Gang-gang cockatoos at City Hill, Canberra

Gang-gang cockatoos at City Hill, Canberra
November 2022
Cartoons gang-gang cockatoos flying near the Canberra morning skyline, cartoon drawn by Stuart McMillen

Next in my Canberra Birds artwork series: Gang-gang cockatoos at City Hill, Canberra. This is a cartoon-style illustration of a gang-gang cockatoo flying through the air in Canberra as the orange sun rises in the morning sky.

Image detail: Gang-gang cockatoos at City Hill

Close-up of cartoon gang-gang cockatoo face flying towards viewer
Cartoon of the love dinosaur graffiti on a wall in Canberra
Detail of illustrated eucalyptus branches, viewed from above
View towards Parliament House in Canberra, showing light rail trains along Commonwealth Avenue bridge
Detail of ACT flag with sunrise and Carillon behind
Details of cartoon gang-gang cockatoos sitting on tree branch
Drawing of revised ACT Flag fetauring royal bluebell design, flying on flagpole

Gang-gang cockatoos: the bird emblem of Canberra

Male gang-gang cockatoos have a distinctive red-coloured head, and red crest.
Gang-gang cockatoo male, with red head
Image: Gang-gang cockatoo (Male) by Leo

By contrast, females gang-gangs are grey all over.

Gang-gang cockatoo (female) with grey head
Image: Gang-gang cockatoo (Female) by Leo

The most obvious way you know that gang-gang cockatoos are nearby is by hearing their voices. Gang-gang cockatoos have a very distinctive call, which sounds like a fishing reel unspooling with the ratchet on. Other people describe it as sounding like a cork being removed from a wine bottle, or the sound of a creaky gate.

Despite being the bird emblem of the ACT, I’ve rarely sighted gang-gang cockatoos within the suburbs of Canberra. It has only been when I’ve ventured into the nature reserves surrounding Canberra that I have encountered these birds. This might just be the luck of the houses I’ve lived in.

Unfortunately, gang-gang cockatoos have declined in numbers by 69% during the three generations through to 2021, and is set to be listed as an endangered species of Australia.

Gang-gang cockatoo pair - male and femal
Image: Gang-gang cockatoo pair by JJ Harrison

The ACT Flag controversy: adding the royal bluebell

My scene features a flag on the City Hill flagpole. However, the flag that I have drawn is not the current flag of the Australian Capital Territory. It is a modified version of the flag, featuring the ACT’s floral emblem: the royal bluebell.
Flag of the ACT
Image: the current flag of the Australian Capital Territory

ACT flag with bluebell
Image: the proposed flag for the Australian Capital Territory, designed by Ivo Ostyn

I am aware that Ivo Ostyn, who designed the flag, is unhappy with his design that was adopted by the Territory in 1993. He says that bureaucrats forced him to put the ACT coat of arms onto the flag. As this brilliant TED talk by Roman Mars outlines, putting coats of arms onto flags is an ugly no-no. Ostyn is proposing a redesigned flag featuring the royal bluebell. My Gang-gang cockatoo scene features Ostyn’s proposed flag design, flying proudly on the flagpole.

Hopefully this is a fun artwork Easter egg for Canberra flag nerds!

Drawing of revised ACT Flag fetauring royal bluebell design, flying on flagpole

The City Hill flagpole: a great Canberra location for my gang-gang cockatoo scene

Gang-gang cockatoos are the faunal emblem of the Australian Capital Territory. This fact is a large part of the reason why I portrayed them near the flag of the ACT in my scene. There is a large ‘Canberra Pride’ sentiment in the city from long-term residents. Many Canberrans feel a specific pride for the ACT and Canberra more so than a general Aussie pride. This is largely to do with the ACT’s progressive policies, in contrast to the general conservatism of Australia on many social issues.

Although most Canberrans probably won’t be able to name it, City Hill is a prominent location in Canberra, situated just north of Lake Burley Griffin, where Commonwealth Avenue meets with Northbourne Avenue.

City Hill, Canberra and Northbourne Avenue from an aerial view
Image: Commonwealth Avenue, City Hill by Wade Johanson, taken in 2009. Note that the ACT government has since begun densifying the area, replacing the open-air carparks with buildings.

The Canberra ‘love dinosaur’ / ‘love alien’ graffiti tag

I also included the small background detail of the Canberra ‘love dinosaur’ graffiti on a nearby wall. This is a recurring graffiti design which has been appearing around Canberra since 2020. (Personally, I think it should be named the ‘love alien’, but everyone else seems to call it the ‘love dinosaur’.)

'Love Dinosaur' graffiti spraypainted on Canberra phone cabinet
Image: the ‘LOVE’ alien/dinosaur character painted on a VDSL cabinet in Bruce – photo by Stuart McMillen

Alien dude Canberra graffiti tag
Image: Canberra graffiti by Kieran

Alien dude graffiti painted on Canberra fence
Image: the character spray-painted on a fence in Bruce – photo by Stuart McMillen

Spray painted alien on wall in Canberra
Image: the love alien spotted in Kaleen – photo by Stuart McMillen

Alien dude graffiti on Ginninderra Drive cabinet box
Image: the character spray-painted on a cabinet box near Ginninderra Drive, McKellar – photo by Stuart McMillen

Belconnen Hungry Jack's restaurant with alien graffiti tag
Image: the Belconnen Hungry Jack’s drive thru, tagged with the love alien – photo by Stuart McMillen

Graffiti sprayed on Belconnen cabinet box near carpark
Image: the Belconnen district seems to be a hot spot for this graffiti tag – photo by Stuart McMillen

Door with Canberra 'love dinosaur' graffiti sprayed on it
Image: this photo taken not far from the previous one – photo by Stuart McMillen

Traffic island road sign with graffiti tagged on it, in Canberra
Image: near the Calvary Hospital, Bruce – in-between the busy lanes of traffic – photo by Stuart McMillen

Power pole sprayed with alien graffiti tag, near Canberra nature reserve
Image: a more bucolic position for the ‘love alien’ graffiti: on the bike path between Lyneham and Kaleen – photo by Stuart McMillen

At first I’m sure that it was just a single artist who was drawing this Love Dino character. But there seems to be a Foo Was Here / Kilroy Was Here effect happening now, with multiple taggers drawing the Love Alien in their own style. It seems like it has gone well beyond a single artist, with most new instances looking like copycats. It has even been spotted in Melbourne. I prefer the style of the original tag.

Cartoon of the love dinosaur graffiti on a wall in Canberra

Drawing the light rail southbound across Lake Burley Griffin

As mentioned in my other post on the Canberra Birds series, I decided to future-proof my artwork by illustrating the red trams of the ACT’s light rail project into the scene. Currently, the service only runs north of the city, but I decided to imagine what it would be like when the southbound Stage 2 is operational and running southbound over Lake Burley Griffin.

I used this video as a reference for imagining how it might look. I thought this would be a nice visual treat for those paying attention to how the scene differs from real-life.
Imagining how the light rail track will look over Commonwealth Avenue Bridge in Canberra

Postcards, greeting cards, art prints

Greeting card: Gang-gang cockatoos at City Hill, Canberra

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Cartoon gang-gang cockatoos flying over Canberra