The Case of the Missing Cockatoos

It didn’t take long to fill-in the tally sheet after the 2017 Great Cocky Count last Sunday evening  in the Chapman Valley because, despite a great turn-out of eager Midwest community members – the usual local flock of Black-cockatoos failed to turn-up.

The Great Cocky Count is one of the largest citizen science surveys of its kind in Australia and focusses on Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoo and Forest Red‐tailed Black-Cockatoo. Both are endemic to Southwest Australia and are listed as threatened species under State and Commonwealth legislation.

The Chapman valley count – a collaboration between NACC and the Birdlife Midwest-Geraldton club – began half an hour before sunset and ran until the sunlight had completely died an hour later.

Keen birders eagerly awaiting sunset. Picture: Supplied.
Keen birders eagerly awaiting sunset. Picture: Supplied.

But to everyone’s surprise, the Black cockatoos failed to turn-up at their usual evening roosting place. Some were heard passing overhead somewhere in the dark distance to the south, and a flock of about 70 Red-tailed cockatoos were reported up the road towards Nabawa, but none settled-in at their usual roosting place to be counted.

Last year, more than 250 Carnaby’s Black‐Cockatoos were counted in the same roost site and since then, smaller flocks have regularly been sighted along the Nanson Howatharra Road. But on this occasion, none, nothing, nil, zip.

NACC Biodiversity Coordinator Jessica Stingemore who helped organise the local count said, “The state-wide Great Cocky Count helps helps us to keep a track of Black-cockatoo numbers, and to see if there has been a change in the bird numbers from previous years. It also provides invaluable information about their habitat and location.”

“However, with no birds sighted at this long-held roosting site this count, we’re a bit worried about their status, so we would greatly appreciate hearing from anyone in the community who can help us to determine where they may have moved to.”

If anyone has recently seen any flocks of Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoos in the Chapman Valley area, they are asked to please report their sightings to Jessica via or phone 9938 0106.


Male Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoos have a grey-black bill, while females have an off-white bill; males have a pink eye-ring, and females have a grey one. Both sexes have greyish legs and feet, though the females’ are paler.

This event was supported by BirdLife Midwest-Geraldton and NACC through funding from the National Landcare Programme.

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