Biloela Wild Cockatoos

Biloela Wild Cockatoos series by Leila Jeffreys. Gang-Gang Cockatoos live in small flocks in the south east of Australia. They set up supervised crèches for their young so parents can take turns feeding away from the nest site. Juvenile male Red-tailed Black Cockatoos resemble females until puberty, which occurs at around four years of age, but have paler yellow barred underparts. As the birds reach maturity, males gradually replace their yellow tail feathers with red ones.

'Neville' Major Mitchell's Cockatoo

'Neville' Major Mitchell's Cockatoo

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'Neville' Major Mitchell's Cockatoo ©Leila Jeffreys 2012
Photograph on archival fibre based cotton rag paper
112 x 89 cm, 44 x 35 inch

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Who is Major Mitchell? He was a Scottish- born Australian explorer and surveyor whose full title and name was: Lieutenant Colonel Sir Thomas Livingstone Mitchell. He wrote fondly of these Cockatoos but not so fondly of Australia’s countryside. “Few birds more enliven the monotonous hues of the Australian forest than this beautiful species whose pink-coloured wings and flowing crest might have embellished the air of a more voluptuous region.”

He was a brilliant man, but a proud one. He is known as the last person in Australia to challenge someone to a duel (held in September 1851, in Centennial Park, Sydney) after he and his Surveyor General’s Department were criticised for… excessive spending. “How dare you!” Fortunately both shots missed their mark.

Major Mitchell died of bronchitis in 1855 and is buried in Camperdown Cemetery in the suburb of Newtown, Sydney. His name lives on in the Canberra (Australia’s capital city) suburb of Mitchell and in Mitchell’s Hopping Mouse: a nocturnal Australian native rodent which looks like a cross between a kangaroo and a rat.

Like all female Major Mitchell Cockatoos if you look closely at her eye, Matilda has a light reddish-brown iris as opposed to male Neville’s black iris. Matilda was very polite while Neville was a show off.

Because of their white and salmon-pink plumage and large, bright red and yellow crest they are generally recognised as the most beautiful of all cockatoos.

To our ears, in contrast to their beauty, their song is sad and mournful.

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