Little Corella Flocks
Updated: Sep 15, 2021
If you have been out over the last couple of months, you may have noticed a particularly chirpy group of visitors in our skies. Flocks of Little Corellas, colloquially referred to as 'white cockies', have once again descended on Glenferrie Hawthorn.
The Little Corella is a common species of cockatoo related to the iconic sulphur-crested cockatoo but smaller in size and lacking the yellow crest. According to Sean Dooley, National Public Affairs Manager for Birdlife Australia, Little Corellas are "long-lived, highly intelligent, and very social birds". This would explain the particularly large flocks swarming the trees of Central Gardens and the side-streets, and sometimes perched high atop local buildings. They are also very playful birds, making them both an entertaining and moderately destructive presence in the area. They enjoy ripping fruit and seeds, bark, and branches from trees, showing off and hanging upside down, and having loud squawking conversations with one another.
Interestingly, Little Corellas are not native to Melbourne and never used to be found "any closer to Melbourne than the Murray River north of Swan Hill," said Sean. However, the birds have been seen in Melbourne in significantly increasing numbers since the 1990s. Bird experts have put this down to potential climate-related pressures, as they seem to flock to the city during times of drought, or the failed domestication of Little Corellas since the 1980s when the Victorian government gave permits to capture and own the birds as pets, who were then most likely released by owners due to their highly energetic, loud, destructive nature.
Sean noted that the movements of Little Corellas are very food-oriented and that they particularly love the introduced European trees popular in Melbourne's eastern suburbs. Over the past few years, Little Corellas have been reported in great numbers in the area in autumn, most likely due to the food available in the seed pods from their favourite exotic trees such as Liquid Amber. Little Corellas swarm this time of year before their mid-year nesting season, where they will typically nest in hollow tree trunks or shallow natural cavities. The exact locations and patterns of their nesting and migration have not yet been determined, said Sean, as their presence around Melbourne is "still such a recent phenomena".
While some residents might resent the noise or mess Little Corellas make in our local area, they certainly are extraordinary seasonal characters.