The iconic species of yellow-tailed black cockatoos is under threat

Watching out: ​Wildlife ecologist John Martin and researcher Jessica Rooke look for yellow-tailed black cockatoos in Sydney's Centennial Park. Photo: Peter Rae
Watching out: ​Wildlife ecologist John Martin and researcher Jessica Rooke look for yellow-tailed black cockatoos in Sydney's Centennial Park. Photo: Peter Rae

The call is out. Rare bird watchers they want you!

A Sydney-based research team has been tagging the iconic yellow-tailed black cockatoos to find out about their diet and habitat and gather information to help halt their decline. And they are turning their attention to the Mountains for help.

Jessica Rooke, an honours student at the University of New South Wales, has been working on the first tagging project of the birds in Sydney, but is asking Mountains bird enthusiasts to keep an eye out for this “iconic species which is largely understudied and in significant decline”.

Iconic species needs your help: A yellow-tailed black cockatoo in Sydney's Centennial Park. Photo: Peter Rae.

Iconic species needs your help: A yellow-tailed black cockatoo in Sydney's Centennial Park. Photo: Peter Rae.

 "A lot of people are under the false impression that the population of yellow-tailed black cockatoos is doing quite well," Ms Rooke said. "But some of the recent research has shown they've significantly declined along the east coast, so now more than ever we need to find out as much as we can about them."

A lot of people are under the false impression that the population of yellow-tailed black cockatoos is doing quite well

Jessica Rooke

“The Blue Mountains has previously been said to be a breeding site for the species. Almost nothing is known about the species breeding ecology, so it is one of the project’s main objectives. I'm hoping to reach those in the Blue Mountains community that have information about nest site locations, and whether they are site faithful year after year.”

She is in touch with the Blue Mountains Conservation Society (putting out a call for help through their newsletter earlier this year) as well as the Blue Mountains Bird Observers and Bushcare members.

“I’m hoping that if we receive enough reports and information I will be making a trip to the Mountains to investigate habitat selection, breeding and foraging behaviour. Currently, none of our tracked birds have made it to the Blue Mountains but if they do, I’ll certainly be travelling there.”

The yellow-tailed black cockatoo is found from central Queensland to South Australia's Eyre Peninsula. It eats the seeds of native trees and pine cones but in urbanised areas is foraging on introduced pine cones in parks and on golf courses.

“You can help by reporting your sightings on the Centre for Ecosystem Science website [https://www.ecosystem.unsw.edu.au/] by typing ‘black cockatoo’,” she said. Extra queries to j.rooke@student.unsw.edu.au.