April 2 - 15  2023: Issue 578


Corellas of Pittwater

Pittwater has two species of corella that live here, the Little Corella and the Long-Billed Corella.

Both these species visit the Pittwater Online grove of Pittwater spotted gums and a Little Corella pair have made a nest in one of the tree hollows. On April 1st 2023 they brought their two fledglings into a tree where they could be photographed.

This Issue a few insights into these Corellas of Pittwater.

Left, Long-billed Corella, right; Little Corella


Little Corella 

Scientific Name:  Cacatua sanguinea The scientific name for Little Corella, Cacatua sanguinea, means 'Blood-stained Cockatoo' and refers to the dark pink markings between the eye and the bill.

Little Corellas are mostly white, with a fleshy blue eye-ring and a pale rose-pink patch between the eye and bill. In flight, a bright sulphur-yellow wash can be seen on the underwing and under tail. The sexes are similar in plumage, and young birds look like the adults, but are slightly smaller.

Little Corellas are thought to pair for life and will start breeding at the start of a long period of rain. The nest site is a suitable tree hollow, lined with shavings of wood. This is normally used for several years in row. Both sexes incubate the eggs and both care for the young chicks. The chicks hatch naked and totally dependent on their parents. Breeding occurs any time of the year when conditions are suitable. The clutch Size is 2 to 4 eggs, incubation 25 days. They will spend around 56 days as nestlings becoming fledglings. 

parent bird with two Little Corella fledglings, grooming one of them

Breeding usually pairs nest in large colonies, and several nests may be found in the same tree. Where their ranges overlap, different corella species may nest together, but they are not thought to breed with each other.

When little corellas play, they become very noisy. They have conversations with each other, fly around and also show off. Little corellas show off by hanging themselves upside-down with their feet, beaks or both. They eat a variety of both wild and cultivated seeds and regularly feed on lawn grasses in urban areas. They frequently feed on cereal crops such as wheat, barley and maize and are considered a pest by the colonising landholders from Europe who commenced living in Australia from 1788. For the original landholders they were a pet in some cases and a food source in other places. The downy feathers are used in traditional ceremonies and dances where they adorn head and armbands. 

The Little Corella is the most widely distributed of the three corella species found in Australia. The Western Corella is confined the extreme south-west of Western Australia, and the Long-billed Corella is found in the south-east.

Little Corellas feed in large noisy flocks. The birds feed mainly on the ground, and have to drink on a daily basis. The most common foods are grains and grass seeds. Some bulbs and fruits may also be eaten.

Corella foraging at Mona Vale - Bayview park areas
Photos: A J Guesdon.

Little Corella Fledgling Being Fed

PON yard May 1st 2023

The scientific name for Little Corella, Cacatua sanguinea, means 'Blood-stained Cockatoo' and refers to the dark pink markings between the eye and the bill.


Long-Billed Corella

The long-billed corella or slender-billed corella (Cacatua tenuirostris) is a cockatoo native to Australia, which is similar in appearance to the little corella. The scientific name for the genus that includes corellas, Cacatua, comes from the Malay word for a cockatoo: 'kakatuwah'. It means 'a vice', referring to their powerful bills.

This species is mostly white, with a reddish-pink face and forehead, and has a long, pale beak, which is used to dig for roots and seeds. It has reddish-pink feathers on the breast and belly.

The long-billed corella does not have any recognised subspecies. The first formal written description was by German naturalist Heinrich Kuhl in 1820. It is one of several related species of cockatoos called corellas and classified in the subgenus Licmetis within the genus Cacatua, members of which are known as "white cockatoos".

The adult long-billed corella measures from 38 to 41 cm in length, has a wingspan around 80–90 cm, and averages 567 g in weight. It has a long, bone-coloured beak, and a rim of featherless, bluish skin around the eyes. The plumage is predominantly white with reddish feathers around the eyes and lores. The underside of the wings and tail feathers are tinged with yellow.

The long-billed corella can be found in the wild in Victoria and south-eastern New South Wales. It has extended its range since the 1970s into Melbourne, Victoria and can now be found in Tasmania, South Australia and southeast Queensland. A transplanted population resides in Perth, Western Australia as of the mid-1980s, which has conservation implications as this species may hybridize with the endangered western corella.

The long-billed corella is found in grassy woodlands and grasslands, including pasture, fields of agricultural crop, and urban parks.

Breeding generally takes place in Austral winter to spring (from July to November). Long-billed corellas form monogamous pairs and both sexes share the task of building the nest, incubating the eggs, and caring for the young. Nests are made in decayed debris, the hollows of large old eucalypts, and occasionally in the cavities of loose gravely cliffs. Around 2–3 dull white, oval eggs are laid on a lining of decayed wood. The incubation period is around 24 days and chicks spend about 56 days in the nest.

The long-billed corella typically digs for roots, seeds, corms, and bulbs, especially from the weed onion grass. Native plants eaten include murnong Microseris lanceolata, but a substantial portion of the bird's diet now includes introduced plants.

The call of the long-billed corella is a quick, quavering, falsetto currup!wulluk-wulluk, or cadillac-cadillac combined with harsh screeches.

Long-billed corellas are now popular as pets in many parts of Australia, although they were formerly uncommon, and their captive population has stabilised in the last decade. This may be due to their ability to mimic words and whole sentences to near perfection. The long-billed corella has been labelled the best "talker" of the Australian cockatoos, and possibly of all native Psittacines.

Information: BirdLife Australia. Photos: A J Guesdon, March 29, 2022, Careel Bay
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and Long Billed Corella mates - cleaning each other's scalps, Careel Bay, May 24, 2022. Photo: A J Guesdon