Cockatube man helps to save birds

Alan Elliott with the cockatubes that are part of an award-nominated cockatoo preservation program.Pictures: Marcelo Palacios www.communitypix.com.au d407618
Alan Elliott with the cockatubes that are part of an award-nominated cockatoo preservation program.Pictures: Marcelo Palacios www.communitypix.com.au d407618

Alan Elliott is the man behind the cockatube, designing the tubes as a volunteer back in 2005 for Landcare Serpentine Jarrahdale.

He is also a board member for the centre.

He owns 130 hectares of conservation land filled with banksia to attract black cockatoos and helps protect a reserve in the area with the Keysbrook Environment Group.

‘We had pipe donated from mines available for other projects and at the time the WA Museum and Water Corporation and others were doing projects for Carnaby Cockatoos.

‘There were other nesting boxes out there that were plywood boxes and weren’t lasting, were full of bees, the birds chipped them and they were rotting.

‘Black cockatoos can use top-entering nests and enter a nest backwards up and down a ladder, making it more specific to them and bees won’t go in.’

He described the cockatube as a 1m straight length of pipe, 30cm to 40cm in diameter with a polyethylene base, decked out with a galvanised steel ladder and two posts hung inside for the birds to chew on and help furnish their nests.

‘We found with smaller pipes we were getting pink and grey galahs in so we made them bigger. People observed better breeding results so we made them bigger again,’ Mr Elliott said.

‘We started with a steel mesh base, then wood and now plastic.

‘The whole thing has been a learning curve.’

Mr Elliott said there was generally a need right through the State to improve nesting options for black cockatoos and nearly 600 cockatubes are installed in trees from Esperance to Geraldton with the support of business, volunteer groups and local government.

What motivates a volunteer to dedicate eight years to the survival of the black cockatoo?

‘You know you’re doing something good but you are doing it with great people, from school students to older people,’ Mr Elliott said. ‘I see species disappearing while we are here.

‘We really don’t know what we have, let alone what we’ve lost.’

When asked how he felt about the use of plastic, man-made materials being hung in trees to save a species, Mr Elliott said he didn’t have a real problem with it.

‘It takes 300 years to grow a tree and we just can’t wait that long,’ Mr Elliott said.

‘There’s no toxicity, it doesn’t seem to hurt the bird and lasts a long time.’

The habitat program for black cockatoos in Serpentine Jarrahdale is a finalist in the Banksia Sustainability Awards.