Sulphur crested cockatoo in the maples.
Sulphur crested cockatoo showing off in my maples.

Nobody loves our beautiful Australian birds more than I do. I photograph them and  write about  them  daily.  BUT, this is a plea not to feed the Sulphur Crested Cockatoos  here in the Blue Mountains (or anywhere else for that matter).

The population  of these birds has increased dramatically, due to many factors, including land clearance, prolonged  drought out west, and the feeding of them in backyards. They are now the ‘ibis’ of the area, but far more destructive.

Back in 1985, NSW National Park bird expert Carol Probert  made a note about spotting three Sulphur Crested Cockatoos in  Katoomba’s Catalina Park. She considered this  very unusual.  In 2012 she was interviewed  by Australian National Geographic….. wow, how things had changed!    By now the birds were  ousting threatened Gang-Gang Cockatoos and Powerful Owls from nesting hollows.  Gang-Gang numbers are estimated to have decreased 70%.  Probert was also very concerned that they were drowning out the dawn and dusk chorus of smaller and quieter birds such as wrens, robins, honey eaters, and magpies. Six years on  there are even larger flocks in our parks.

Recently a fellow  posted a disturbing photo on a bird site I belong to.  It showed him sitting in the Katoomba Falls Caravan  Park feeding bread or cake to about eight cockatoos. The birds were perched all over him. When I suggested this was not a good idea he said he realized that, but was just following the example of others.  He commented that there were about a hundred birds being fed by visitors to the caravan park, owned by the Blue Mountains Council.  The scary thing is that they may become so bold they will  start snatching  food from those not intending to share;  rather like seagulls only terrifyingly  bigger. It’s beginning to remind me of Hitchcock’s famous movie.

The two photographs below were taken in Katoomba’s shopping centre, The birds are eating bread put out to feed pigeons etc.

Cocktoos in Katoomba
Cockatoo in Katooma
Hitchcock's move The Birds
Run for your life!

The other big issue is their propensity to chew woodwork.

Cockatoos in gum tree.
Want to create a bit of havoc?


In normal circumstances birds maintain their impressive beaks by foraging;  chewing off branches and munching hard seed capsules.

Cockatoo stealing olives
Foraging….the olive branch of peace.

However, when they receive a  lot of seed and other food from humans they find alternative methods of beak sharpening, and who can blame them? The one below is a bit close for comfort, perched on my studio roof.

Sulphur crested cockatoos.
Forget beak maintenance, he needs a shave.

Fortunately  our period of risk is  brief,  when the fruits of peppermint gums  are ripe.  Cockatoos like open space and we have a minute lawn and lots of shrubs and trees. It can be a  whole lot worse. This is what happened to a property in Victoria.  Destructive Birds.

When residents feed  cockatoos it inevitably leads to  frustration and annoyance among neighbours. There  are complaints about noise,  pollution from droppings and damage to property.  If the  situation cannot be resolved there is the risk of  individuals taking matters into their own hands.

I don’t want to appear ‘holier than thou’. When we came to the Mountains  20 years go our first thought was to buy a  feeder. Our architect gently explained that it wasn’t a great idea and it has been purely an ornament ever since. For those who do want to put fruit or seed out, there are feeders that exclude birds larger than parrots.


In March 2017 there was sad incident in the Blue Mountains when someone threw poisoned seed into the backyard of a resident who had been feeding cockatoos.  Fourteen died, along with a crimson rosella. To read the report about it in the local newspaper  CLICK HERE.

Parks Victoria found themselves facing a big problem at Grants Picnic Park in Sherbrooke Forest.  Retaining walls were being attacked and big changes had to be made to bird feeding programmes.  Of course residents in surrounding suburbs were under siege as well.

Sulphure crested cockatoos damaging retaining walls.

Here is some advice from the New South Wales Office of the Environment and Heritage;

Please note their  No.1 suggestion. I can’t say that I have  found the scarecrow idea in the slightest bit effective, and I would hate to annoy my lovely neighbors  with alarms. The hose might work, but you can’t be around all the time and half  a dozen cockies can do a hell of a lot of damage in just a few minutes.

BEST OF LUCK!  I suspect they may have the last laugh.

Sulphur crested cockatoos are very cheeky..

I should add that cockatoos are also very prevalent in Sydney, where the photo below was taken.  The feeding of birds in apartment blocks is also controversial That yellow  wing tag is part of a survey to record their range.

Sulphur crested cockatoos.
Ambush…..give us food or else!

Just in case there are still people who think I don’t appreciate being surrounded by birds, I wrote  an article about the joy I feel living in what is virtually a hide. CLICK HERE TO READ.


  1. Heck, a serious situation. Don’t know how people feeding them can be ‘policed’ to improve the situation. I guess when the culprits get mobbed like we do with seagulls in the UK, or owners finding their property being badly damaged.

    • Pauline

      It’s not good, Marcia…the old problem of interfering with nature. Our local mayor read my article and has offered to check council’s policy re feeding in their parks, so that’s good. The trouble is that the birds are so spectacular to look at, and great characters so everyone likes to interact with them, especially tourists.

  2. I can understand how people become upset over the damage cockatoos can do and even the noise intrusion if there is someone, (e.g. a baby) trying to fall asleep. On the other hand, they are quite pretty birds, but unfortunately many are abandoning their feeding patterns in the wild for handouts in urban areas. I know how much a pest Ibises are at Matilda Rest Stop on the main highway between Gympie and Maryborough, in Queensland. There’s a man-made lake running beside the outdoor tables and chairs, so the birds have it all at their feet. People who throw bits of food to get them away from the tables, and water to help the birds digest the pastry in the fast food. They do make a mess on the pavement and on the tiles around the sitting areas. I think the owners could possibly erect a chicken fence to connect with the roof of the building and keep the birds away from the eating area and to deter customers from feeding them.

    • Pauline

      Oh yes, Heather…ibis have become a big problem in lots of places too. We humans are always interfering with nature I’m afraid.

  3. The reason you have so many cockatoos in the Blue Mountains at the moment is that, west of the Blue Mountains, there is a very serious DROUGHT in progress! There is very little food for ANY of our native birds out here. Farmers are either dry-sowing their crops, or not sowing at all. When normally we have cockatoos on our property every day, at the moment we are going weeks without seeing one. There are a lot of us out here supplementally feeding birds to keep them alive. If you ever get close enough to your most regular visitors to study them, you will find that most of the flock leaders are talkers. They have at one time been pets, who either escaped or were released from captivity, and quickly rose in the pecking order because they were not afraid of humans and knew where to find food in the suburbs – dog dishes etc often provid

    • Pauline

      Thanks Jan. Yes, I mentioned the prolonged drought. Mind you, numbers have been increasing steadily here over many years. Our tourists as well as our residents love to attract them with food, which of course there is no shortage of in the wild here. I’ve heard about the problem with released, tame birds. I do hope you get rain soon. It must be heartbreaking. I’m a farmer’s daughter, so I understand how stressful it is.

  4. I’m impressed that your local Mayor follows your blogs, and is at least investigating feeding policies etc. It’s a good start at local level. The birds are certainly full of character. I used to love the big black ones that occasionally arrived in my brother’s garden in Fremantle. I think they only used to appear at a certain time of the year. For myself, I like a good ol’ Galah!

    • Pauline

      One needs some influential friends in high (ish) places. I love the big black ones too. I hope they don’t get pushed out by the Sulphur Cresteds.

  5. Why anyone puts out bread to feed pigeons is beyond me ,especially in town, They’re not known as Rats with wings for nothing & then people wonder why the local grocery stores have pigeons invading them or the town looks filthy. Sorry , they’re not an aggressive bird like gulls or destructive like cockies , but they’re still a “feral” imported species

    • Pauline

      Yes, you are so right David. I’m amazed that pigeons, sparrows and mynah birds are everywhere in Blackheath village, yet in 20 years I’ve never spotted one at our place. It’s only a few minutes walk away, so I count myself very fortunate and hope it continues.

  6. Don’t agree. The only species that is growing out of control is us humans. I will definitely encourage the cockatoos to visit my deck and I will be feeding them seeds, but not every day, but weekly at least. That won’t stop them from knowing how to forage for wild food, they are not stupid! give them credit. Also with the heatwaves and the torrential rains, give them a break – We should do what ever we can to keep them here, they are more part of this landscape than we ever will be…. And lets look at our own breeding rates instead !

    • Pauline

      Well, If you are happy to interfere with the balance of nature go right ahead. Personally I think we humans have done enough damage to the environment already.

  7. HM National Parks repeatedly ask people not to feed native birds & marsupials. It encourages them out of their natural habitat and into the open, the food is rarely if ever appropriate and upsets the natural breeding controls used by nature. You’re encouraging an imbalance. Water, yes. Food, no.

    • Pauline

      Exactly. I’ve almost given up trying to tell people though!

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