Carnaby's cockatoo banner video background © WWF-Australia

© WWF-Australia

Carnaby's black cockatoo

The personality of the Carnaby's black cockatoo is as big as the bird itself. A much-loved icon of Western Australia, this conspicuous and impressive bird, with its white tail panels and cream-coloured cheek patches, grows to about 60 centimetres in height.

Playful and seemingly always hungry, it breeds in large tree hollows in the Wheatbelt of WA in winter and moves to the Swan Coastal Plain to feed on native seeds and insect larvae for much of the year. It announces its arrival raucously and lives a highly social life, often in small flocks. Couples pair for life. The devoted father can fly more than 12 kilometres a day to feed his partner during egg incubation and their one chick stays at home with its parents for 18 months.

This stunning bird is one of just two species of white-tailed black cockatoo found on Earth – the other is the Baudin’s cockatoo. Both species are endangered and found only in Southwest Australia, and though they might live for 40-50 years, a large proportion of those birds that remain are past breeding age. Populations have more than halved in the past 45 years and the Carnaby's cockatoo is now locally extinct in many parts of the central Wheatbelt, largely due to the loss and fragmentation of its habitat.

What WE'RE doing

View our projects involving Carnaby's black cockatoos.

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Why it matters 

Carnaby's black cockatoos are highly visible flagships for Southwest Australia, a global biodiversity hotspot. But while they may be big, they’re certainly not invincible. In fact, Carnaby's black cockatoos are losing the habitats where they breed and feed at an alarming rate.

 

Community-based surveys such as the Great Cocky Count continue to show an estimated population decline of 15% per year on the Swan Coastal Plain, alone.

 

During the nesting season (roughly July–February) the Carnaby’s black cockatoo nests in the hollows of the salmon gum and wandoo woodlands that remain in WA's Wheatbelt – and these days their choices are limited. During the non-nesting season, birds can be seen in banksia woodlands, coastal heath and pine plantations, and in remnant bushland parks and gardens throughout the Perth region. But the question is, for how much longer?

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Calyptorhynchus latirostris

Species Bio

Common Name

Carnaby's black cockatoo

Scientific Name

Calyptorhynchus latirostris

Stats

Total population estimated at around 40,000 birds (2010); Swan Coastal Plain population estimated at 8,000 birds.

Status

Listed as Endangered (EPBC Act 1999).

 

Between the 1970s and 1990s, Carnaby’s black cockatoos disappeared from over one-third of their former range. Now they’re locally extinct in many parts of the central Wheatbelt. The entire population is believed to have halved.

 

Did you know?

Males and females can be distinguished by the colour of their beaks: females have white beaks and males have black beaks. Both sexes have a white cheek patch and males have a pink eye-ring.

THREATS

  • Landclearing and deforestation
  • The biggest threat to the Carnaby's black cockatoo is habitat loss in its rural and urban environments. Large-scale clearing for agriculture in the Western Australian Wheatbelt has removed or fragmented much of the bird's breeding habitat, and ongoing clearing for urban development on the Swan Coastal Plain is greatly reducing the extent of its feeding habitat.

     

    The Carnaby's cockatoo also suffers when old nesting hollows are removed, often for firewood. These hollows can take decades to form and, due to clearing, there is now considerable competition for the limited hollows that remain. Species like the galah, western long-billed corella and European honeybee usually occupy hollows favoured by cockatoos.

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