NACC staff recently joined-up with members of BirdLife Midwest-Geraldton to search for Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos at Dookanooka Reserve, near Three Springs. The birds were spotted there last year, and local land owners and conservationists were keen to see if they were roosting somewhere in the area.
The determined and dedicated group of twitchers spent an afternoon exploring the reserve and looking for Carnaby’s (with little success), before following-up on a tip-off about a flock of Red-tailed black cockatoos.
A 20-minute drive later, there they were. A flock of more than 250 Red-tailed black cockatoos was on the ground in a nearby paddock, but they soon took flight, crossed the road and began cavorting and frolicking in the sky. The onlookers said “the sky turned dark, and the sound was deafening”.
— Jessica Stingemore (@J_Stingemore) October 29, 2016
As magical as this experience was, it wasn’t exactly what the birding group was looking for. They were determined to find the Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos.
So after a 5am wakeup call on the second day, the team headed back out to the reserve to search for Carnaby’s. The early start soon paid dividends. An eagle-eyed twitcher spotted a well-camouflaged Australia hobby and its mate sitting in its nest. And then the moment the group had been waiting for – a black cockatoo with white cheeks and tail feathers. “Carnaby’s!” Thereafter followed much observation and celebration. Mission accomplished.
— Birdlife MidwestGero (@BirdlifeMidwest) October 29, 2016
Jan Checker of Birdlife Midwest-Geraldton said: “It was a productive weekend at Dookanooka Reserve, via Three Springs; aided by the spotting our target of a pair of Carnaby’s at the last moment. Sadly, no nests or fledglings were found although Carnaby’s are seen in the district. Otherwise 31 species were sighted on the reserve and Lake.”
“We had great company, and for us the highlights were having 200 plus Red-tailed cockatoos swirling noisily overhead for about 20 minutes.
“While exploring the northern end of the Yarra-Yarra Lakes we sighted 50 Red-necked Avocets huddled in the centre of some shallow water. Our appreciation goes to NACC and Jessica in particular for facilitating this survey.”
Some of the other birds sighted during the trip include: Rainbow bee-eaters, Sacred king fishers, Red-capped robins, White cheeked honey-eaters, Wood ducks, Nankeen kestrels, Galahs, Pied butcher birds, Magpie larks, Magpies and Australian ringneck parrots.
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 that gives parrots the ability to be blue or green.
For more information on how to identify which-is-which among WA’s black cockatoos, have a look at Birdlife Australia’s website.