Breeding is central to a parrot’s life. A large part of every year is taken up with activity and behaviour related to nesting and breeding; from finding a partner and maintaining partner bonds, mating and courtship, to finding a suitable nesting hollow, preparing the hollow for nesting, incubating the eggs, raising hatchlings, feeding fledglings after they’ve left the nest, until finally that year’s offspring is independent. The pair then, depending on species, has some time to just “be a bird” before the next breeding season begins. But breeding is always going to be ingrained in just about anything a wild parrot does at any time of year. After all, their driving instinct is to reproduce and pass on their superior genes for as many years as they can.

Rainbow Lorikeet pair at a potential nest hollow in a Eucalyptus tereticornis

Parrots are long-lived birds, so this can be many years. For cockatoos, it can potentially be decades. Parrots form lifelong partnerships and strong bonds with their chosen partner. They will stay together and breed together for life, until one dies after which a new partner may be found. If a bird becomes very ill or is injured and can no longer participate in life as normal, the partnership may end, depending upon the severity of a bird’s condition and its ability to fly and maintain behaviours that are required to continue the pair’s relationship and breeding ability.

A Galah pair inspect a hollow that they might consider nesting in. Galahs strip the bark around the edge of hollows, as can be seen here in this Melaleuca (paperbark) tree.

Almost all parrots require tree hollows for nesting, the size of which will vary between species. The largest parrots – black cockatoos, as well as Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, require large hollows in very old trees. Smaller birds like lorikeets can often be seen squeezing into the smallest hollows and cavities that are barely larger than their body. The widespread and continual destruction of hollow-bearing trees, as well as all other habitat, has a drastic effect on the ability of parrot’s to find suitable trees to nest in. This sometimes leads to some (especially smaller) parrot species attempting to and often succesfully nesting in places like roof cavities in houses or sheds and gaps in other types of buildings, on or in poles and posts, and anywhere else they can find.

Loss of habitat including hollow-bearing trees is a critical issue of our time when it comes to ALL wildlife – but if we want to continue seeing spectacular and wonderful parots in the wild, we simply must conserve trees and allow more trees to grow and form new hollows – this can often take more than 100 years in the case of large hollows!

Scaly-breasted Lorikeets at small hollow that is perfectly suited to their small size

Many other wildlife species also use tree hollows, either for nesting or roosting. Some nocturnal animals will roost in tree hollows during the day – this includes possum species, some owls like Barn Owls and Masked Owls, the Australian Owlet-nightjar – a small nocturnal bird that roosts in tree hollows during the day, some microbat species; are all examples of animals that might be found in a tree hollow during the day. In the case of owls, they also require hollows for nesting. As do some species of small passerine birds, and even some ducks like the Australian Wood Duck nests in tree hollows. This naturally means that all these species are competing for suitable hollows.

Australian Wood Ducks nest in tree hollows near water. This is a female Wood Duck at a hollow in a large old Melaleuca tree. Galahs and other parrots also frequent this hollow.
Galahs
Galah maintain their pair bond throughout the year
Eastern Rosella
Male Eastern Rosella inspects a termite mound in a tree. The hole was excavated by Kookaburras, who nest in these arboreal termite mounds. This opens up the mound to other species like this Rosella who might consider nesting in it.

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