Bird of The Month for March

Little Corella is March's Bird of the Month. Photo: Jack Winterbottom

YOU may have noticed large, noisy flocks of screeching white birds flying over Bairnsdale recently. These are Little Corellas, which can form very large flocks, numbering into the thousands. It is an active, social bird with a cheeky personality, well known for its mischievous behaviour. They often engage in acrobatic displays or playful interactions with other birds. They are often heard before being seen, emitting loud, screeching calls that carry for long distances.

Physically quite small, Little Corellas are white, with a blue fleshy eye-ring and pale rose-pink patch between the eye and bill. They have a short, bone-coloured bill, dark brown iris and grey legs and feet. Plumage for both sexes and juveniles is the same. The Little Corella has no visible feathers around its eyes, giving it a distinctive, somewhat comical appearance.

Widespread throughout Australia, their habitat ranges from the arid deserts of central Australia to the eastern coastal plains. They are often found in urban areas, including most major capital cities, on lawns and playing fields. Being strong fliers, they can travel long distances to their preferred habitat of seeding grasses along watercourses. As they need to drink at least daily, those that live in desert areas must also fly to watering holes twice a day.

Feeding mainly on the ground, Little Corellas are primarily herbivores with a diet that includes seeds, nuts, fruit, and insects. Their strong, hooked beak cracks open seeds and nuts. They often use their feet to hold food while they eat.

During the breeding season, they can engage in elaborate courtship displays, including synchronised flying. Little Corellas are thought to pair for life and begin breeding at the start of a long period of rain. The nest site is a suitable tree hollow, cliff cavity or termite mound, lined with shavings of wood and normally used for several years in a row. They nest in large colonies and several nests may be found in the same tree. Both sexes incubate the clutch of two to four eggs and both care for the young. Chicks hatch naked and totally dependent on their parents.

The Little Corella’s range is expanding with land clearing and increased sources of water. The increase in agricultural crops has increased numbers. In some areas they can be regarded as a nuisance. Their adaptable nature and tendency to gather in large flocks, particularly when they gather to roost at night, can bring them into conflict with humans. However, they can provide great entertainment with their exuberant playful behaviour such as dangling from overhead wires by the bill or one foot, sliding off the roofs of silos and so on.

BirdLife East Gippsland meet weekly for Monday morning outings. New members are always welcome. Check their Facebook page and Birdlife Australia events page for more information.