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Carnaby's Black Cockatoo    Calyptorhynchus latirostris

Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoo is native to Western Australian. The once numerous Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoo is now listed as endangered, due to land clearing for agriculture in regional areas and urban development in the Perth metropolitan region and Swan Coastal Plain. The last 45 years has seen a 50% decrease in the species’ range and abundance.

Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos - where are they now?

Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos are a hot topic these days as it is increasingly appreciated that their numbers are declining.  Soon we will hear the familiar ‘WEE-LOO’ call as the breeding pairs return from their nesting sites in the Wheatbelt with hopefully a noisy full sized fledgling in tow?  The male bird has a short black bill with a red circle around his eye, apparently the result of testosterone!  The female has a short horn-coloured bill with a grey-black eye ring and is the dominant partner in a match that lasts for life.  Both have white cheek patches and white tail panels.   Playful and curious they distinguish themselves by all being ‘left-handed’.

The Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos head off to their nesting sites in winter when they return to the same spot year after year and nest in the same tall tree hollows.  Euculyptus trees are their first choice but they have also adapted to use pine trees for nesting as their natural habitat decreases.  Two eggs are produced with an interval between of eight days.  Both eggs may hatch but they choose to rear only one chick and the second chick usually dies within a few days.  This is partly the survival of the fittest but also the feeding of one black cockatoo chick is a full time job for both parents.  It requires the gathering and cracking open of the equivalent of one hundred Marri nuts each day which the female regurgitates and feeds to the hungry chick.  During the incubation period and the first couple of weeks of the chick’s life the hen stays on the nest during which time the male bird brings her food.  Gathering enough food requires many kilometres of travel daily and before the chick can leave the nest it has to be heavier than its parents.  In summer they return as a family to their feeding grounds all over the south-west where they feed on Banksia, She-oak, and Eucalyptus, etc.  They have also acquired a taste for Canola, Doublegees, Macademias and Almonds; the latter two to their detriment as farmers will shoot them to protect their crops.

Much research is being done to better understand the requirements of the Carnaby’s and other black cockatoos in a massive effort to ensure their survival.  If all goes well they can live for 50 – 60 years, start breeding when they are 4 – 7 years old and continue into their 20’s.  They have many enemies including climate change as we know from the numbers that died in a heatwave last summer and the devastation caused to them by the hail storm.  It doesn’t help that they are worth $4-8,000 each on the exotic bird market and of course that their habitat continues to be cleared.

Comment by Mike Norman: We can make a contribution to their survival in Porteous Park (where they come to feed) by ensuring the healthy survival of their existing food source and by re-planting the degraded areas with suitable Banksias, Parrot Bush, etc.  

Prepared by Liz Farquar, “Friends of Carnaby Reserve”.