A pair of highly endangered Forest Red-Tailed Black Cockatoos, Calyptorhynchus banksii naso, has hatched a chick in an artificial nest box located in Perth, Australia. The box was erected as part of a conservation effort launched by the Western Australian Museum and Murdoch University. The nesting is significant because it represents both the first time this species has accepted an artificial nest and the first known breeding in an urban setting.
Unique Threats and Considerations
The Forest Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo faces “typical” problems such as habitat loss, but is also plagued by several unique threats and an unusual breeding biology…all of which complicated the formation of a recovery plan.
Black Cockatoos have very specific nest-site requirements, and once a suitable nesting hollow is located a pair generally uses it for many years. Over the past several decades, Black Cockatoos in natural habitats have come under pressure from burgeoning populations of feral honeybees and of other cockatoo species, including Galahs and Corellas. These aggressive insects and birds take over Black Cockatoo nests and severely impact the species’ ability to reproduce.
Nest hollows are a rare resource, and Black Cockatoos that are displaced rarely find a new site in time to reproduce that season. The effect of this is magnified an unusual breeding biology. Unlike most parrots, Black Cockatoos nest only once every 2-3 years, and females produce but a single egg. The fact that pairs tend to use the same nest hollow throughout their lives likely renders it difficult for them to adjust to the loss of a nesting site.
Encouraging Cockatoos to Take Up City Life
Researchers surmised that locating nest boxes away from areas frequented by bees and competing cockatoos might assist the species in recovering, but Forest Red-Tailed Black Cockatoos were not known to nest outside of their usual breeding range, or to use artificial nest boxes. Studies of wild nest site dimensions and honeybee deterrence were initiated in an effort to make artificial boxes more attractive to the cockatoos.
The first urban nest to be accepted by a pair of Forest Red-Tailed Black Cockatoos is located on the campus of Murdock University in Perth. Researchers herald this as an important first step in the establishment of additional breeding sites, and hope to recruit students to monitor the nest and otherwise assist in the program.
Other Black Cockatoos
The related Carnaby’s and Baudin’s Cockatoos are also in trouble. The provision of artificial nests is part of an ongoing effort to conserve all three species of Black Cockatoo (please see the article below).
Tracking Black Cockatoos via Radio Transmitter
Red-tailed Black Cockatoo image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Scarlet23
Red-tailed Black Cockatoo in Flight image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Peter Campbell