Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Burning Questions for Black Cockatoos

By Leonie Valentine and Richard Hobbs

Fire management around Perth may hold the key to the future of an endangered cockatoo.

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The gregarious Carnaby’s cockatoo is such a common sight in Perth that it is easy to forget it is endangered and that the urban and agricultural expansion of south-western Australia has removed the bulk of its habitat. How we manage their remaining habitat will have important consequences for the species’ survival.

South-western Australia has undergone extensive habitat loss from agricultural and urban development. Less than 30% of the original vegetation now remains. As a consequence, the endemic Carnaby’s cockatoo has experienced widespread loss of nesting and feeding habitat and is considered endangered under the IUCN Red List, as well as Australian federal and state legislation. Since the 1950s, numbers of the Carnaby’s cockatoo have declined by more than 50%, with its range contracting by over 30%.

Carnaby’s cockatoo forages predominantly upon seeds in coastal areas during the non-breeding season (January–June), with most adults migrating to the inland wheat belt during winter to breed. Food is limited in both their breeding and non-breeding range.

The largest population of birds during the non-breeding season is found north of rapidly growing Perth. In this fragmented peri-urban and rural environment, birds feed on seed from dominant native banksia species in remnant native vegetation. They will also feed on the introduced maritime pine in...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.