Carnaby's black-cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus latirostris)

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Carnaby's black-cockatoo perched in a tree
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Carnaby's black-cockatoo fact file

Carnaby's black-cockatoo description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPsittaciformes
FamilyPsittacidae
GenusCalyptorhynchus (1)

Carnaby’s black-cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus latirostris) is a large, black cockatoo endemic to south-western parts of Western Australia (2) (4) (7). Its feathers are mainly black to brownish-black, with off-white edges, and it has a wide white band on the tail (2) (3) (4) (7) (8). Carnaby’s black-cockatoo also has a whitish patch on the cheek, a short erectable crest on top of the head (2) (3), and a strong, curved bill, which has a flaky texture (4) (8).

There are a number of small differences between the male and female Carnaby’s black-cockatoo. The male has a dark greyish-black bill, a pink ring of skin around the eye and greyish-brown legs, whereas the female has a whitish bill, a grey eye ring and light grey to pinkish legs. The female Carnaby’s black-cockatoo also has a slightly larger white cheek patch than the male (2) (3) (4) (8).

The juvenile Carnaby’s black-cockatoo is similar in appearance to the adult female (2) (3) (4), but is best distinguished by its harsh call for food (4). Juveniles also have a smooth rather than flaky texture to the bill (4).

Carnaby’s black-cockatoo is often mistaken for the closely related Baudin’s black-cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus baudinii), and the two were previously considered to be the same species (4) (5). The only noticeable differences between the two species are that Carnaby’s black-cockatoo produces a slightly longer contact call and has a shorter upper mandible, giving rise to its alternative common name of short-billed black-cockatoo (2) (3) (4) (5) (8) (9). Carnaby’s black-cockatoo and Baudin’s black-cockatoo also have slightly different feeding habits and habitat preferences (7).

A fairly noisy bird, Carnaby’s black-cockatoo gives a variety of calls, the most common being a high-pitched, wailing ‘whee-la(2) (3). A harsh screech is also given in alarm, while young birds give a constant harsh wheezing sound (3).

Also known as
Carnaby’s black cockatoo, Carnaby’s cockatoo, Mallee cockatoo, ngoolark, short-billed black cockatoo, short-billed black-cockatoo, slender-billed black-cockatoo, slender-billed cockatoo, white-tailed black cockatoo, white-tailed black-cockatoo, white-tailed cockatoo.
Synonyms
Calyptorhynchus funereus latirostris.
Size
Length: 54 - 60 cm (2) (3)
Wingspan: 110 cm (4)
Weight
520 - 790 g (4) (5)
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Carnaby's black-cockatoo biology

The diet of Carnaby’s black-cockatoo consists mainly of seeds from a variety of plants, including those of Hakea, Banksia, Grevillea, Eucalyptus and Dryandra species. It also occasionally takes fruit and nectar, as well as insect larvae that it finds on these plants. Carnaby’s black-cockatoo has also adapted to feed on non-native plants such as the wild radish (Raphanus raphanistrum), wild geranium (Erodium spp.) and pines (Pinus spp.) (2) (4) (7) (8). This species uses its short, powerful bill to break open the hard cases of fruit capsules and access the seeds (3) (8) (9).

Carnaby’s black-cockatoo is very sociable and can often be seen in groups of three or more, and even in large flocks of hundreds or sometimes thousands of birds outside of the breeding season (2) (3) (4) (7) (8).

This species mates from the age of four onwards (2) (3) (4) (8) (11), and typically pairs for life (2) (3) (4) (7). Carnaby’s black-cockatoo nests in hollows in large eucalypt trees, usually from two to ten or more metres above the ground (4) (8). The eggs are laid among wood chippings at the base of the hollow (4) (7), and breeding pairs may return to the same nesting site year on year (2) (4) (7). Fewer than half of the nest hollows in an area are likely to be occupied, due to fierce competition between the female cockatoos (2).

Carnaby’s black-cockatoo usually lays a clutch of two white or creamy white eggs, generally between July and October or November (2) (4) (7). The eggs are incubated by the female for 28 to 29 days (2) (4) (8), during which time the female is fed by the male (3) (7) (10). In most cases the second nestling dies within 48 hours of hatching, and only rarely do the adults raise more than one chick (2) (7) (8) (11). The breeding success of this species is dependent on the presence of suitable feeding areas close to its woodland nesting habitat (2) (4) (7) (8).

The young Carnaby’s black-cockatoo is initially brooded by the female for the first two weeks of life, after which both adults share in feeding it. After 10 to 12 weeks the young cockatoos fledge, but remain with the adults for up to a year, moving with them to the coast at the end of the breeding season to join larger flocks (4) (7) (8). Carnaby’s black-cockatoo is a long-lived species that may potentially live for 40 to 50 years in the wild (4) (10).

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Carnaby's black-cockatoo range

Carnaby’s black-cockatoo is endemic to southwest Western Australia, where it is mainly found between Murchison River and Esperance, and inland to Coorow, Kellerberrin and Lake Cronin (2) (3) (4) (8) (10).

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Carnaby's black-cockatoo habitat

Carnaby’s black-cockatoo is a very mobile species and occupies two distinct habitats at different times of year (4) (7). It generally nests in dry eucalypt woodland, particularly those containing salmon gum (Eucalyptus salmonophloia) and wandoo (Eucalyptus wandoo) (3) (4) (7) (8) (10), with most breeding occurring in areas with an annual average rainfall of around 300 to 750 millimetres (3) (8) (10). These woodlands are situated near foraging habitat of shrubland and ‘kwongan heathland’, which is dominated by plants in the Proteaceae family, such as Hakea, Banksia and Dryandra species. These provide a food source for the breeding cockatoos (4) (8).

Outside of the breeding season, Carnaby’s black-cockatoo generally moves to wetter coastal areas, where it feeds in heathlands and scrublands (4) (8) (10). Plantations of introduced pines (Pinus spp.) have also become important feeding and roosting sites for Carnaby’s black-cockatoo during the non-breeding season (2) (4) (8). Although many populations of Carnaby’s black-cockatoo migrate, some may remain close to the breeding areas year-round (4).

Carnaby’s black-cockatoo is also an occasional visitor to forests containing marri (Corymbia calophylla), jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) or karri (Eucalyptus diversicolor) (2) (4) (8), and will sometimes also forage on introduced weeds in pastures or along rail or road verges (4).

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Carnaby's black-cockatoo status

Carnaby’s black-cockatoo is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1) and is listed on Appendix II of CITES (6).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Carnaby's black-cockatoo threats

Carnaby’s black-cockatoo has undergone a rapid decline in the last century, vanishing from a third of its native range between 1970 and 1990 (2) (4). The main reason for this is the clearance of native vegetation for agriculture, which has severely reduced and fragmented this species’ habitat (4) (8). In some cases, parts of south-western Western Australia have lost over 90 percent of their original vegetation, with the remainder being scattered in numerous patches of varying size and quality (12).

In particular, the clearance of heathland and scrubland around its breeding sites has devastated the Carnaby’s black-cockatoo population (2) (4) (8). The adult cockatoos must not travel too far to gather sufficient food to satisfy the high energy demands of the developing nestlings. Where feeding habitat is scattered and fragmented, the adults are forced to forage further afield and for longer, resulting in higher mortality of the young, which may well starve before they can fledge (3) (4) (10). Remaining habitat patches are also being increasingly degraded by weed invasion and by an increase in soil salinity, caused by changing land use practices (2) (4) (8) (13).

The breeding habitat of Carnaby’s black-cockatoo has also been extensively cleared (2) (4) (13). In addition, Carnaby’s black-cockatoo is losing nesting sites as nesting trees are not regenerating, mainly due to grazing by sheep and rabbits (2) (3) (4) (8) (13). Carnaby’s black-cockatoo is also facing increasing competition with other birds and with introduced bees for nest hollows. In particular, species such as the galah (Cacatua roseicapilla) and the western corella (Cacatua pastinator) are invading the range of Carnaby’s black-cockatoo and out-competing it for resources (2) (4) (7) (8) (10).

Although non-native pines provide a reliable food source for Carnaby’s black-cockatoo outside of the breeding season, these pines are now reaching maturity and will eventually be harvested. This could potentially lead to a food shortage for the cockatoos (2) (4) (13).

Carnaby’s black-cockatoo is particularly vulnerable to changes in land use due to the fact it migrates and uses a variety of habitats for breeding and foraging throughout the year (4). Its long-term pair bonds and high fidelity to its traditional nesting sites may also mean that the birds are slow to disperse after habitat disturbances (2).

Carnaby’s black-cockatoo is also susceptible to collisions with vehicles (2) (7) (12) (14), particularly as more habitat is cleared and remaining habitat patches are crossed by roads and railways (2). In addition, its eggs and chicks are often illegally poached due to the species’ popularity and high value in the avicultural trade. Although domestic demand for Carnaby’s black-cockatoo has declined, poaching for illegal export still occurs, and nest hollows are often damaged in the process, making them unsuitable for future nesting (2) (4) (8) (10) (13).

In recent years, severe weather events and outbreaks of disease have caused many fatalities of Carnaby’s black-cockatoos. It is feared that climate change may increase the frequency of extreme weather events such as heat waves and storms, with potentially devastating effects on the already vulnerable cockatoo population (14).

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Carnaby's black-cockatoo conservation

Carnaby’s black-cockatoo is legally protected in Australia (2) (4), and international trade in this species should be strictly controlled under its listing on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) (6). A Recovery Plan has been prepared for Carnaby’s black-cockatoo, and in 1999 a Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoo Recovery Team was appointed to coordinate conservation efforts for this species (8).

A number of conservation measures are already in place for Carnaby’s black-cockatoo. For example, a captive breeding programme is underway so that if extinction occurs in the wild, individuals are available for reintroductions. Injured wild cockatoos are also rehabilitated and incorporated into the breeding programme. Perth Zoo is maintaining a stud book for captive Carnaby’s black-cockatoos, and microchipping and DNA analysis are being used to ensure that all captive birds have been legally obtained (2) (4) (8) (13). Captive birds are also used to help educate the public about the threats to the Carnaby’s black-cockatoo population (8).

Further conservation measures underway for Carnaby’s black-cockatoo include the protection of key areas of habitat, the protection and maintenance of nest sites, the re-establishment of feeding habitat and the development of habitat corridors linking breeding and feeding sites (2) (4) (7) (10) (13). Damaged nest hollows have also been repaired (7) (8) (10). Some schools have become involved by replanting native vegetation for Carnaby’s black-cockatoo (8), and groups such as ‘Men of the Trees’ have received grants to re-establish habitats within the Northern Wheatbelt area of Western Australia (10).

Birds Australia (now BirdLife Australia) has been leading recovery efforts for the Carnaby’s black-cockatoo, and in 2006 introduced the ‘Great Cocky Count’, a survey completed by the community to map Carnaby’s black-cockatoo abundance and estimate the population size (7) (15).

Other recommended conservation measures for this species include monitoring rates of habitat loss and degradation, determining the extent of illegal poaching, continuing habitat restoration and population monitoring, excluding livestock and rabbits to promote tree regeneration, and protecting nesting trees (2). It will also be vital to create and maintain more habitat corridors to link feeding and breeding areas, helping the cockatoos to move between food sources and breed more successfully (2) (4) (12).

The 2011 Great Cocky Count suggested a worrying decline in the Carnaby’s black-cockatoo population between 2010 and 2011. Long-term monitoring is needed to better understand the population trends of this large but highly threatened cockatoo (15).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

Find out more about Carnaby’s black-cockatoo and its conservation:

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This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

This species information was authored as part of the ARKive and Universities Scheme.
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Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Incubate
To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
Larvae
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
Mandible
In birds, the lower jaw and beak, but the term is also used to denote the two parts of the beak.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. BirdLife International - Carnaby’s black-cockatoo (November, 2011)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=1391
  3. Juniper, T. and Parr, M. (1998) Parrots: A Guide to Parrots of the World. Pica Press, Sussex.
  4. Australian Government - Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (2011) Calyptorhynchus latirostris. In: Species Profile and Threats Database. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra. Available at:
    http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=59523
  5. Saunders, D.A. (1974) Subspeciation in the white-tailed black cockatoo, Calyptorhynchus baudinii, in Western Australia. Australian Wildlife Research, 1(1): 55-69.
  6. CITES (November, 2011)
    http://www.cites.org/
  7. Birds Australia - Carnaby’s black-cockatoo recovery (November, 2011)
    http://www.birdsaustralia.com.au/our-projects/carnabys-black-cockatoo-recovery.html
  8. Cale, B. (2003) Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoo (Calpytorhynchus latirostris) Recovery Plan 2002-2012. Department of Conservation and Land Management, Western Australian Threatened Species and Communities Unit, Wanneroo. Available at:
    http://www.dec.wa.gov.au/
  9. Saunders, D.A. (1979) Distribution and taxonomy of the white-tailed and yellow-tailed black-cockatoos Calyptorhynchus spp. Emu, 79: 215-227.
  10. Australian Government - Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (2004) Australian Threatened Species: Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoo, Calyptorhynchus latirostris. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Canberra. Available at:
    http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/pubs/black-cockatoo.pdf
  11. Saunders, D.A. (1986) Breeding season, nesting success and nestling growth in Carnaby’s cockatoo, Calyptorhynchus funereus latirostris, over 16 years at Coomallo Creek, and a method for assessing the viability of populations in other areas. Australian Wildlife Research, 13: 261-273.
  12. Saunders, D.A. (1990) Problems of survival in an extensively cultivated landscape: the case of Carnaby’s cockatoo Calyptorhynchus funereus latirostris. Biological Conservation, 54(3): 277-290.
  13. Garnett, S.T. and Crowley, G.M. (2000) The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2000. Environment Australia, Canberra. Available at:
    http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/action/birds2000/index.html
  14. Saunders, D.A., Mawson, P. and Dawson, R. (2011) The impact of two extreme weather events and other causes of death on Carnaby’s black cockatoo: a promise of things to come for a threatened species? Pacific Conservation Biology, 17(2): 141-148.
  15. Kabat, A.P., Scott, R., Kabat, T.J. and Barrett, G. (2012) 2011 Great Cocky Count: Population Estimates and Identification of Roost Sites for the Carnaby’s Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus latirostris). Department of Environment and Conservation, Government of Western Australia, Bentley. Available at:
    http://www.dec.wa.gov.au/content/view/6955/1560/
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Image credit

Carnaby's black-cockatoo perched in a tree  
Carnaby's black-cockatoo perched in a tree

© Don Hadden / www.ardea.com

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Tel: +44 (0) 208 318 1401
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