Southern Highland weekend uncovers mysteries of the Glossy black-cockatoo

More than 100 enthusiasts, landholders and community members spent the weekend 'speaking glossy' learning the unique language of the glossy black-cockatoo at 4 different community halls across the Southern Highlands.

Glossy black-cockatoo (male) wing spread

Hosted by the NSW Government's Saving our Species (SoS) program, the weekend events were part of the Glossies in the Mist project which aims to secure the future of the vulnerable glossy black-cockatoo.

"We had a great community turnout across the Great Western Wildlife Corridor between Bullio and Bungonia," said Lauren Hook, threatened species officer and Glossies in the Mist project coordinator.

"We learnt to 'speak glossy' from bioacoustic monitoring expert Daniella Teixeira from the University of Queensland. Daniella spoke about her work which involves fitting sound recorders to trees where glossy black-cockatoos are nesting.

"By collecting and observing bird sounds, she has developed a way of interpreting their calls that are associated with breeding behavior.

"She can even pinpoint from the recordings when a fledgling has left the nest, which is a sign of a successful breeding cycle. This audio research is extremely valuable as it doesn't disturb the birds, it's a less invasive way of monitoring them.

"We know lots about how glossy black-cockatoos feed in the area but very little is known about their breeding. By teaching local landholders the subtle differences between glossy vocalisations, we hope to encourage more accurate reporting of breeding birds.

"A big part of the Glossies in the Mist project is to ask landholders to report breeding behaviour in the wildlife corridor, so we can better manage these areas and monitor breeding events.

"At the event we gave away 500 she-oak trees, bringing the total giving away since the project commenced in 2017, to more than 12,500 trees distributed to 400 private properties, between Bullio and Bungonia.

"Private landholders are having the greatest impact by reporting sightings and conserving she-oak feed trees on their properties. We ask people to continue to report evidence of Glossies on your property.

"Glossy black-cockatoos have favourite feed trees that they return to time and time again. Look for bright orange 'chewings' under trees. When the birds eat the seeds inside the she-oak cones, their beaks remove the seed, the cone drops to the floor and under the tree will be a carpet of orange cones, please report these sightings.

"The audience also learnt about the subtle differences in plumage that can help landholders identify juvenile, male and female birds, from species expert Mike Barth.

"The male is completely black with red tail feathers. Female birds have spotted yellow plumage around the face, but juvenile birds are much harder to identify. They sometimes have fine yellow spots on their breast and wings with elaborate stripes in their tail feathers.

"Glossy black-cockatoos are monogamous and stay in breeding pairs for life, and they often return to the same areas each breeding season during March to July. If you spot 3 birds or a trio, this is a good sign, it's likely they are a mum, dad and juvenile bird.

"By spotting a trio we know they are reproducing, and we encourage people to report these sightings to the Glossies in the Mist project website.

"We had a particularly good turnout at the Tallong and Bungonia events in the southern part of the Great Western Wildlife Corridor. We want to thank the local Tallong primary school children who recently planted she-oak trees in their school.

"We also want to thank Aunty Sharyn Halls from Gundungurra Aboriginal heritage Association for their Welcome to Country ceremony.

"The Big Glossy Weekender congratulated and encouraged landholders to continue their great citizen science efforts by reporting cockatoo sightings, breeding behavior and habitat features on their properties," said Lauren Hook.

Images on Flickr – Glossy black-cockatoo