Avian Species Menu

Black Cockatoo

Black Cockatoo

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Species Organizations

National Audubon Society
Website: www.audubon.org
Cornell Lab of Orinthology
Website: www.birds.cornell.edu
The Avian Web
Website: www.avianweb.com

Classification
Order Psittaciformes, Family Cacatuidae
Scientific Name
Calyptorhynchus Funereus
Other Common Names
N/A
Species Description
Birds have a generally brownish-black plumage. All the feathers are edged with yellow. They have yellow ear-coverts. The central tail feathers are brownish-black, and the adjacent feathers are brownish-black with a broad yellow ban, barred with black. The iris is dark brown and the periophthalmic ring is flesh colored. The feet are greyish-brown and the bill is dark grey. The female is similar to the male, but the ear-coverts are a brighter yellow. The yellow band on the tail feathers is more heavily spotted. Her bill is horn-colored and the periophthalmic ring is dark grey. The young look like the female, but males have duller ear-coverts, whitish-yellow pannels on the tail and greyish tinge to the bill. They grow to 58cm - 65 cm.


Habitat
In the wild, the Black Cockatoo Inhabits the south eastern and south western corners of Australia and is mainly found in tall eucalypt forests and pine plantations.

Distribution
Native to the south-east of Australia. It is found from Eyre Peninsula to south and central eastern Queensland. In some places at least, they appear to have adapted to humans and can be often seen in many parts of urban Sydney and Melbourne.

Although not particularly common, they are one of the most well-loved and characteristic birds of southern Australia. They are usually seen flying at only moderate height. They have particularly large wings and flap deeply, very slowly, and with a peculiar heavy, fluid motion. Their loud, eerie wailing calls carry for long distances, and the combination of sound and silhouette is unmistakable.


Captivity
The Black Cockatoo has a need for attention that far outweighs any of the other cockatoo species, making this an extremely high maintenance bird and one that is generally not suitable as a pet. These birds are highly prone to stress in captivity and often become susceptible to behavioural problems such as feather picking and excessive screaming.

Summary
The cockatoos are generally large to medium sized parrots, with one species, the Cockatiel, being quite smaller than the other species. Cockatoos share many features with other parrots including the characteristic curved beak shape and a zygodactyl foot, with two forward toes and two backwards toes. They differ, however in a number of characteristics, including the often spectacular movable headcrest, the presence of a gall bladder and some other anatomical details, and their lack of the Dyck texture feather composition which causes the bright blues and greens seen in true parrots. Like other parrots, they have short tarsi but strong claws, and walk with a slow waddle, often using their strong bill as a third limb when climbing branches. They generally have long narrow wings used in rapid flight, with speeds of 70 km/h being recorded for some species. The black cockatoos, however, along with the Major Mitchell's Cockatoo, have shorted more rounded wings and a more leisurely flight.

The cockatoos have large bills which are kept sharp by rasping the two mandibles together when resting. The huge bills are complemented by large muscular tongues which help manipulate seeds inside the bills so that they can be de-husked before eating. During the de-husking the lower mandible applies the pressure, the tongue holds the seed in place and the upper mandible acts as an anvil.

The plumage of the cockatoos is less brightly colored than that of the other parrots, with species generally being either black, grey or white. Many species have smaller areas of color on their plumage, often yellow, pink and red, and usually on the crest or tail. A few species, like the Galah, have larger areas of color. In addition to their plumage many species have brightly colored bare areas around the eye and face, with the Palm Cockatoo having a large red patch of bare skin across the face. A few species exhibit sexual dimorphism in the plumage, with this being most pronounced in the Gang-gang Cockatoo and the Cockateil. Sexual differences in plumage are more common in the black cockatoos, but many cockatoos vary slightly in overall size and weight, with the males being on average larger. The iris color is often brown in adult females and differs from the black irises often seen in adult males, but this may not be totally reliable to identify the gender of a cockatoo.

Behavior: Cockatoos are diurnal, requiring daylight to find their food. They are not early risers, instead waiting until the sun has warmed their roosting sites before feeding. The 21 species are generally highly social and will roost, forage and travel together, often in large flocks. All species require roosting sites that are sometimes located near drinking sites, but many species may travel great distances between the roosting sites and feeding sites.

Cockatoos have several characteristic methods of bathing; they may hang upside down or fly about in the rain, or flutter in wet leaves in the canopy.

Calls and Communication: The vocalisations of cockatoos are loud and harsh. They serve a number of functions, including allowing individuals to recognize one another, warning others of predators, indicating individual moods, maintaining the cohesion of a flock and as warnings when defending nests. The use of calls and number of specific calls varies by species, some like the Short-billed Black Cockatoo have as many as 15 different calls, whereas others like the Major Mitchell's Cockatoo have far fewer. Some species, like the Gang-gang Cockatoo are comparatively quiet, but do have softer growling calls when feeding. In addition to vocalisations, the Palm Cockatoos communicate over large distances by drumming a dead branch with a stick. Cockatoo species also make a characteristic hissing sound when threatened.

Diet and Feeding: The cockatoos are versatile feeders and consume a range of food items. Seeds form a large part of the diet of all species; these are opened with their large and powerful bills. Cockatoos may feed either individually or in flocks that range in size from small to quite immense. The Galahs, corellas and some of the black cockatoos feed primarily on the ground, others feed mostly in trees. The ground feeding species tend to feed in flocks, which can wither feed in tight, squabbling groups where seeds are concentrated, or in more dispersed lines where the seeds are less concentrated and more widely distributed.


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