Battered and broken, a cockatoo, stripped of feathers stands among the snapped branches in Airlie Beach during Cyclone Debbie.
Battered and broken, a cockatoo, stripped of feathers stands among the snapped branches in Airlie Beach during Cyclone Debbie. Alix Sweeney, News Corp Australia

Iconic cockatoo rescued during Cyclone Debbie loses fight

DEBBIE the bush cockatoo, saved in cyclone-devastated forest at Airlie Beach on Tuesday by Townsville Bulletin photographer Alix Sweeney, has died.

The iconic cocky, whose story made worldwide headlines, was found lifeless in her box this morning.

She has been buried in the same forest where she was found with two other cockatoos and a peewee that perished there during Category 4 Cyclone Debbie on Tuesday.

The Bulletin's John Andersen said a large number of cockatoos could be seen clinging grimly to trees in the forest during the height of the cyclone.

"We were watching them from our motel during the first part of the cyclone," Ando said.

"Debbie" the Airlie Beach cyclone cockatoo pictured in Ando's motel room the morning after. Townsville Bulletin

"People think wildlife are instinctive about thing like cyclones, but there was an entire flock of cockatoos caught out in the open and a lot of them died."

Motel owner Lyn Boal found the cockatoo that came to be known as Debbie while she was out walking her dogs during the relatively quiet eye of the cyclone.

"It was on the ground and didn't move when the dogs went close to it. It looked to be in a bad way," she said.

When told about the cockatoo by Ms Boal, Ms Sweeney went across the road, wrapped the almost lifeless bird in a towel and carried it back to the motel.

Debbie was put in a box and cared for and even seemed to be back to normal on Wednesday.

"She was fed dry biscuits and sunflower seeds, which is all we had, but she hardly drank any water," Ms Sweeney said.

"Debbie" the Airlie Beach cyclone cockatoo pictured in Ando's motel room the morning after. News Corp Australia

Wildlife carers were contacted, but due to flooding, none of them could get to Airlie Beach.

Ms Sweeney said everything was done to try and save Debbie and wildlife carers had provided advice.

"It was just unfortunate that we couldn't access an eye dropper or a syringe to try and give it water," Ms Sweeney said.

North Queensland Wildlife Care volunteer Bree Williams said everyone had done their best to care for Debbie.

She said it was likely Debbie had internal injuries after being battered by the cyclonic winds.

"At the end of the day they (Alix and Ando) helped as much as they could," Ms Williams said.

"She was rescued and cared for and that's all anybody can do at this stage. It is better than leaving her out in the open where anything can happen."

Ms Williams said wildlife carers in the Whitsundays were still unable to pick up injured wildlife around the area because of flooding.

"There's not much they can do until they can pick up the animals," she said.

News Corp Australia


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