Last updated on 1-Nov 2017
The Gang-gang Cockatoo can be seen throughout many parts of south-eastern Australia. In the summer months, they are mostly found at higher elevations, where they breed in tree hollows in the moist eucalyptus forests of the mountainous Great Divide. After the breeding season has finished, and the days grow cooler and shorter, they undertake altitudinal movements, leaving the mountains and flying to lower elevations to spend the autumn and winter, where they often inhabit suburban gardens of lowland towns and cities.
The Gang-gang Cockatoo is a small, stocky cockatoo with a wispy crest, large, broad wings and a short tail. The adult male has a distinctive scarlet red head and crest, with the rest of the body slate-grey. The adult female has a dark grey head and crest, with the feathers of the underparts edged pink and yellow. In both sexes, the feathers of the upperparts and wings are faintly edged pale grey, giving a barred appearance. Females have extra yellow edging to their feathers that increases this barred effect. Young birds are similar to the adult female, with young males differing by having a red crown and forehead and a shorter, less twisted red crest. Gang-gangs are gregarious but relatively quiet cockatoos. They can be located in food trees by the sounds of feeding and falling debris. Their average size is 34cm and their average weight is 257 grams.
The Gang-gang Cockatoo has a creaky, rising screech that sounds like a rusty hinge: ‘ky-or-ark’. They also often make a soft growling sound when feeding. Bird call recorded by: Fred Van Gessel
Gang-gang Cockatoos are endemic to south-eastern Australia. They are widespread in eastern New South Wales from the central slopes and tablelands to the south coast, down through Victoria’s north-eastern regions to Seymour, with some records in east Melbourne, Mornington Peninsula, and south-western Gippsland. A disjunct (cut off) population is found in the western half of Victoria from the Otway region to the South Australian border. Formerly found on King Island until the mid-1960s but now considered extinct on the island. The Gang-gang cockatoo has also been introduced to Kangaroo Island in South Australia.
Forest, Woodland, Urban
During summer, the Gang-gang Cockatoo is found in tall mountain forests and woodlands, with dense shrubby understoreys. In winter, Gang-gangs will move to lower altitudes into drier, more open forests and woodlands.
The Gang-gang undergoes seasonal altitudinal migration from high forests to lower areas during winter, and is able to use exotic plants as food in urban areas. They are often seen in suburban backyards during these times, where they can be seen in trees eating fruits and seeds. Gang-gang Cockatoos almost always use their left foot to hold food when eating.
Gang-gang Cockatoos feed mainly on seeds of native and introduced trees and shrubs, with a preference for eucalypts, wattles and introduced hawthorns. They will also eat berries, fruits, nuts, and insects and their larvae. They are mainly arboreal (found in trees), coming to the ground only to drink and to forage among fallen fruits or pine cones. Gang-gang Cockatoos feed in flocks of up to 60 birds outside the breeding season; they feed in pairs or small family groups during the breeding season.
Gang-gang Cockatoos form close, monogamous pairs. The female chooses a nest hollow in a suitable tree and both sexes prepare the nest for egg-laying, lining it with wood chips and dust by chewing at the sides of the hollow. Their clutch size is usually 2 eggs (sometimes 1 or 3 eggs). Both sexes incubate the eggs for 30 days and care for the young with the nestling period being 56 days. Parents feed their young for a further four to six weeks after fledging and family groups will be seen feeding together during the breeding season.
In some cases, ‘crèches’ will be formed – where several pairs have nested close together, and their young will roost together in the same tree while their parents are foraging. Breeding season is from October to January.
Forest, Woodland, Urban