On our tour of Lake Mungo and the Walls of China, we were lucky enough to see our first Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos (Lophochroa leadbeateri) in the wild.
German, our guide, spotted them from a frankly amazing distance. As we got closer, the pale pink was unmistakable.
They are smaller and much quieter than their cousins the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo.
Major Mitchell’s (named after an explorer of inland Australia) are found in arid and semi-arid areas of the inland, in all Australian states except Tasmania. They need wooded habitats – or at least lightly-wooded – as they lay eggs at the bottom of a vertical tree hollow, usually on a bed of rotting wood. They prefer habitats where eucalypts and acacias dominate.
3 to 4 eggs are laid, with both parents incubating. Chicks are fledged in about 4 months.
They are omivorous, and will eat the seeds of grasses, shrubs and trees. They will take small roots and bulbs, as well as insect larvae and grubs. They mostly forage on the ground – sometimes in groups of other cockatoos like galahs and corellas – but will also eat in the branches of a tree. The one we saw in the tree was taking great delight in a Paddy Melon (Cucumis myriocarpus).
These birds are sadly now listed as Vulnerable in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.