8 November 2021

Pink sulphur-crested cockatoo baffles and delights Belconnen locals

| Damien Larkins
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A pink sulphur crested cockatoo

The pink sulphur-crested cockatoo has been seen around west Belconnen. Photo: Tiffany King.

A brightly coloured pink sulphur-crested cockatoo seen in Canberra’s north has left locals scratching their heads.

The ordinarily white bird has been seen across suburban Hawker and near reserves along William Hovell Drive.

Locals have speculated why it’s pink: dye, dust, interspecies breeding, fire retardant spray, bacteria or even the blood of its fallen enemies.

Canberra naturalist Ian Fraser said it’s new to him.

“My eyes opened. It’s not something I’ve seen before. I don’t believe it’s a natural phenomenon,” he said.

Pink cockatoo caught on camera in Canberra backyard

Ever seen a pink sulphur crested cockatoo? ?This bright bird was caught on camera by local Tiffany King in her Hawker backyard.Have you seen it anywhere else in Canberra?And what do you think caused it??? Tiffany King

Posted by The Canberra Page on Thursday, November 4, 2021

Mr Fraser’s not sure what’s caused it but doesn’t believe it’s a mutation.

“Birds don’t easily produce red or pink dyes. They need to ingest a relevant food source which contains beta carotene and then synthesise it,” he said.

“That’s a very complicated biochemical process and energetically expensive.”

Instead, he believes it’s somehow come into contact with a chemical that has turned it pink.

“Whether it’s an escaped captive bird, whose owner for some strange reason saw fit to spray it pink, or whether it’s somehow come into contact with a pink chemical in the wild, we can’t say.”

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However, he doesn’t think it was an accident.

“I feel this is something that somebody has done intentionally to the bird, but only by the elimination of other options, not because I think that’s particularly likely either.”

While it’s not known how the cockatoo became pink, it seems to be in good health.

Mr Fraser says there’s no reason to worry, and it will be back to normal after breeding season in autumn.

“It seems to be managing perfectly well,” he said.

“If I’m right and it’s a dye, when it moults, as all birds do annually … it will moult those pink feathers and retain white ones.”

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If that isn’t the case, he says he will be very surprised.

“If it moults pink feathers and grows entirely new pink feathers, then I’m entirely wrong,” he adds with a laugh.

If you see the pink cockatoo or any other strange things around your neighbourhood, send us an email.

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Reminds me of the English aristocrat as told in Sir Robert Helpmann’s memoirs who used to dye his flocks of pigeons all sorts of bright colors to astound and perplex the visitors to his estate!

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