#CreatureFeature – Zanda latirostris (Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo)

Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos are endemic to Western Australia, and though commonly found in the Midwest and south, have been recorded roosting as far north as Kalbarri!

For over three years, NACC NRM has been working with Belinda and Callum Carruth at Murchison House Station in Kalbarri to study a Carnaby’s population on their property. This site is very unique, as it is located about 400km from the nearest known breeding site, Coomallo.

Also known as the short-billed black cockatoo, Carnaby’s will search eucalypt woodland on their hunt for a hollow, ideally located in a salmon gum or wandoo. Carnaby’s mate for life, and will select a suitable hollow together. The male will present the female with a potential hollow, and sit on the outer branches while she commences an inspection. The perfect hollow can be characterised as:

  • Preferably Wandoo or Salmon Gum
  • Around 150 years old
  • About 5.7 metres above the ground
  • Approximately 400mm in circumference

The female will stay at her nest during the incubation period, while her male partner flies over 12km to source food for her. Usually, one egg will be laid, however sometimes two eggs are laid, although it is rare for both to survive. If a cockatoo attempts to breed and is unsuccessful, they will not return to the same hollow for future breeding attempts.

During breeding season, these cockatoos require a breeding site in close proximity (around 10km) to food and water sources, for the best chance at successful breeding. They forage for food in shrubland, looking for hakea, bottlebrush, banksia, grevillea, parrot bush, and eucalyptus. In recent years, these birds have adapted to their surroundings and, in the absence of natural food sources, will eat pine nuts, wild radish, paddy melon, sunflowers, jacaranda, and onion grass. After breeding, the cockatoos move along the coast in search of higher rainfall areas and the food sources they boast, like banksia and hakea heathlands.

Male and females are quite different in appearance. Males have a black beak and less white colouring, while females’ beaks are light with a black tip, and their cheeks are a vibrant shade of white.

Carnaby’s live for up to 50 years of age in the wild, and display their strong spousal bonds through different calls. Males will perform a charismatic courting ceremony by whistling loudly, bobbing their heads, fanning their wings, and dropping their bodies down to display their beautiful white tails. When preparing to roost for the night, Carnaby’s will initially squawk and cause a raucous, before settling into soft calling. Screeching is a known ‘warning call’, and can be heard coming from a singular ‘scout’ bird who is perched high in the trees and warns the flock of any approaching dangers.

Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos unfortunately face a number of threats:

  • Loss of habitat means that nesting hollows, food sources, shelter, and roosting sites are limited.
  • Increased human populations and urban development have resulted in the establishment of new roads and highways, and in turn, increased traffic.
  • Competing for nesting hollows with invasive species like corellas, galahs, and feral bees.

Don’t worry, there are many ways in which you can help!

  • Observe, record, and report Carnaby’s sightings to NACC NRM’s Biodiversity team
  • Take part in the annual Great Cocky Count, WA’s largest citizen science survey
  • Plant Carnaby’s friendly flora to provide sources of food and shelter
  • Join Birdlife or a local bird club
  • Support the social media channels of organisations who are actively contributing to Carnaby’s; NACC NRM, Birdlife, Kaarakin, and Perth Zoo
  • Photograph band numbers and report to the Australian Bird and Banding Office, or alternatively, NACC NRM’s Biodiversity team

For more information about Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos, or to report a sighting, please contact NACC NRM’s Biodiversity team.

Jarna Kendle – NACC NRM Biodiversity Program Coordinator | E jarna.kendle@nacc.com.au  |  M 0477 177 164 | P (08) 9938 0108

Samantha Comito – NACC NRM Biodiversity Project Officer | E samantha.comito@nacc.com.au  |  M 0448 984 899 | P (08) 9938 0111

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