First Ever Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos Banded North of Geraldton!

Achieving a major research milestone, NACC NRM teamed up with Calum and Belinda Carruth of Murchison House Station and Australian Black Cockatoo Specialist, Rick Dawson, to band the first four Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo nestlings in the far north of their range.

Regular monitoring of Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos in our region started at Coomallo Creek back in 1969, when Dr Denis Saunders initiated a long term project surveying breeding and collecting DNA. As part of this work, which has continue to today providing more than 50 years of data, nestlings are fitted with metal bands on their legs engraved with a unique code, making them individually identifiable.  Long-term monitoring projects like this mean that we can learn a lot about the species, such as how long they can live in the wild (~35 years old!), whether they return to where they were born when they are old enough breed themselves (yes!) and if breeding pairs are completely monogamous (no!).

Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos are a threatened species endemic to, and fairly widespread, across southwest WA. Regular monitoring of their breeding sites occurs all around their range as far north as the Shire of Carnamah. Museum records suggested that a population may have been breeding near Kalbarri in the 1970s but until NACC NRM and Birdlife WA started a systematic survey on Murchison House Station last year, no-one had located any nesting hollows.

Over the last few months, we have learned a lot about the population breeding on Murchison House. They’re a fairly small group of about 15 pairs and we have now located 12 active nesting hollows on the station, along the banks of the Murchison River. This month, we teamed up with Australian Black Cockatoo Specialist, Rick Dawson, to measure nestlings, collect DNA and mark a few birds with bands for the first time ever this far north in the birds’ range.

We weighed and measured seven Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo nestlings ranging in age from ~10 days to ~62 days old, and banded four of them. We collected DNA from five nestlings and two egg shells. We also measured the hollows, and recorded details about the trees that this population uses. These are crucially important data for comparison with what we already know about the breeding populations further south. This northern population of Carnaby’s use smaller than average hollows in River Red Gums, a species not commonly used further south. Based on nestling measurements collected over several decades at Coomallo Creek, the nestlings at Murchison House Station were all healthy and doing well!

All monitoring conducted by licensed professionals with the permission of the landholders and the appropriate permits.

For more information, contact Dr Amanda Bourne, Conservation Planning Officer or to get involved in hands-on Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo conservation work on your property, contact Kahree Garnaut, Biodiversity Project Officer.

Amanda Bourne – Senior Conservation Planning Officer

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1 comment

To say it is awesome to be involved with such amazing people doing amazing things is an understatement……this was so very special with experts and passionate people on beautiful country with passionate land owners and let’s not forget the amazing Carnaby black cockatoos …. To have the privilege of being involved in this and to observe these gorgeous birds and know that so much positive work is being done for them is beyond words thank you everyone you are all amazing people …… and the carnabys black cockatoo have stolen my heart ❤️

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