Throughout my childhood I was surrounded by wildlife thanks to my Dad who loved to travel and took us to many wild and wonderful places. I loved the animals I would encounter. I thought of them as furry and feathered 'people'. It was how I formed a relationship with them from a very young age.
Now that I’m an adult, I can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing than spending a day with some birds, getting to know them, them getting to know me and finding a way to cut through our differences until we’re left with one animal photographing another.
I have never met a more curious bird than Seisa (pronouced 'Say-Sha') the Palm Cockatoo. When I was setting up, she did everything she could to see me; she managed to crook her neck around a very tight corner just so she could watch me. She was fascinated by all my equipment.
Once we started shooting, she was gentle and shy but what struck me most was her intense eye contact. She looked deeply into my eyes to read me and listened very carefully to everything I said. She was so other-worldly that I felt like I was photographing an alien bird species.
As the shoot went on she trusted me more and more, and by the end she came up to me for cuddles and nuzzled into my neck.
Seisa lives at the Adelaide Zoo and has been lovingly raised by the zoo since she was an egg. She was hatched on 5 October 2010. It is incredibly hard to breed and raise a Palm Cockatoo so it is a credit to her carers. Palm Cockatoos live in the rain forests of the Cape York Peninsula in North Queensland. The zoo is passionately trying to preserve this beautiful species from the effects of deforestation.
If a male Palm Cockatoo wants to breed he has to learn to play the drums. He must find a drum stick by breaking off a branch, stripping off the bark and then drums with one foot by his nest-hollow high in a tree trunk. The sound travels over 100 metres and captivates the lady Palm Cockatoos. Once he finds a partner, his drumming days are over and the drum stick gets splintered for use in the nest. Sound familiar?
To purchase or find out more about Leila's work visit the Tim Olsen Gallery