Western Australia's Red-tailed Black cockatoos, Carnaby's cockatoo and Baudin's cockatoo are under threat because their habitat is being destroyed for housing estates and mining.

Forest Red-tailed Black-cockatoo facts

Common name: Forest Red-tailed Black-cockatoo

Aboriginal names: Karrak (Noongar)

Scientific name: Calyptorhynchus banksii naso

Population: Declining

Endangered status: Vulnerable (WA, Australia)

 

Carnaby’s cockatoo facts

Common name: Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoo, Short-billed Black-cockatoo, White-tailed Black-Cockatoo

Scientific name: Zanda latirostris, Calyptorhynchus latirostris

Population: Declining

Endangered status: Endangered (Australia, EPBC Act); Specially Protected Fauna (WA), Endangered (IUCN Red List)

 

Baudin’s cockatoo facts

Common names: Baudin’s Cockatoo, Baudin’s Black-cockatoo, Long-billed Black-Cockatoo or White-tailed Black-Cockatoo

Scientific name: Zanda baudinii

Population: Declining

Endangered status: Vulnerable (WA, Australia), Endangered (IUCN Red List)

Carnaby's black cockatoo sits in a tree

A Carnaby's Black cockatoo perches in a tree. Photo: Dejan Stojanovic

What are Black cockatoos?

  • There are several types of black cockatoo across Australia - all known for their black feathers and tails with red, yellow or white markings.
  • In the genus Calyptorhynchus are the Red-tailed black-cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii) and Glossy Black-cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami).
  • In the genus Zanda are the Long-billed or Baudin’s Black-cockatoo (Zanda baudinii), Short-billed or Carnaby’s Black cockatoo (Zanda latirostris) and Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo (Zanda funerea).

Is the Black cockatoo endangered?

A female red-tailed black cockatoo bites at a nut while sitting on a tree branch.

A female Red-tailed Black-cockatoo sits on a branch eating her dinner. Picture: Creative commons.

What are the biggest threats to the Black cockatoos?

  • All Western Australian species of Black cockatoo are threatened by habitat loss and degradation, competition from other birds for nesting sites and declining food supplies.
  • The Forest Red-tailed Black cockatoos are threatened by habitat loss, competition for rare nesting hollows and by injury from European honeybees. The federal government’s recovery plan for this subspecies was implemented in October 2021 with a view to reducing the burden these threats place on the species.
  • Baudin’s and Carnaby’s Black cockatoos are particularly endangered and are considered likely to become extinct in the wild.
  • Like the Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, these species are threatened by loss of nesting hollows due to deforestation from mining and timber industries, habitat fragmentation, loss of native food sources from urban development and bushfires.

Identifying Black cockatoos

  • Western Australia’s Black cockatoos are similar in appearances, but each species has its own distinguishing features.
  • Forest Red-tailed Black-cockatoos can be identified by their short, rounded crests, glossy black feathers, and red markings on their tails. Males have dark grey bills. Females have whitish bills and pale-yellow spots on the head and wings.
  • Baudin’s and Carnaby’s  Black cockatoos can be identified by their upper bill mandibles. Both species are otherwise similar in appearance with white patches on their heads and white markings on their tails. Males have black bills while females have greyish coloured bills.

Where can I find Black cockatoos

  • The endangered and vulnerable Forest Red-tailed, Baudin’s and Carnaby’s  Cockatoos are endemic to south-western WA. These populations are especially vulnerable to habitat loss and competition.

Carnaby's Black Cockatoos perch in a tree.

Two Carnaby's cockatoos perch in a tree. Photo: imagevixen/Shutterstock.com

Deforestation threatens vulnerable Black cockatoos

Habitat loss through deforestation for suburban spread and mining activity are the biggest threats to Western Australia’s Black cockatoo species.

The loss of habitat reduces available nesting sites to local bird species, causing increased competition for places to live and breed.

It also reduces available food supplies and increases competition for nutrition among species.

In January 2022, the federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment imposed a $250,000 fine on three property developers behind a new housing estate in the southern Perth suburb of Baldivis.

These property developers were found to have destroyed habitat home to WA’s three endemic Black cockatoo species, in breach of the EPBC Act.

The department had previously raised its opposition to clearing this habitat with the developers, citing concerns about the impact on local cockatoos.

However, the developers were found responsible for having cleared 10.18 hectares of habitat without federal approval, breaching sections 18.3 and 18.4 of the EPBC Act.

Appeals by the developers against this finding were unsuccessful, resulting in a $250,000 fine payable to the Western Australian Museum Boola Bardip’s Black Cockatoo research.

But considering the median price for a two-bedroom home in the suburb is currently listed at $350,000, this fine is hardly a concern for these property developers which are set to build more than 800 properties on this site.

And given it can take well over a century for new trees to establish nesting hollows suitable for Black cockatoos and other bird species, it’s a poor remedy for species on the brink of extinction.

A flock of Baudin's Black cockatoos in a tree

A flock of Baudin's Cockatoos perch in a tree. Picture: nodeworx (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Speak up for the Black cockatoos

Add your voice to the petition to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Environment Minister Sussan Ley, asking them to support ambitious global goals for nature to halt and reverse biodiversity loss and achieve a Nature Positive world by 2030 — and invite your friends to raise their voice for nature too. 

Australia must work with other nations to deliver ambitious global goals for nature to halt and reverse biodiversity destruction and set us on a path to a nature-positive world. 

 

Header image: Red-tailed Black cockatoo by Johan Larson/Shutterstock.com

Matt Agius

Australian Conservation Foundation