A question from  Isaac Dekker on Facebook  ‘Does our mob have any stories of the red tailed black cockatoo?’

The story I know is about getting fire/the birds getting their colours. Great story – and a number of versions. I believe other groups have similar stories.

Attached 2 docs. One is a version of the story  from K Langloh-Parker’s book, ‘Australian Legendary Tales’ (There is a pdf in the LanglohParker folder at Also available at She uses an old spelling system.

The other doc has material from the Fred Reece and Arthur Dodd tapes, made with Janet Mathews. Interestingly Fred uses biliirrman for ‘policeman’. There may be a story behind that, but I have not seen it. Arthur Dodd has two versions of the story. The first, short one, he tells. In the second he translates into Yuwaalaraay as Janet Mathews tells a version of the story she heard elsewhere. The tape transcripts are old, and sections of them unclear. Some of the transcript would be a little different if revised with our current knowledge of the language.

As often happens with a question like this, you can give a quick [one hour] answer, or tidy up and update the materials [a day or two or …]. One of these days there will be a language centre with people who have the knowledge and time to do these things in more detail.

Fred Reece pointed out that there are two cockatoos with red tails, the Red-Tailed, which is further north and west, and the Glossy, further east and south.

Maayu yanaaya – go well [Yuwaalaraay – since all the versions we have are in that language]. John

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