Our Neighbors  ---      (narrated by "Mom")

We live in Australia.  If you like trees, flowers, and birds, this is the place to be!  Some of the wild birds are regular visitors to our deck, including cockatoos, crimson rosellas, king parrots, kookaburras, magpies, and rainbow lorikeets.  We also have yellow tail black cockatoos in the area, but they don't visit our deck.  All of these photos were taken here at our home. 

Cockatoos 
 
This is Buster.  He's a sulphur-crested cockatoo.  There are a bazillion of these gorgeous white birds here.

Buster, like all cockatoos, is a very smart cookie.  You have to be around these birds before you begin to appreciate how intelligent they really are.

Buster hangs out with his best pal "Pigpen" but here he is with the whole gang.  You can only see 5 birds here, but trust me - there were about 15 of them sitting on that rail outside the window.
If he were any cuter, it'd be illegal.  It's no wonder that so many people try one of these beauties as a pet.


I'm very proud of this shot.  This is Buster sitting in the fog one early summer morning. 

I'm convinced that if we left our door open, Buster would walk right on in.  For that reason, we keep a close eye on the doors - we're much more worried about what might come in than we are the prospect of one of our "indoor birds" getting out.
This photo was taken in the early days, when we were still feeding the cockatoos a couple of times a day.  Here you see Buster tapping his beak on the window to get my attention.  He wanted me to know that the feeder tray was empty.  Unfortunately, I didn't move fast enough for Buster...
...Just seconds after this shot was taken, Buster lost patience with me.  He reached up and ripped a piece of wood from the outside windowsill.

This is "Pegleg".  He's got a badly twisted foot, and is only rarely seen with the other 'toos.  He showed up at our house in mid-December 2007 and although I normally practice a "no feed" policy when it comes to the cockatoos, I have to admit that I occasionally give him a little helping of sunflower seeds because I feel sorry for him.

Crimson Rosellas
  


 This is an adult Crimson Rosella.

They have a really sweet face, don't they?

They are charming birds.  Many are quite tame and will accept food from your hand.  The classic tourist photo here involves having several of these beauties perched on your arms and head.

Rosellas aren't usually seen by themselves.  They tend to travel in groups.  Although they prefer to be together, they are a little bit "scrappy" and squabble with each other continually.


Stephen was offering this rosella some seeds - and the bird flew down to take the treat - but look who's coming in from the right side!


Rosellas are easily bullied, even by the rainbow lorikeet (which is quite a bit smaller than a rosella).  A flock of rosellas will, however, bully the king parrots (which are larger than they are!).  I guess it goes to show that size doesn't matter as much as attitude.

You can tell if a parrot approves of your cooking by the way they eat the food.  If they like it well enough to hold it in their foot, you know you've got a happy customer.  (This bird is eating a bit of dried french bread.  We don't often feed the birds bread, but offer seeds instead.)



This is a juvenile rosella.  They start out green and then molt their baby feathers until they have the colors of the adults.  When you first see the youngsters, it's easy to think you're looking at a different species.

Another young bird.  Notice how the red and black feathers are coming in on the back of his neck.
After a year of living here, there's never been a time when there weren't a few youngsters around - all in different stages of color.  I'm not sure if that's because they continually are breeding or if it just takes a while for the young to molt. 

King Parrots 
 

This is "Elvis" - isn't he gorgeous?

The king parrots are the most gentle of our wild parrots and generally are driven off the feeders by the other parrots - except during breeding season, when they will argue with the crimson rosellas a bit (although they give way for the 'toos). 
 

This is Priscilla, Elvis's mate.  She's much bolder than he is, and is much quicker to eat seeds from my hand.

When Priscilla visits, she lands on the balcony rail just outside my office and "talks to me".  She's learned that if she visits me there, I'll head downstairs and bring her a nibble of something.  


She's very keen to get my attention.  More than once she's tried to come into the house, and only the flyscreen on my office window kept her out!  

  
Did I say Priscilla is more bold than Elvis?  Scratch that!

I normally carry the seed out to them by the handful, but one day I carried the bag - and Elvis went wild!  He flew over and landed on my arm, pecking at the bag.  I made him go back to the deck rail and then offered him the bag (he was dancing back and forth with glee).  I didn't know what to think when he grabbed it quickly and thrust his head in.  If I hadn't stopped him, he'd have climbed right in! 

I think our "inside birds" are going to have to sit down and have a talk with this boy about dignity and maintaining a safe distance from humans.

Still, I have to confess that I do get a big kick out of it when I walk outside and these two come running.  Ever since the day with the seed bag, both Elvis and Priscilla seem to have put aside all fear of me.  When I head out to the deck or to the yard, they come running if they see me and will stand quite close and "talk" to me.  They land on my hands, arms, shoulder, and head.  Just recently when I was loading our hatchback I heard a "flutterflutterthud" sound and looked up to see Elvis sitting on top of the hatchback door looking down to see what I was doing.  (In this photo, Priscilla appears dark - that's because it had been raining hard that day and both she and Elvis were very wet.)


Kookaburras
 
Do kookaburras really laugh?  You bet they do!

This one is a young fellow who has been courting his lady love in the trees near our house.  From our windows we can watch the two of them as they strut, dance, and sing for each other. 

This photo is a bit fuzzy, but they were far up in a tree, so it was hard to get a clearer one.  You can see them sitting side by side.  The one furthest away has his head tilted up because he's crooning a kookaburra love song for his lady.


This is "the look" - the "get me a treat NOW!" look.
Pretty much irresistible, eh?

Kookaburras are great hunters.  They eat snails, snakes, and because our yard is loaded with yabbies, we are visited by at least one kookaburra every day.

Here's a very small yabby that I happened to come across when I was planting bulbs.  It was about 1 1/2 inches long.


For as fierce-looking as he is, our kookaburra pals are very gentle.  Here is one taking a bit of prawn from me.  This beak of his could do some serious damage to me if he wanted - but he's very careful when he takes a treat.  He reaches slowly and carefully.  Then he whacks it on the deck rail to "kill" it.

In this picture you can see his beak is covered with dirt - that's because this bird had been hunting yabbies in the yard before he came up to the deck.


I saw a kookaburra attacked by a cat in December of 2006.  We were renting a B&B cottage while waiting for our house to be ready - and the cottage owner owns a cat which is allowed to roam the grounds during the day.

It was a wild and violent fight.  The cat (a very large tom) jumped at the bird from a clump of bushes next to where the kookaburra had landed.  The cat knocked the bird down on his side and was momentarily on top of him.  The the kookaburra rolled the cat over onto it's side and started fighting back.  I saw him jab at the cat with that powerful beak.  It must've hurt because the cat let go for a second.  The kookaburra started to fly away, but the cat leapt into the air and pulled him back down.  After a couple more wrestling tumbles, the kookaburra managed to escape, but not without an injury.  The cat had managed to scratch him just above the eye (possibly elsewhere).  

We anxiously watched "Gus" (the kookaburra) over the next couple of weeks.  Cats carry bacteria on their claws and in their saliva that is terrifically toxic to birds.  Birds that are unlucky enough to be bitten or scratched often are doomed to die of septicemia.


Here's Gus giving Stephen "the look".

Gus's scratch left him with a scar, but the wound healed and he continued to patrol the B&B grounds. As far as we can tell, the never became ill from the scratch.  Gus is one lucky (and tough) hombre!

Magpies 
 
There's nothing so lovely sounding - or so very "Australian" as the song of a magpie.  I've heard their song described as "caroling" and I think that's a pretty good word for it.  Unfortunately, the sound doesn't seem to record well - it always sounds tinny, a little like a rusty gate when recorded.  

This is Maggie.  She looks fierce, but she's actually quite sweet, at least as long as she knows you're good for a handout.

Her eyes are positioned in a forward-looking way.  That's because she's a hunter - a predator.

 

Here she is looking all happy and relaxed.

Notice the silvery grey feathers on her back.  That's how we know "she" is a "she".  The male's back is pure white.

Here is Maggie (right) with her "man" Billy Bob.  Billy Bob is very slowly getting to know me, but he's much less bold than she is.  Maggie will take a treat right from my hand, but he prefers that I toss it to him (he's a good catcher!)
Maggie and Billy Bob hunt for yabbies, grubs, and other tidbits in our yard.   They walk along the grass and jab their sharp beaks into the ground when they think they've found something.  

Magpies also eat snakes.  With at least 2 species of lethally venomous snakes known to live in our area, I'm very happy about anything that preys on them.  The only snake I've seen in our yard so far was dangling from Maggie's beak (the snake was about a foot long).  GOOD BIRD!

Here's a good shot of Maggie's beak.  Wickedly sharp!

Snakes beware!

 

Magpies are extremely territorial.  They will drive off other magpies and other predatory birds in order to protect their turf.  I've seen Maggie and her mate Billy Bob attack quite a few birds, including currawongs and other magpies.  They also have tried to drive off the kookaburras, but haven't had much success there.

Here's Maggie walking along the road.  I know she was really hunting, but the way she marched along it looked to me like she was on patrol.

During breeding season (September/October), magpies become very aggressive toward anything and anybody that moves into their territory.  They are known to swoop down and attack people, usually from behind.  But I've read that if you give magpies a treat now and then (a little strip of uncooked chicken breast is a big favorite), they'll accept your presence in their kingdom.
The experts warn not to be too consistent in feeding, or the birds develop a dependency on you.  But an occasional treat (not a whole meal, just a tidbit) is a good way to make friends and thereby avoid conflicts during breeding season.  

In her not-so-subtle way, Maggie lets me know when she's interested in getting a handout.  In this photo she's sitting on top of our BBQ just outside the kitchen window.


Rainbow Lorikeets 
 
The aptly-named Rainbow Lorikeet is quite a character.  They are the smallest of the parrots that visit us here, but definitely not the shyest.  They were the first ones to actually land on my arm for a snack.  Although not all of them are that bold with humans, they don't take much guff from the other birds.  If there's food on the deck, they'll eat their fill and even drive off the cockatoos (which are several times larger than they are).

Here's a pair of young adults. 
Rainbow Lorikeets fly very fast and travel in more of a straight line than the other parrots do.  When they move through the canopy of the forest they look like they've been shot out of a gun.  The speed may be necessary to avoid hawks (these birds bright colors make them easy to spot from quite a distance).
This is a family that started visiting us as a group when the babies were fledging.  The 2 on the right are the babies (darker beaks).  
  Here are a pair of lorikeets just before they rushed Buster.  You'd think Buster would realize he's much bigger than they are (he could easily bite them in two!), but they just spook him.  They
"attack" by bending their heads down and hopping directly at the victim.
This is "Cassidy".  We recognize him because he's got a lot more orange/read on this chest, plus he's got a small bald spot on the top of his head.  As you can see - he's not shy.

When I first met Cassidy, I poured some seeds into my hand and walked toward him hoping to coax him to eat from my hand.  This bold little guy just jumped right on me and commenced to chow down.

  Parents and their baby.  Notice the much darker beak and the darker eyes.

We were thrilled when they brought their young to visit us!

 
"Junior" was good enough to turn around and pose for us.  The mix of color on his body is just stunning.
 
Yellow Tail Black Cockatoos
They are quieter than the sulphur crested cockatoos and a lot harder to spot.

We rarely see these beauties down low - they tend to stay in the upper canopy of the forest.  That's part of the reason why they are hard to see - their dark feathers give them a perfect camouflage.

We lived here about 18 months before we saw any Yellow Tails.  We see them fairly often now because we know their call and we look for them when we are outside.

My husband spotted this one in a small tree on the slope above our house.  He heard it and it's companions busily destroying the tree.  In this photo you can see the open slit into the branch the bird is sitting on.  There are almost certainly some delicious bugs or grubs inside, and that is what the birds are after.

In this photo you can see what I mean about the birds being hard to see.  The dark wood and dark feathers blend together.

These are not small birds, however.  They are huge.

Here you can see the yellow tail feathers.