We are tagging and tracking wildlife to find out how they are adapting to living in the city. Wing-tagging allows the assessment of populations and individuals behaviour; site-loyalty, population size and foraging, roosting and breeding habitat preferences.
All of the study birds (and their names) can be seen here.
The wingtags are permanently attached through the birds’ patagium, a section of flexible skin that expands and contracts with the opening and closing of the wing. It’s similar to the loose bit of skin on the inside of your elbow. This method of marking birds with plastic cattle tags as wingtags was first used in the 1970’s on vultures.
Wingtags is a long term project. The tags will remain on the birds until they fall off or the tagged bird removes them. Collecting long-term data is necessary as wildlife population are subject to natural variations and long term changes that can only be measured by monitoring populations over years.
The process is similar to a human getting a skin piercing. The tagging process is quick, and we aim to minimise the distress of the birds. After tagging the birds are closely monitored and we release them within half an hour of being caught. Tagged wildlife tend to initially inspect the tag, but quickly adjust to flying and preening as normal.
No, to the best of our knowledge. We know that all of the wing-tagged birds have been resighted, and the majority are regularly resighted. We have received reports of a couple of birds with minor injuries, but they have all subsequently been observed and are in good health.
The Cockie probably has Beak and Feather Disease (Psittacine Circoviral Disease). It’s a naturally occurring virus that, unfortunately, is often fatal. There is no widely-available vaccine.
Both the tagged and untagged birds are wild animals and injuries and illnesses naturally occur. Small injuries that look like they will heal probably will heal. If you see an injured bird that clearly has its welfare compromised or is obviously in distress, you should call the appropriate wildlife rescue group for your area (e.g. in Sydney WIRES or SMWS). We do not recommend you try to catch cockatoos yourself, they have a very powerful beak and being bitten can cause a serious injury.
We are ecologists not vets and we cannot offer veterinary advice. Please contact your local vet for any veterinary matters.
We discourage people from feeding wild animals, although we acknowledge that lots of people feed wild animals - including the wing-tagged Cockies. If you are feeding wild animals, be aware that many foods are not appropriate for them, including pet food. Where possible, provide ‘natural’ foods, or plant them in your garden. More information can be found at Birds In Backyards and Environment NSW.