Parrots are some of our most colourful native birds. Here’s how to spot and where to find these clever creatures.
Whether it’s a suburban backyard or the red landscape of the Flinders Ranges and beyond, parrots are plentiful in South Australia.
You might be familiar with your own garden visitors, but have you seen the others in the wild?
Here are 10 to keep your eye out for:
Budgerigars are one of the world’s favourite pet birds, but did you know they are native to SA? In the wild they are light-green and yellow, but captive birds have been bred in a variety of colours, including mauve, blue, grey and pure white.
Budgerigars are seed-eaters and live in the arid parts of the country, where they can be seen in huge flocks around water holes. They tend to move around to follow rainfall and seeding grasses and can be found in their thousands when conditions are right.
You might see them in the Flinders Ranges and more northern areas of the state, and possibly in the Mount Lofty Ranges.
(Image courtesy of Jim Bendon in line with Creative Commons licensing)
2. Rainbow lorikeet
Most people will be familiar with rainbow lorikeets, the small bright green, blue, red, gold and orange birds that flock to flowering gum trees and birdbaths in noisy groups.
Lorikeets are primarily nectar-feeders, so plant native flowering plants if you want to attract them to your garden. They are believed to form pairs for life, and they nest in tree hollows.
As one of the most common parrot species, you’ll find them in the suburbs and in many southern parts of the state. Two other species, purple-crowned and musk lorikeets, are also common in suburban Adelaide and the Adelaide Hills.
If their raucous calls aren’t confirmation enough, you can identify a rainbow lorikeet flying overhead by the bright red patches under their wings.
There are two main types of rosella in SA – the eastern rosella and the Adelaide rosella, which is a type of crimson rosella.
Adelaide rosellas have blue backs and wings and red-orange heads and chests, while eastern rosellas have vivid red heads and chests, yellow and black backs and blue-edged wings. Adelaide rosellas have blue cheeks, while the easterns have distinctive white cheeks. However, in the suburbs eastern and Adelaide rosellas can interbreed.
They eat grass and tree seeds and will forage in trees and shrubs, but they also like fruits, berries, flowers, nectar and insects. They usually nest in tree cavities or hollow stumps.
Eastern rosella (image courtesy of Murdock Grewar in line with Creative Commons licensing)
These cheeky pink-and-grey parrots are a common sight around the state, including in the Adelaide metropolitan area.
Also known as a rose cockatoo, they form large, noisy flocks that feed on seeds, mostly on the ground. They will also eat fruit, nuts, berries, plant shoots and roots.
Like many other parrots, they nest in tree hollows.
(Image courtesy of Michael Coghlan in line with Creative Commons licensing)
5. Australian ringneck parrot
These large parrots are mostly green with a yellow band across the back of the neck and have long, tapering tails.
There are several different forms but in SA the one you’re most likely to see is often known as the Port Lincoln parrot, which has a dark-coloured head with blue cheeks, a green chest and a yellow belly. It also nests in tree hollows.
Ringnecks eat seeds and some fruits, flowers, nectar and insects, and can often be found in eucalypt woodlands.
(Image courtesy of Annette Teng in line with Creative Commons licensing)
6. Red-rumped parrot
This medium-sized parrot is green with a light-yellow or green belly and a red rump. While the males are a brighter emerald green, the birds’ colouring can provide camouflage in grass while they are feeding on the ground.
This parrot prefers seeds and grass leaves but will also eat fruit and flowers in trees.
There's not as many red-rumped parrots in SA as other parrots, but you can still see them in parts of Adelaide, such as the parklands and along the River Torrens. You’ll also find them in greater numbers in the north-east of the state.
(Image courtesy of Ed Dunens in line with Creative Commons licensing)
7. Yellow-tailed black cockatoo
True to their names, these cockatoos have mostly black feathers, with bright yellow patches on their tails and their cheeks.
They are large birds, measuring up to 65 centimetres, and are easily distinguished from other black birds in flight thanks to their long, graceful tails.
Their favourite foods are seeds and cones from native trees like hakeas and she-oaks, but they will also eat the cones from introduced pine trees, so they are often seen in pine plantations.
They nest in tree hollows and you might see them in parts of the Mount Lofty Ranges, the southern Murray Mallee, the South East and on Kangaroo Island.
(Image courtesy of Dominic Sherony in line with Creative Commons licensing)
8. Glossy-black cockatoo
Like their yellow-tailed cousins, glossies are mostly black, but they are smaller and have bright reddish-orange bars on their tail feathers. Females actually look dark brown.
They are endangered due to habitat loss and the clearance of their main food plant, the drooping she-oak. In SA they were once found on the Fleurieu Peninsula but are now only on Kangaroo Island, where an intensive recovery program has managed to increase numbers to 373 birds from just 158 in 1995, and aims to encourage them back to the mainland.
(Image courtesy of Didier B in line with Creative Commons licensing)
9. Sulphur-crested cockatoo
These gregarious cockatoos are mostly white with yellow crests that they raise when alarmed or when displaying. They also have patches of creamy yellow under their wings and tails.
Male and female birds look similar, with the only difference a slight colour variation in the eye – males have dark brown eyes, while females’ eyes are reddish.
These parrots nest in hollow trees, and have large, sharp beaks that they use to crack pinecones and nuts. Sulphur-crested cockatoos often travel and forage in large groups and are difficult to miss because of their loud, screeching voices.
(Image courtesy of Peripitus in line with Creative Commons licensing)
Cockatiels, another extremely popular pet bird, are grey and yellow in the wild. They have a wispy crest and long tail with darker feathers underneath. The males have brighter orange spots on their cheeks.
Cockatiels in the wild feed on small seeds. They prefer native grasses but will also target some crops. They feed in flocks that forage just after sunrise and again before sunset, and can sometimes be seen with budgerigars.
They were once common in the Mount Lofty Ranges, but you can still find them in a range of areas across the state, except the South East and Kangaroo Island.
(Image courtesy of Anne-Stauf in line with Creative Commons licensing)
Love birds? Pour yourself a cuppa and settle in with these reads: 10 birds of prey to see in SA, 7 tiny birds to look for in SA, 5 waterbirds to look for, and How to bring birds to your garden.
This story was originally posted in August 2018.
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