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Parrot Conservation – Rare Cockatoo Accepts Artificial Nest in Urban Environment

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo in FlightA 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

Red-tailed Black Cockatoo in FlightResearchers 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).



Further Reading

Tracking Black Cockatoos via Radio Transmitter

Black Cockatoo Natural History

Cockatoo Conservation at the Western Australian Museum



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

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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