Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo
Photo by Steve Johnson
The Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo is a large (to 680mm) cockatoo clearly distinguished by its mostly black plumage, yellow cheek patch and yellow panels on the tail. The body feathers are edged with yellow giving a scalloped appearance. It has a short, mobile crest on the top of its head.
The female has a larger, more defined yellow cheek patch than the male, pale grey eye-ring (pink in males) and a whitish upper bill (grey-black in males).
Juveniles have duller plumage overall, and, like the females, a whitish coloured bill, and grey eye-rings. The upper beak of the immature male darkens to black by two years of age, while the lower beak blackens by four years of age.
In flight, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos flap with a distinctive slow, deep wingbeat. They are often seen flying in pairs, or trios comprising a pair and their young, although outside the breeding season they may coalesce into flocks of a hundred birds or more.
Although the Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo is one of six species of black cockatoo in Australia, it is the only black cockatoo found in Tasmania.
The Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo occurs in a variety of habitat types, including eucalypt woodland, heathlands, subalpine areas, pine plantations and occasionally in urban areas.
The Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo prefers seeds of native trees, ground plants and pine cones. Some insects are also eaten. Unlike other cockatoos, a significant proportion of the diet is made up of wood-boring grubs. Birds place their ear against the surface of dead trees to listen for the sound of grubs beneath. If a grub is detected the bird will use their powerful bill to tear chunks from the tree to reach the grub, often leaving a small pile of woodchips at the base of the tree. Such scarred, dead trees are a common sight in Tasmanian forests.
Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos have a long breeding season, which varies throughout their range, although in Tasmania it is generally from October to February. Both sexes build the nest in hollows of tall, mature trees, generally eucalypts. The hollow is lined with wood chips. The same tree may be used for many years.
One or two white lustreless eggs are laid. Only the female incubates the eggs, while the male supplies her with food. Both parents help to raise the chicks, although usually only one chick survives. Chicks fledge from the nest three months after hatching and remain in the company of their parents until the next breeding season.
Like other cockatoos, this species is long-lived, reaching over 40 years in captivity.
Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos are raucous, noisy birds that are often heard before being seen. The usual call is a an eerie high-pitched wailing contact call, "kee-ow, kee-ow, kee-ow", made while flying or roosting. Birds may also make a harsh screeching alarm call.
The Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo is found up to 2000m throughout south-eastern Australia, from Eyre Peninsula to south and central eastern Queensland. It is declining in numbers in parts of its range due to habitat fragmentation and loss of large trees used for breeding hollows.
In Tasmania it is common and nomadic. It can be seen in many parts of the State and on the larger islands of Bass Strait.