Gang-gang cockatoos are a distinctive and charismatic Australian bird. They are mainly slate-gray, the males easily identifiable with their scarlet head with wispy crest, females having a gray head and crest, with feathers that have salmon pink edges on the underbelly. Juveniles look like an adult female, young males having red crowns and foreheads and a crest that is shorter and less twisted.
The Gang-gang cockatoo inhabits south-eastern Australia and it is native to this region. In summer, it occurs in tall mountain woodlands and forests with thick shrubby understories. In winter, they move to the lower altitudes and drier, more open woodlands and forests. At this time, they can be seen at roadsides and in the gardens and parks of urban areas. These cockatoos need tall trees for their nest hollows.
Habits and lifestyle
Gang-gang cockatoos can often be observed in small groups outside the breeding season but they form large flocks at their food and water sources. These birds are arboreal and are only seen on the ground to drink or to take seeds from fallen cones. In the breeding season, they gather in family groups or pairs. During the warm parts of the day they rest in leafy trees, but during rain and snow showers they may perform aerobatics. Gang-gang cockatoos are powerful fliers, but they usually take just short flights from tree to tree. Their flight is “owl-like” and their wings beat slowly. Their aerobatics involve circling above the canopy, now and again swooping down amongst the trees. Long-distance flights take place at great height, ending with spiraling towards the ground while twisting and turning.
flock, company, pandemonium
Diet and nutrition
Gang-gang cockatoos eat mainly seeds of native trees and shrubs, as well as introduced varieties, preferring wattles, eucalypts, and introduced hawthorns. Berries, nuts, fruits, and insects and larvae also form part of their diet.
Gang-gang cockatoos are monogamous birds and pair for life. They nest in the deep hollows of trees, pairs usually returning every year to the same tree. The breeding season takes place from October and January. The female usually lays two white eggs and incubation lasts about 24 to 30 days, performed by both parents. The adults feed the chicks for 7-8 weeks, then 4-6 weeks more after fledging. Family groups are often seen feeding together in the breeding season. Sometimes 'crèches' are formed: where several pairs nest close together, their offspring will roost in the same tree together while the parents are foraging. These cockatoos start breeding at four years of age.
Gang-gang cockatoos are under threat from land clearing and removal of mature trees, which are potential breeding sites.
According to the IUCN Red List, population size of Gang-gang cockatoos has not been quantified, but it is believed to be bigger than 10,000 mature individuals. Currently, this species is described as generally common and classified as Least Concern (LC) with its numbers are increasing.
Gang-gang cockatoos have an important role in dispersing seed, distributing seeds from various plants that they consume.
Fun facts for kids
- Gang-gangs are gregarious but also relatively quiet cockatoos. They are usually located in trees which are their food sources by the sounds of falling debris and feeding.
- Gang-gang cockatoos make long rasping screeches similar to the sound of a rusty hinge or of a cork being twisted from a bottle. Such a call is made during flight or while the birds are perching in a treetop. During feeding, this cockatoo makes a soft growling.
- During eating, a gang-gang cockatoo will hold the piece of fruit with one foot while opening it with its bill. It takes the seed out using its lower mandible and its tongue.
- Gang-gangs love to chew everything and need to be provided with stimuli to keep them entertained and interested.
- Feather picking due to boredom is a common ailment seen in Gang-gangs deprived of needed attention.