Calyptorhynchus magnificus

This species is one of the most spectacular in Australia, and also the first Ausralian parrot to be illustrated. Sir Joseph Banks' draughtsman on the Endeavour, Sydney Parkinson, sketched a female bird in pencil in 1770. Standing 60cm (two feet) high including a 25cm tail, these birds are glossy black all over, except for a few bands of bright red in the tail. A high, black, backward-swept crest over the beak curves down into a long ridge of feathers down the head and neck. Consequently each side of the face is very flat, a sweep from the huge round grey beak to the single mohawk of feathers at the back. The crest makes the entire head look disproportionately large. The eyes are black, rimmed with grey, and the huge, scaly feet are pale grey with black claws. The beak is shaped perfectly to give the bird an expression of satisfied amusement.

They're loud birds, with a harsh grating call in flight, softer grunts while feeding and preening. They're fairly widespread across the mainland, common in the far north and in the West Australian wheat belt, where they travel in large flocks. They're fairly rare in the southeast and New South Wales, although they can occasionally be seen in the western Blue Bountains, and indeed are being pushed further east by the drought. In drier areas they travel in groups of up to 200, foraging for grass seed, but in the forests of eastern Queensland they travel in pairs, feeding high in trees.

The breed in large hollows in trees, laying a single large white egg on a pile of small wood chips. The female stays in the nest to incubate, and is fed by the male.

They can be kept successfully as aviary birds, but are extremely expensive, at several thousand dollars per bird. They don't live quite as long as Sulphur Crested cockatoos, but if you do buy one you'll have it for a long, long time. They're intelligent, but do not talk as readily as Sulphur Cresteds. They can be extremely loyal, even protective of their owner.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.