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A pair of Kangaroo Island glossy black cockatoos © WWF-Aus / Paul Fahy

A pair of Kangaroo Island glossy black cockatoos © WWF-Aus / Paul Fahy

Glossy-black cockatoo census results are in

06 Nov 2020

Keywords
  • bushfire
  • black cockatoos
During the last week of September, staff and volunteers from the Kangaroo Island Landscape Board’s Glossy-black Cockatoo Recovery Program systematically surveyed glossy flocks across Kangaroo Island, thanks to funding provided by World Wide Fund for Nature Australia.

A minimum of 454 glossy-black cockatoos were recorded in 17 flocks, spreading from De Mole River in the west to Lashmar Lagoon in the east.

The result is both surprising and encouraging for the Recovery Program. The count indicates that the only flock that seemed to suffer direct mortality as a result of the 2019-20 bushfires was in the south-west part of Kangaroo Island, whereas the north coast flocks fared better than expected.

“This very heartening census result highlights the value of long term recovery programs in building resilience in threatened species populations”, observed Trish Mooney, Chair of the Glossy-black Cockatoo Recovery Team.

“The incredible effort by so many involved in the program to support glossy recovery over the past 25 years has given them the best chance possible of coping with catastrophes such as the recent bushfires.”

Despite these numbers, the census showed that the north-coast flocks are heavily feeding on the remaining unburnt sheoak.

Karleah Berris, KI Landscape Board’s Glossy-Black Project Officer, says that although the numbers are encouraging, the fire has caused a different threat to the glossy-black cockatoo.

“Before the fires, glossies were known to be highly selective in which sheoak trees they fed on, presumably to maximise their feeding efficiency. They no longer have this luxury now that so much sheoak habitat was burnt”, said Ms Berris.

It will take approximately 15-20 years for much of the burnt sheoak woodlands to start producing good crops of seeds that the glossies can feed on again. This is why the KI Landscape Board has been facilitating the planting of sheoaks since the fire with the help of funds from WWF-Australia.

“It’s encouraging to see that most glossy flocks survived the bushfire flames, but we can’t afford for these cockatoos to run out of food in the years ahead. If there’s no sheoak trees, there will be no glossy black-cockatoos so there’s still lots of work to be done,” said Darren Grover, WWF-Australia’s Head of Healthy Land and Seascapes.

While the burnt sheoaks are recovering, planted sheoaks, spaced 3-4 metres apart, will reach maturity quicker. Glossies have been observed feeding on planted trees in as little as 5 years.

The Glossy-black Cockatoo Recovery Program will again be giving sheoak seedlings to landholders in priority glossy areas in the winter of 2021. Sheoaks are also great windbreaks and grow well on steep slopes so make for good erosion control.

If you are interested in planting sheoaks on your property next winter to help ensure a future for the glossy-black cockatoo, please email Karleah Berris at ki.landscapeboard@sa.gov.au for more information.

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