Thursday, 16 March 2017

Glossy Black-Cockatoo

Glossy Black-Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus lathami) in Victoria are confined to far East Gippsland.  Within this area they are further confined to forests with good stands of Allocasuarina littoralis (Black She-oak), the cones providing seeds for this specialised feeder.  This strong association, between bird and tree, has given rise to one of its other names, Casuarina Cockatoo. More information on this bird can be found at:

Finding Glossy Black-Cockatoos in East Gippsland is a little like looking for a needle-in-a-haystack or rather a Black She-oak grove. The Morcombe field-guide provides a good description of their behaviour, “Small parties, commonly up to 10 birds, spend most of the day quietly feeding in the foliage of casuarina trees, the only sound being the busy clicking of bills as they demolish the hard, woody seed capsules.”. So, the best method to find them is to drive slowly along forest tracks where there are abundant stands of Black She-oak and hope that some birds are feeding near the road and they flush as you approach. Stopping in particularly good patches of casuarina to look and listen will also increase your chances of finding some.

Sightings of Glossy Blacks west of the Snowy River is somewhat rare and their most westerly occurrence (possibly vagrant) is in forest not far north west of Lakes Entrance. Most recorded sightings in East Gippsland are around Mallacoota where there is relatively good access to forests and a good number of observers compared with the remote country west to the Snowy River.

By good luck we recently managed to flush a pair from a food tree beside Lagoon Track in State Forest south west of Newmerella and not far west of the Snowy River. Glossy Blacks are confiding birds and when flushed from food trees will often just fly a short distance to a higher vantage point in a eucalypt and then sit and watch the intruders. Such was the case for the pair in the following photos. Unfortunately, I was forced to take photos looking into the sun however I had plenty of time to make camera adjustments to deal with the light conditions and further adjust images on the computer later.

Please click on photos to enlarge.

The female Glossy Black-Cockatoo in the Black She-oak which the pair flushed from – note the abundant seed cones.

The male (right)and female (left) Glossy Black-Cockatoos flew from the feeding tree to a perch nearby.
The Male Glossy Black-Cockatoo.
The female Glossy Black-Cockatoo – note the patches of yellow around the neck and face.

Note the small rounded crest visible on the male at the right.

They settled down to some grooming.

Glossy Blacks pair bond for life and stay close together. 

Glossy Black pairs often groom one another and no doubt search for and remove parasites, especially around the head and neck area, which can’t be reached with their own bills. It is moving to watch this behaviour and from a human perspective it is hard not to see them as “love birds”. The following photos show some mutual grooming.

Highly specialised feeders, Glossy Black-Cockatoos are vulnerable as they depend on a few species of Allocasuarina, and during the breeding season, suitable old trees with nest hollows in proximity to a suitable food source. In the ACT and SA (there is a small isolated population on Kangaroo Island) they are listed as Endangered and in Victoria, NSW and Queensland they are listed as Vulnerable.