The Mighty Black Cockatoo of The Otways

There are five species of black cockatoos in Australia – red-tailed, glossy, yellow-tailed, Carnaby’s and Baudin’s black cockatoo.
Cockatoos are similar to parrots in many ways including having a curved beak and what’s known as a zygodactyl foot, which means two toes face forward and two face backwards. However, cockatoos do have unique features that parrots don’t have such as a gall bladder and a moveable crest on top of their heads.
Cockatoos are larger than parrots and can never be green or blue in colour as they lack a special feather composition giving parrots the ability to be blue or green.
Cockatoos occur naturally only in Australia and on some nearby islands. Black cockatoos are endemic toy Australia, therefore found nowhere else in the world.
Did you know?
• Cockatoos, like all birds, have many bones that are
hollow. This makes them very light weight, which
helps them fly.
• Cockatoos are long-lived birds and can live to be
more than 50 years old.
• The name cockatoo originated from the Malay
name for these birds, kaka(k)tua.

Distribution and habitat

The distribution of the five species of black cockatoo is
varied due to differences in their habitat preferences.
There are five sub-species of red-tailed black cockatoo,
which can be found in south-west Western Australia,
central Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland as well
as the south-east of Victoria and south-west South
Australia. Red-tailed black cockatoos live in a variety of
habitat types from shrubland, woodlands and tropical
rainforest.
The two species of white-tailed black-cockatoos,
Carnaby’s and Baudin’s, are both found in south-west
Australia. They rely on heavily forested areas, woodlands
and heathland. Carnaby’s black-cockatoo has adapted to
also rely on pine plantations as a food source.
The yellow-tailed black cockatoo is found in south-eastern
Australia, from the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia to
southern and central parts of eastern Queensland. They
rely on a variety of habitat types from eucalypt woodlands
to pine plantations.
The glossy black cockatoo has three sub-species that can
be found in south-east Australia, central -astern
Queensland and South Australia’s Kangaroo Island. They
live in casuarina woodland and rely on eucalypt trees for
nesting.

Ecology and life cycle

All species of black cockatoo have similar ecology and life
cycles only varying slightly depending on their habitat and
food requirements. They have, however, evolved slightly
different beak shapes, which is an adapation to their
feeding habitat. Baudin’s black cockatoo has a very thin
long beak, which is used to extract seeds out of gum nuts,
whereas the Carnaby’s black-cockatoo has a thick, strong
short beak for breaking open banksia nuts.
Black cockatoos nest in deep hollows of large ancient
trees, which may be more than 200 years old. Usually a
single egg is incubated by the female, with the chick taking
around three months to make its first flight. Nestlings are
fed only by the female, who relies on the male to bring food
while the chick is very young. Each black cockatoo species
nests at slightly different times of the year, for example
glossy black cockatoos on Kangaroo Island nest in
summer and autumn whereas Carnaby’s black cockatoos
nest in winter and spring.
Black cockatoos in the wild can live for 25 to 50 years but
captive cockatoos have been known to live into their 70s.

Threats

Four of the five species of black cockatoo are listed by the
Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act
(1999) as threatened – south-eastern red-tail, Baudin’s,
Carnaby’s and Kangaroo Island glossy black cockatoo. The
threats to them vary but most species have been
affected by habitat loss.

Habitat loss

The main reason for the loss of habitat is predominately
land clearing for agriculture. Baudin’s black cockatoo has
been affected by the loss of old growth forest, which has
been logged for use in the timber trade. This loss of habitat
not only affects nesting hollow availability but also food
availability and in some cases, such as for Carnaby’s black
cockatoo and red-tailed black cockatoo, loss of food
availability is a major contributor to the decline of
population numbers.

Predators

For the Kangaroo Island glossy black cockatoo, predation
by the common brushtail possum is also a threat.

Conservation action

WWF-Australia has been involved with a number of
initiatives to aid in the recovery of Australia’s threatened
black cockatoos.

In Western Australia, WWF is in a collaborative partnership
with Birds Australia to deliver the Carnaby’s black
cockatoo recovery project. The project, led by Birds
Australia, is implementing key recovery actions for
Carnaby’s black cockatoo, in accordance with the
strategies identified in the Carnaby’s black cockatoo
recovery plan. Main activities include protecting,
connecting and enhancing breeding and feeding habitat
(fencing, management guidelines, conservation agreements
and revegetation) in the wheatbelt, raising community
awareness of the conservation status and ways to become
involved in key recovery actions, monitoring breeding
activity, and advocating for protection of critical habitat
both in their wheatbelt breeding sites and foraging sites on
the Swan Coastal Plain.

HHow you can help

• Protect and conserve known nesting
habitat by fencing or excluding stock,
protecting woodlands against firewood
collection, leaving old or dead trees
standing and ensuring appropriate fire
management
• Protect habitat by controlling weeds and
preventing removal of vegetation and
spread of diseases such as Phytophthora
• Revegetate around known feeding and
nesting habitat with appropriate local
species
• Help control competitive species such as
galahs and feral honeybees that compete
with the cockatoos for the same nesting
hollows by reporting sightings to the local
Government department
WWF- ustralia GPO Box 528 Sydney NSW 2001 Tel: 1800 032 551

The Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo
Changes in their distribution in the Geelong region since 1993
compiled by John Bottomley, written by Barry Lingham
reprinted by kind permission

Records of the Yellow-Tailed Black-Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus funereus) in the Geelong Region have been supplied by members of the GFNC during the past 10 years or so and John has analysed these and earlier records from other sources such as Belcher (Birds of the District of Geelong) and Pescott (Birds of Geelong).
The pre-1993 range of the YTBC :-
1. Was essentially to the South and West of Geelong,
2. Was centred on the Otways,
3. Extended along the coast eastwards to Torquay, and
4. Generated isolated records from Pettavel, Mt. Duneed, etc.
Records were from late Spring to Early Autumn. i.e.. from Summer. Birds returned to the Otways for Winter.
Records from North of Geelong may have been of birds from the Wombat or Enfield State Forests. This has all changed!!
Since 1993 it is clear :-
1. Observations have been much more frequent.
2. The increase has come in two phases, 1993-6 and post-1996.
3. Maximum reported flock sizes have increased in two stages.
Details of Changes by Year
Changes to pre-1993 range.
Eastward extension along coast to Ocean Grove.
A first isolated record from the Bellarine Peninsula.,/li>
Birds regularly reported from Geelong.
Maximum flock size up to 43 from previous eight.
1993-1995
No substantial changes.,
Maximum flock size of 82.
1995
Much the same as 1994.
Maximum flock size of 64
1996
Much the same as 1995.
Records again from Ocean Grove
Records from both West and North-west of Geelong.
Maximum flock size of 70.
Summary of changes 1993-6.
Birds seen regularly in Geelong for the first time.
Expansion of range eastwards along coast to Ocean Grove.
With one exception birds are not reported from the Bellarine Peninsula.
Birds observed in open country toWest and North-west of Geelong at the end of the period.
Maximum flock sizes range from mid-40s to low 80s as compared to eight pre-1993.
Birds present in Geelong all year round but large flocks occur only in Winter. Birds in all other areas are
reported in Summer.
1997
A substantial change from the period 1993-6.
Birds still present in Geelong.
An increase in reports from the West and Northwest of Geelong.
Significant increase along coast to East of Torquay with birds now regular at Ocean Grove.
Regular reports from the Eastern Bellarine Peninsula.
Regular reports from the Lake Connewarre area.
A jump in maximum flock size to 165.
1998
Birds now present in the Western as well as Eastern Bellarine Peninsula.
Maximum flock size of 150.
1999
Similar to pattern in 1996,1997and 1998.
Only an isolated report from the Eastern Bellarine Peninsula.
Large numbers in the Lake Connewarre-Leopold area.
Maximum flock size of 150.
Changes 1993-9.
Steady two-phase expansion of range to the North and East.
Birds present along coast to Ocean Grove after 1993.
Birds present throughout Bellarine Peninsula from 1997.
Birds present to North of Lake Connewarre in Leopold and surrounding
areas from 1997.
Birds present in Geelong since 1993.
Birds present to West and Northwest of Geelong since 1996.

up to 80 in 1993-6, and
up to 165 in 1997-9.
Large flocks are seen:-
in April to September. i.e. Winter and just before and after, and
only in Geelong, Ocean Grove, the Bellarine Peninsula and Leopold.

In other areas birds are reported:-
in Summer and just before and after, and only in smaller numbers.
What has happened? John’s guess, call it an hypothesis, is :- Pre-1993 the population was based in the Otways. Local records were of summer dispersal non-breeding birds to South and West of Geelong and along the coast to Torquay. Some birds may have spent some part of the winter in the Enfield State Forest.

Between 1993 and 1996 up to 80 birds moved into the Geelong region. These wereWinter birds. They patrolled a flyway from Pettavel through Waurn Ponds, Belmont, to the Barwon River and hence to Queens Park and later Eastern Park by way of South and East Geelong. They appear to have dispersed, at least some of them, in summer to areas surrounding Geelong.
Between 1997 and 1999, a further 80 birds moved into the Geelong region. These too were winter birds. Birds continued to be regularly seen on the western suburbs flyway and were in addition regularly seen in Leopold,
Lake Connewarre, Ocean Grove and Bellarine Peninsula. Some of these continued to disperse throughout the Geelong region in Summer.
Why so? Hypothesis is that there is insufficient Winter food to allow the population to over winter in the Otways and/or Enfield State Forest and that two groups of up to 80 birds have moved into the Geelong region in search of Winter food. (Trevor Pescott suggested that the birds could have originated from as far away as the Mount Gambier area).
1. the presence of Winter birds in Geelong and subsequently the Bellarine peninsula.
2. the widespread presence of small numbers of Summer, presumably non-breeding birds which are now dispersing from their new Winter range in Geelong rather than from their former range in the Otways (or elsewhere)
What is not known is:-
1. Whether the Winter food shortage is in the Otways, Enfield State Forest or other areas.
2. Whether Geelong’s winter birds are returning to the Otways to breed in Summer or are simply dispersing across the Geelong region in small groups.

Questions

1. How to get information on recent logging in the Otways and Enfield State Forest ?
2. What is the pattern, frequency, numbers and seasonality, of observations of Yellow-Tailed Black-Cockatoos in the Otways and Enfield State Forest?
3. Are Geelong birds returning to the Otways to breed or staying in the Geelong region all year?
4. If the latter, is there any habitat suitable for breeding in the region?
5. Are they attempting breeding? Twenty birds spent the Summer around Lethbridge.
6. Where are they roosting ?

John has answered many of the mysteries about the YTBC in Geelong, but he has raised many questions that need to be answered before we have a clear understanding of what has happened.
The future for the YTBC is unclear. Are these long-lived birds doomed due to failure to breed or will they continue to breed in places unkown?

Hi Nettie
The GFNC is pleased to allow reproduction of the article on Yellow-tailed Black-Cockies, with the proviso that it is duly acknowledged as per our copyright policy below.
It is now a little out of date but large flocks have still been reported over winter, with up to 150 birds in the Brisbane Ranges and 80+ in Geelong or on the Bellarine Peninsula in 2011.
The mystery of where the birds originated during the 1990s has never been answered, but it is generally assumed that they moved in to the Geelong area after pine plantations had been harvested somewhere.

Regards from
Barry Lingham
GFNC President

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