Nature conservation

Native animals

Glossy black-cockatoo

What do they look like?

The glossy black-cockatoo is around 46-50 cm long and is generally smaller than other black-cockatoos. It is a brownish black colour and has a small crest.

There are some distinct differences in appearance between male and female birds. The male can be identified by the browner colour on the head and underparts and by bright red panels in the black tail. The female has a wider tail which is red to reddish-yellow, barred with black. The female may also have yellow markings around the head.

Where do they live?

The glossy black-cockatoo lives in coastal woodlands and drier forest areas, open inland woodlands or timbered watercourses where casuarinas (or sheoaks), its main food trees, are common.

Scientists think that glossy black-cockatoos prefer to live in rugged country, where extensive clearing has not taken place. Brigalow scrub or hilly rocky country containing casuarina species tend to be their preferred habitat in inland NSW.

The glossy black-cockatoo has a patchy distribution in Australia, having once been widespread across most of the south-eastern part of the country. It is now distributed throughout an area which extends from the coast near Eungella in eastern Queensland to Mallacoota in Victoria. An isolated population of glossy black-cockatoos is also known to live on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. The species has become regionally extinct in parts of western Victoria and south-eastern South Australia.

In NSW, the current distribution of the glossy black-cockatoo covers areas from the coast to the tablelands, and as far west as the Riverina and Pilliga Scrub.

What do they eat?

The glossy black-cockatoo generally prefers to feed from the seeds of mature casuarina trees. The birds' presence is often indicated by a layer of cracked cones and fragments that have accumulated under favoured casuarina trees.

A study in Eden, on the south coast of NSW, indicated that the glossy black-cockatoo is selective in its choice of food trees, choosing casuarinas that produce seeds with a high nutrient value. A pair of glossy black-cockatoos may make short visits to various feed trees in a small area, checking the quality of the seeds. Once satisfied, the pair will settle in the one feed tree and harvest all the cones within reach.

Glossy black-cockatoos occasionally eat seeds from eucalypts, angophoras, acacias and hakeas, as well as eating insect larvae. In Central West NSW they also eat the seeds of cypress pine.

Scientists estimate that the birds spend at least 88 per cent of their time foraging.

Breeding

The glossy black-cockatoo prefers to nest in the hollows of large, old eucalypt trees, alive or dead. The typical nest site will be around 3-30 m above the ground, and the nest hollow is generally lined with decayed debris. The birds tend to nest in the same areas as other nesting pairs, sometimes even sharing the same nest tree.

In NSW, breeding takes place from March to August. One egg, white in colour, is produced. In some instances both the male and female parents will feed the chick, and the female will brood the chick overnight. At other times only the female will brood and feed the young.

Researchers think that glossy black-cockatoos breed throughout their range, including Goonoo and Bidden state forests, the Narrandera Range and Rankin Spring.

Threats

Since European colonisation, a major threat to the survival of the glossy black-cockatoo is habitat loss - the clearing of casuarina trees in woodland areas, and the loss of mature eucalypts for nest hollows.

The Riverina in NSW is one area in the bird's range that has suffered a major decline in population due to the removal of habitat. There has also been evidence to suggest that some glossy black-cockatoos from this region have been trapped for the illegal bird trade.

Scientists think that to breed successfully, glossy black-cockatoos need food trees to be near their nest trees. Fragmentation of habitat reduces the chances of successful breeding.

Changes to patterns of bushfires in eastern Australia since European settlement have also contributed to the loss of habitat for the glossy black-cockatoo. Casuarina trees are very fire-sensitive, and are easily killed in an intense fire. Large dead trees where the birds nest may also be destroyed in a fire.

Glossy black-cockatoos are also threatened by feral cats and possums, which raid the birds' nests. They also suffer from competition for nests from galahs and introduced honeybees.

The full impact of threats such as habitat clearing and modification on the glossy black-cockatoo is still unknown. As the bird has a relatively long life span, the effect of these threats may not yet be fully evident on population numbers.

Recognising these threats, the glossy black-cockatoo is listed as vulnerable in NSW under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. If action is not taken to stop these threats, the glossy black-cockatoo is likely to become endangered across its range in NSW.

What you can do to help glossy black-cockatoos

  • As the glossy black-cockatoo feeds mostly on casuarinas and nests in eucalypts, try to retain existing stands of casuarina/eucalypt and extend this habitat where possible.
  • Many casuarinas and eucalypts have previously been removed due to land clearing, for grazing and crops. Try to encourage regeneration and re-establish stands of casuarinas and eucalypts. Casuarinas and other suitable trees can also be planted in rural areas and on urban fringes to provide feeding habitat and breeding sites.
  • As the glossy black-cockatoo nests in both living and dead trees, removing dead trees for firewood and other uses is harmful. Glossy black-cockatoos cannot nest without suitable tree hollows. Consider using fallen, dry, green wood and allocate areas for wood collection on your property.
  • Watch out for suspicious situations which may indicate illegal trapping or poaching. If you suspect any illegal activities, report them to Wildlife Watch (freecall 1800 819 375).
  • If you find an injured or displaced glossy black-cockatoo, contact your local OEH office or a registered wildlife rehabilitation group as soon as possible.
  • Don't let your pets wander unsupervised at night. Domestic dogs and cats can kill glossy black-cockatoos.

Acknowledgement: OEH wishes to acknowledge the help given by Judy Peet, Dubbo Field Naturalist Conservation Society, for technical editing of this text.



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Page last updated: 04 March 2014