over the last 10 years!). I love she-oaks, one of my favourite trees, but they just don’t want to grow here at all….if they survive, they rarely get more than 2m tall and stay very shrubby.

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