Overlap and competition for nest holes among eclectus parrots, palm cockatoos and sulphur-crested cockatoos
Robert Heinsohn, Stephen Murphy and Sarah Legge
Australian Journal of Zoology
51(1) 81 - 94
Published: 17 April 2003
AbstractWe examined the extent of overlap in the characteristics of nest holes used by eclectus parrots (Eclectus roratus), palm cockatoos (Probosciger aterrimus) and sulphur-crested cockatoos (Cacatua galerita) in patches of rainforest and woodland in and around Iron Range National Park, Cape York Peninsula, Australia. Eclectus parrots nested only in rainforest and palm cockatoos nested mostly in eucalypt woodland adjacent to rainforest. Sulphur-crested cockatoos nested in both habitats. Nest holes of eclectus parrots and rainforest sulphur-crested cockatoos were in trees of larger DBH (diameter at breast height) and higher off the ground than those of palm cockatoos and sulphur-crested cockatoos in woodland. Palm cockatoos differed from the other parrots in their use of deeper holes with entrances that faced skywards rather than sideways. Both palm cockatoos and woodland sulphur-crested cockatoos used nests with smaller entrances than eclectus parrots and rainforest sulphur-crested cockatoos. All species showed intraspecific competition for nest holes. Behavioural conflict was also common between sulphur-crested cockatoos and the other two species. Each year 9.7–25.8% of eclectus parrot nests were taken over either permanently or temporarily by sulphur-crested cockatoos. Only one palm cockatoo nest was taken over by sulphur-crested cockatoos. Nest-holes were destroyed by natural causes at similar rates in rainforest (3.8% per annum over 174 nest-years) and woodland (5.4% per annum over 93 nest-years). Four nest trees fell over, and the floor of the nest collapsed at a further four holes. Three woodland nest trees burnt down during dry-season fires (August–October). New eclectus parrot and rainforest sulphur-crested cockatoo holes originated from incipient hollows on the tree that were modified by the parrots. We discuss the intense competition between these large parrots in light of the apparent shortage of appropriate nest holes in Cape York rainforest and eucalypt woodland.
© CSIRO 2003