Macquarie Dictionary


Watch out for the cockatoo

You hear them before you see them, those screeching flashes of white that swoop from your balcony to your bin. That’s right, I’m talking about the infamous Australian cockatoo

As well as being one of Australia’s loudest avian species, a cockatoo is also a slang name for a lookout who keeps watch during some illegal activity, such as another Aussie pastime, the two-up game. This name is in reference to behaviour of the sulphur-crested cockatoo, which is known to post sentries to noisily warn the flock of approaching danger. 

Hence why might you see a lonely cockatoo sitting at your window while its mates rain crumbs on your balcony from above.

Meerkats also post sentries. In fact, if you visit a zoo you might see a meerkat sentry staring straight up in the air as if bird watching. Meerkats as much cuter than cockatoos but sadly not native to Australia.

Each week, we have a look at a slang word from Australian English. You can see other Aussie Word of the Week posts from the Macquarie Dictionary here.

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