Growing Up Isn't Always Easy
Both babies were growing well and fast. Mother fed them diligently and their bellies were round. She kept them warm at night and Dad made sure no other creature got near them - especially because they were on the ground in a hole.
The pink slowly made way for yellow fluff and the yellow fluff gradually turned into white feathers.
The dad was as proud and protective as can be. When I dared to get near the nest, he would attack my feet, the lawnmower, wheel burrow - anything that moves. He regularly fended off other wild cockatoos even those who looked like friendly visitors. These birds were partly attracted by food we put out for "our" family.
You can easily see when a cockatoo is agitated. They lift their yellow feathers and squawk very loudly.
This Dad had his moments. If you approached him carefully and slowly, he would allow you to touch him and give him a rub for minutes on end. Mother is far less aggressive but she will never allow you to touch her. That got us thinking that perhaps Dad was a captive bird at some earlier part of his life and that he was set free or escaped. Well it's tough love - you may cuddle him but he will also draw blood biting your hand or foot. Sounds like most human affairs doesn't it?
South-East Queensland had its worst drought in more than ten years. Some say it is the driest in a hundred years. We have severe water restrictions. We were happy to get a bit of rain on the weekend. I went to have a look at how the cockies were coping with the mild rain. Dad did the only thing he knew how - dug more holes inside the main hole. The earth was soft now but the babies were in no danger. It is summer and warm and there was no danger of the babies getting flooded. I noticed the dirt on the babies - as though the Dad was trying to cover them to protect them against the rain. Notice the hole between the babies.
I put on shoes and protective clothing and then braved attacks by the dad to put an old umbrella over the hole. Somehow the Dad realised that I was helping because he did not attack me. A few hours later, Ellie came into the house saying that one of the babies was missing. I showed her this picture saying that one of them is just a little more covered with mud that the other. We both ran out and yes - we could not see the second baby. I started digging and a foot stuck out of the mud. He was totally buried in that hole in the middle. He was still alive but mud filled his beak. We used tooth picks to clear his mouth but sadly, he died from asphyxiation.
The remaining baby coped well and was OK. We closed up the little holes, put down a bamboo place mat and a tea towel on top of that to stop the Dad from digging more holes. Sometimes we dads try too hard and in spite of our best efforts, get it wrong. I hope one day our kids will not judge us too harshly.
He grew stronger by the day - fully feathered now. You can even see the first yellow feathers.
Dad protects him really well and Mum feeds him regularly.
He looks like he will be ready for flying lessons soon. How will I photograph that? I hope this remains his home base even if he is able to fly off. In the meantime, Dad is digging a new and bigger hole. Are they planning on expanding the family? I'll tell you when I find out.