Glossy Black-Cockatoo

Calyptorhynchus lathami

Glossy Black-Cockatoos are one of the more threatened species of cockatoo in NSW. They are located in Eastern and Northern NSW. The northern part of the state is the stronghold for the species in NSW.

Unlike other cockatoos, Glossy Blacks are generally secretive and are not as raucous as the Red-Tails – they call little and then only in subdued, softer notes. When seen they are still commonly mistaken for other species, notably the Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo.

Glossy Black-Cockatoo’s are known to have a life span that can exceed 30 years and they are usually seen in pairs or small groups (as opposed to Red-Tails, which often occur in large flocks.) Group sizes are commonly of only two or three birds, although larger flocks do aggregate at watering holes when individuals gather to drink and roost for the night. If two birds are detected it is likely that this will be a bonded male and female pair. If three birds are observed it is likely to be a breeding pair with a fledged chick from the most recent breeding season.

Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of Glossy Blacks is that they have a very restricted diet and feed almost exclusively on the seeds of the cones of sheoaks (Casuarina and Allocasuarina) via a flexible wrist and a tough, specially shaped beak. They have also been known to feed on C. cristata and C.equisetifolia. 

Unfortunately, despite the common occurrence of she-oaks, the birds do not feed on all trees available in an area. They tend to favour particular species and select specific trees, showing fidelity to them over time. They will return to the same food tree time and time again, often ignoring nearby trees that are full of cones. They can fly more than 10km to feeding areas that have their favourite trees. When feeding, they will sit quietly and the only noise you will hear is the soft sound of cracking cones. People often do not even realise they are there. Feeding trees are identified  from the spent she-oak nuts, called ‘orts’,  that can be found littering the ground Interestingly Glossy Blacks only eat with their  left leg holding the seed.

Glossy Black-Cockatoo’s are the smallest of the black-cockatoos. In appearance, Glossy Blacks are most readily distinguished by their broad, bulbous bill; dull, brownish tinge on the head and breast and low, rounded crest, whereas Red-tails are bigger, ‘blacker’ birds with a helmet-like crest. Both males and females have a browner tone to the head and males have a much smaller crest than the Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo. Adult males have the solid bright red panels in the tail feathers while in females these panels range from red to light orange/yellow with horizontal black barring. Females are distinguished from females of the Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo by having irregular patches of yellow feathers on the head and neck. These can be quite extensive in some individuals while others have only one or two small patches.   

  Plumage features vary with the sex and age of Glossy Black-Cockatoos. Only adult male Glossy Black-Cockatoos have the distinctive solid bright red panels in the tail feathers, whereas younger birds of both sexes have orange/yellow panels in the tail with the additional horizontal black barring across these coloured panels. The number of bars varies between five and seven. Juveniles also have pale yellow spots on the wings and head as well as pale yellow barring across the chest.  As individuals mature they lose these pale spots and barring before finally displaying adult body plumage and this typically occurs within the first 12-18 months. In females the irregular yellow patches on the head and neck develop from an early age (about 10 months) and are retained into adulthood.

Glossy Black-Cockatoos nest in a hollow limb or a hole in the trunk of a large eucalypt tree (living or dead), mostly between 10m and 20m above the ground. Most nest hollows have an entrance diameter of 20 to 25cm and are in vertical or near vertical spouts, or trunk cavities exposed by the loss of a large branch.  As these large hollow bearing trees are needed for breeding, this emphasises the need to retain remnant vegetation just as much as food trees.   

Breeding occurs every two years with a single egg being laid in late January to early June with a longer nestling period than any other cockatoos (up to 90 days).                                     

The female lays a single egg, which she incubates for around 30 days until it hatches. While the female is incubating the egg and brooding the young chick, the male feeds her near the nest each day in the late afternoon and sometimes in the morning. The nestling fledges (leaves the nest) 84-96 days after hatching and is then fed by both parents until at least the onset of the following breeding season. During this period of dependency, the juvenile accompanies its parents at all times.  The young are dependent on the parents for at least 12 months.     

                                                    References: Glossy black Conservancy website