Sea Change for the Midwest Carnaby’s Cockatoos

As summer trickles in and the nestlings launch from the hollows to join their parents in flight, the Carnaby cockatoo flocks will soon be packing their bags to head from their wooded breeding habitat back to their coastal foraging grounds.

Carnaby cockatoos are nomadic birds, shifting from place to place according to the season. In mid-winter they migrate to mature woodlands with hollow-bearing trees for the breeding season, which lasts until early summer. Wandoo and salmon gum woodlands provide exceptional hollows, however other eucalypt species such as jarrah, marri, karri and tuart are also great hollow-producers when mature. During this time, winter rains and spring warmth refill natural water courses and prompt a burst of floral activity, providing abundant flowers and fruits for the cockatoos to munch on, as well as feed to their demanding nestlings in the hollows.

The nestlings leave the hollows as warm days begin to become more regular, drying out the water courses and the vegetation and reducing food supplies. In some places, such as in the jarrah forests along the Darling Ranges, the year-round supply of forage and water mean the cockatoos can be quite settled and not move far between breeding and feeding grounds. However, in the Midwest, the cockatoos will soon begin their journey towards the proteaceous heath along the coastline, where they will feast on banksias cones and other nutritious seeds, flowers and grubs over the summer to prepare for the next breeding season.

Since July this year, NACC NRM’s biodiversity team and enthusiastic volunteers have been monitoring the northernmost breeding population of Carnaby cockatoos at Murchison House Station, with Senior Conservation Planning Officer Dr Amanda Bourne leading the project. With the majority of nestlings now fledged and joining their parents in the canopies, we are expecting to see these beautiful, social cockatoos take to the sky and leave the river gums along the Murchison River to refuel further south along the coast. Look out for these wonderful birds and take care when driving through coastal heath in the non-breeding season, as sometimes they decide to feed on seeds and dropped flower cones on the road.

This project is supported by NACC NRM through funding by the Australian Government’s Environmental Restoration Fund.

Kahree Garnaut – Biodiversity Project Officer

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