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Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo

Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos Male (rear) and female (perched); note barring on tail.

 

The Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus banksii is a large dark grey-black cockatoo up to 63cm in length. Its genus name Calyptorhynchus is derived from the Greek words calyptos — hidden — and rhynchus — beak.

It has a rounded crest and a large bill; males have a dark bill and an obvious red tail band whilst females have fine yellow spots on the head and wings with yellow barring across the breast. Females also have a more yellow-orange-red barred tail band and a creamy coloured bill. Juveniles have similar markings to females and a duskier coloured bill.

Five distinct subspecies are recognised in Australia, with considerable variations in overall size, bill shape, bill size and colour between each of the races.

Calyptorhynchus banksii subspecies

  • Calyptorhynchus banksii graptogyne - South-west Victoria and south-east of South Australia.
  • Calyptorhynchus banksii banksii - Northern and eastern Queensland.
  • Calyptorhynchus banksii macrorhynchus - Northern Western Australia, Northern Territory and Gulf of Carpentaria.
  • Calyptorhynchus banksii samueli - Inland Australia from western side of Western Australia, Central Australia and patchy through the Murray-Darling area in western New South Wales.
  • Calyptorhynchus banksii naso - South-west corner of Western Australia.

The south-eastern Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus banksii graptogyne

South-eastern Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo
Calyptorhynchus banksii graptogyne 
Kingdom:   Animalia
Phylum:   Chordata
Class:   Aves
Order:   Psittaciformes
Family:   Cacatuidae
Status
Australia:  Endangered EPBC Act
Victoria:  Endangered DELWP 
FFG:  Action statement No. 37

 

This subspecies is smaller in overall body size than other subspecies. It also has the lowest population and is restricted to the south-west of Victoria and adjacent areas in the south-east of South Australia. The population in 1996 was estimated to be not more than 1000 with only a small proportion (10%) or 100 breeding pairs (Emison 1996), In 2002 the highest count was 785 birds (Commonwealth of Aust. 2007). In 2015 the population was estimated to be around 1500 individuals. The 2016 count was 901 birds. Monitoring of flock counts in 2016 also found that either no young from the past three years have survived to join flocks or that there has been an increase in the death rates of adult females (Red-tail newsletter  Issue 43 November 2016).

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All known records of the Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo. Source: Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning August 2015

Habitat & ecology

The south-eastern Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo inhabits Brown Stringybark Eucalyptus baxteri woodlands (Heathy Woodland EVC) as well as River Red Gum Eucalyptus camaldulensis, Yellow Gum Eucalyptus leucoxylon, Swamp Gum Eucalyptus ovata, Buloke Allocasuarina luehmannii, Drooping Sheaoak Allocasuarina verticillata and occasional patches of Pink Gum Eucalyptus fasciculosa.

Different habitats are used for feeding, nesting and roosting; feeding areas of Heathy Woodland EVC are mostly within state forests and parks reserves whilst Buloke feeding areas and nesting habitat with Red Gum associated EVCs are predominantly on private land (Joseph 1991, Venn 1993, RFA 2000, Maron 2005). Approximately 68% of roosting habitat is located on private land with Red Gums being the most utilised trees (Commonwealth of Australia 2005).

Feeding

Diet of the south-eastern Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo is specialised, consisting of seeds from the Brown Stringybark Eucalyptus baxteri as the primary source of food and at certain times Bulokes Allocasuarina luehmannii. Buloke trees in paddocks in the southern Wimmera have been identified as providing critical feeding habitat in this area (Maron 2005) and Buloke dominated woodlands of this region are nationally endangered under the EPBC Act 1999 (DEH 2000). Buloke seed is only available during January to March and the Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo only forages in large mature trees greater than 19cm dbh (diameter at breast height) which are estimated between 100 years to 200 years old. They prefer trees over 200 years old (Maron and Lill 2004). Different trees are used in different years with the most valuable trees being large, with large cone crops and close to other Bulokes (Loyn et al. 2007).

Nesting

A six year study of nesting between 1988-1994 found a low incidence of nesting with only 16 nests being the highest number recorded in any one year. Nesting has only been recorded in the northern half of the range. Hollows in River Red Gums Eucalyptus camaldulensis provide the most favoured habitat for nesting, with 90% of recorded nest sites being located on private farmland. Of these 85% were found in dead, usually ring barked, trees (Emison 1996).

Tree hollows are needed for Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo nesting

Female Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo feeding young. Footage: courtesy Bob McPherson.

Threats

A shortage of food sources has been identified as the main threat to the survival of the south-eastern Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo with associations between the amount of seed production and nesting success (Commonwealth of Aust. 2005).

Loss of paddock trees

Loss of Buloke feeding trees

Natural senescence and the intensification of agricultural practices are contributing to the continuing loss of paddock trees in the southern Wimmera area where much of the Buloke woodland vegetation community is now only represented by relict Buloke trees in paddocks. A study into the rate of loss of Buloke trees has found less than 2% of this important food species remains. Over the past 15 years in the southern Wimmera there has been a 25.8% loss with three times as many trees being removed for centre pivot irrigation. There has been a 63 % decline of Bulokes in cropping areas and a 32 % decline in grazing areas.Further, it has been estimated that only 35% of the 1981/82 count of Bulokes will remain by 2020 and that it could takes up to 100 years to replace feeding trees. In the meantime there is going to be a prolonged period with extremely low Buloke feeding habitat (Maron 2005).

Loss of Stringybark feeding trees

About 54% of the Strinybark food resource has been cleared and now mainly exists in Public Land. Significant seed resources are still present in scattered trees on private land, the number of trees may be significantly reduced but the remaining trees have high seed crops making them a valuable feeding resource. Unfortunately old large paddock trees are not being replaced at high enough rate to cater for RTBC feeding needs into the future.

Fuel reduction burning

Fuel reduction burning in state forest and park reserves can impact on seed production in Brown Stringybark forests. Excessively hot fires can reduce fruit production for up to nine years, which can limit the availability of food. (Venn 1993, Commonwealth of Aust. 2005). Burning of stubble can result in loss of Buloke feeding trees (Maron 2005) and loss of dead Red Gums, which provide nesting habitat.

Wildfire

Wildfire can have major impacts on recovery of woodland communities utilised by the south-eastern Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo. Red Gum and Yellow Gum do not respond well to burning, particularly as dead trees which provide nesting opportunities can be lost. When fires are intense enough to cause crown scorch in Stringybark feeding habitat, food production is reduced for an average of 10 years. This is a major threat to this food-limited species.

Loss of tree hollows

The loss of nesting trees since 1947 has been dramatic. There has been a 39% loss on grazing landscapes and a 49% loss on in cropping areas, a 53% loss in Pivot irrigation and 69% loss in Plantation areas.

Firewood collection, particularly from River Red Gums which provide high value firewood, can result in loss of nesting and roosting habitat. Other threats to the viability of the population stem from the low breeding population and loss of genetic diversity. Invasion of hollows by bees, possums and possibly Starlings can further impede the quality and quantity of nesting suitability.

Large hollows tend only to form in the old large diameter trees. The smallest diameter trees used for nesting are 60cm, with the average nesting trees 100 cm dia. About 90 % of the former large nesting trees have been lost, this has occurred mainly on Public Land. The remaining old large suitable nesting trees are mainly on private land but there is minimal regeneration of scattered trees on private land, therefore the nesting resource will continue to decline.

Illegal birding

The collection of eggs and chicks for the illegal bird trade is of concern, particularly as nest sites become targeted by thieves and around the clock monitoring is difficult. Members of the public are encouraged to report people who may be unlawfully keeping and trading Red-tailed Black-cockatoos or people behaving suspiciously at or near key habitat locations; call DELWP’s Customer Call Centre on 136 186.

Conservation measures

Trials of supplementary nest hollows on poles and in dead trees have proven worthwhile. Trials in 1993-1994 found there was a high uptake, which accounted for 45% of total south-eastern Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo nests in that year (Emison 1996).

Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo chick in artificial PVC hollow which is the first time successful nesting has been recorded in this type of hollow.

Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo advanced chick in supplementary hollow made from a natural wood hollow.

Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo fledgling in a supplementary natural wood hollow nest attached to a pole.

Implementation of an Environmental Significance Overlay (ESO) Red-tailed Black Cockatoo overlay within the Glenelg Shire and West Wimmera Shire Planning Schemes. These planning overlays require a permit to remove any dead eucalypts (or River Red Gums in the case of Glenelg Shire) with a diameter greater than 60cm at 1 metre above ground level.

Fuel reduction management guidelines in Horsham and Portland Forest Management Areas to maintain 85% of Stringybarks that have not experienced a crown-scorch fire event for at least 10 years.  Assessments are carried out to identify areas which need to be deferred from fuel reduction burning where they contain prime stringybark seed feeding habitat.

The present Recovery Plan was prepared in 2007 and has 17 actions.  Staff from DELWP and Birdlife Australia are working on the preparation of a new plan in 2013 in consultation with partners, stakeholders, volunteers and the community.

New 2013 draft plan - to be released soon.

2007 Recovery Plan

Research

Flock counts

1. Determine the minimum number known to be alive and to gain an insight into previous seasons breeding success. 

Birdlife Australia with the help of volunteers conducts an annual count (usually April/May). 

2. Investigate how this data may be used in a long-term analysis of population trends.

2013 Annual count, 1118 birds (excluding double counts) were counted in Stringybark forest across the species range in South East of SA and South West Victoria in May.   

The 2013 count was down by 350 birds on the 2012 count of 1468 birds  but it is likely that birds were just missed on the day, rather than the population suffering a significant decline over the last year.

2015 Annual count, 1545 birds (excluding double counts). This count wa heldin May and had 77 more birds than the previous best tally of 1468 recorded back in 2012.

2016 Annual count, 901 birds (excluding double counts) which is a decline since the previous year's count of  1545 birds.

It is important to note that fluctuations in annual counts will occur as birds may be more dispersed or concentrated across their range from one year to the next. The critically small population is believed to be still in decline based on the ongoing loss and deterioration of the species’ key habitats.

In order to better refine the flock count methodology the project team developed a new survey protocol in 2015/16 which clearly describes the manner in which flock counts are to be conducted.

3. Analyse flock count data and compare results with food availability information. 

Year 7 of a 10 year study has found a definite link between breeding success and food availability. Red-tails are absolutely dependant on the fruit from the two types of local stringybarks (Desert and Brown Stringybark). Red-tails also eat from Bulokes but Stringybarks provide year round food (Bulokes only have seed available for a couple of months a year).

Monitoring of seed crop revealed that in the breeding season of 2015 there were basically no new seed crops on Stringybark trees at any of the monitoring sites across the Red-tail range. In seven years of detailed monitoring of Stringybark seed production the recovery team has never seen a year with so little food for Red-tails. 

Monitoring of flock counts in 2016 also found that either no young from the past three years have survived to join flocks or that there has been an increase in the death rates of adult females.

Flock count surveys summary

Nest trees

Undertake surveys to locate and protect nest trees. The Nest Incentive Scheme has been set up to encourage reporting of nests. Fifteen nests were reported to the project team over the 2012/13 season (September -January), with 6 confirmed new nests. Since July 2011 there are 14 new confirmed nest sites. New nests have been found near Benayeo, Casterton, Powers Creek, Edenhope, Dry Creek and Naracoorte.  No new nests were found over the 2014- 15 breeding season. Of the 14 ‘new’ nests found, five have been re-used by Red-tails again in subsequent years. 

The Nest Incentive Scheme continues for the 2016/17 season. Anyone who observes nesting behaviour is encouraged to report their observations to the Project Coordinator on 1800 262 062 or by e-mail

Stringybark seed crop assessments

Identify and protect prime Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo  feeding habitat.  In 2012, DSE carried out surveys of Stringybark forests to identify important feeding habitat in areas planned for fuel reduction burns. In the Far South West Fire District 34 planned burns totalling 12,041 ha with 8,094 ha of stringybark were assessed for seed crop. Four of the planned burns, 767 ha in total with 511 ha of stringybark were deferred because of the high seed crop which can provide prime feeding habitat.

In the Wimmera Fire District 25 planned burns were assessed (11,130 ha) with 4 planned burns (1,268 ha) deferred due to high seed loads in brown and desert stringy bark.

Buloke seeding

Monitor Buloke seeding - Buloke trees provide a food source from January to March. It has been observed that the Buloke seed crop in 2014 & 2015 has been reduced possibly due to lack of rainfall.  Seeding was finished by the end of February.

Bioacoustics  PhD

In 2016 a PhD in the application of bioacoustics (combines studies in biology and sound) for conservation commenced to develop and implement bioacoustics techniques to improve the nest monitoring of Red-tailed Black-cockatoos.  During the 2016-17 peak breeding season, 9 nests were monitored. Once breeding-related calling behaviour is understood, bioacoustic methods can be tested in the field, to investigate important questions about breeding location, nest survival rates, hunger, and the relationship to feeding habitat.

Illegal birding

In 2017 a Victorian state-wide wildlife compliance operation 'Operation Eclipse' will be implemented by DELWP’s Wildlife Officers. Members of the public are encouraged to report people who may be unlawfully keeping and trading in Red-tailed Black-cockatoos or people behaving suspiciously at or near key habitat locations; call DELWP’s Customer Call Centre on 136 186.

 

Management partnerships

Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo Recovery Team; this team has members from Birdlife Australia, Victorian & South Australian State Government and Federal environment agencies, Glenelg Hopkins and Wimmera Catchment Management Authorities, South Australian Farmer’s Federation, Forestry SA., Trust for Nature, Threatened Species Network, Local Government and other specialists knowledgeable about the species or its habitat. The team is involved with extension, research, planning and habitat protection activities. Recovery Team site Redtail 

Birdlife Australiaundertake flock counts. Confirm the relationship between the location of nests/location of nesting hotspots and distance to stringybark. Undertake Stringybark seed counts.

Trust for NaturePermanently protect habitats through covenants and land purchase. Work has been underway towards protecting habitat through conservation covenants. There are now 50 covenants in the GHCMA region and 90 in the Wimmera region. Significant areas of Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo habitat have been covenanted since July 2006, 336 ha of habitat in the Wimmera and 104 ha in Glenelg Hopkins region.

Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning - Manage threats to the productivity of scattered feed trees and minimise permitted clearance habitats incorporating adequate off-sets.

Assess illegal trade: determine the magnitude of the illegal trade in South-east Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos. Conduct surveillance and information gathering relating to illegal trade in Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo.

Ensure that potential impacts on Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos are considered in planning and conduct of ecological burns and wildfire suppression actions. Red-tailed Black-cockatoo and fire study 2009.

In 2017 a state-wide wildlife compliance operation 'Operation Eclipse' will be implemented by DELWP’s Wildlife Officers. DELWP is encouraging Victorians to report people who may be unlawfully keeping and trading these birds or people behaving suspiciously at or near key habitat locations; call DELWP’s Customer Call Centre on 136 186

Greening Australia  - Significant revegetation projects have been undertaken in the Drajurk State Forest near Casterton and Rennick State Forest near the South Australian border involving the control of Pines and Coastal Wattle and planting of Desert Stringybark  (Eucalyptus aranacea) and Brown Strinybark (Eucalyptus baxteri) . This project is carried out by Greening Australia supported by the Australian Government through the National Landcare Programme.

It is anticipated that an area covering 1,400 hectares will be revegetated via tube-stock and direct seeding in 2017, as well as a further 400 hectares in 2018.

Wimmera CMA;  Protect 40 Buloke scattered paddock trees per year. Plant or encourage regeneration of key habitats: 18,000 new Buloke plants per year. A Habitat Tender is being managed through the CMA, prime habitat areas have been identified with the first round of payments for securing Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo habitat being made by the end of 2006. Report annually the number of scattered paddock trees protected.

Glenelg Hopkins CMA  - Protect 40 Desert Stringybark scattered paddock trees per year. Plant or encourage regeneration of key habitats: 10,000 new stringybark plants per year. Glenelg Hopkins CMA and Conservation Volunteers Australia will treat pine wildlings to improve habitat for Red-tailed Black Cockatoos over a 7000ha area within Drajurk State Forest and Wilkin Flora Reserve.

West Wimmera Shire; the WW Shire and Department of Sustainability and Environment Horsham are developing an Environment Significance Overlay to further protect Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo habitats on private land in the Shire. Limit the impacts of stubble burning on remnant paddock trees.

Arthur Rylah Institute (ARI); Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo Roadside foraging study:  Research is proposed to provide information on the age of trees in which Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos will feed.

Nature Foundation of South Australia funds the Nest Incentive Scheme which can pay members of the public (especially landholders) for finding Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo nests. Payments are available for discovery of new nests and for finding existing nests.

Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) supports the Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo by undertaking tree planting to promote future feeding and roosting areas.  Thousands of trees have been planted at the Casterton water treatment works and CVA planted 1000 Buloke seedlings at Clear Lake and 1500 at Bringalbert. Further plantings are planned in the Edenhope, Casterton and Apsley areas. Pine wilding removal is also carried out to maintain the stringybark forest as well as protection, propagation and planting of stringybark trees on private land. See Glenelg Hopkins CMA above.

The University of Melbourne Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences - In 2015 researchers worked with the Recovery Team to trial a method of surveying for disease by testing swabs obtained from nest sites used by Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos.

Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, South Australia have developed a range of ecological fire management measures to provide adequate feeding resources for the Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo by reducing the amount of seed scorch during burning. DEWNR South Australia Ecological Fire Management Strategies

Conservation Volunteers Australia and Birdlife Australia nest tree collars are maintained to prevent possums from occupying nest hollows.

School of Forest and Ecosystem Science, University of Melbourne, Casterton Biodiversity Project.

Portland North Primary School  - seed collection,  propagation and planting for a school revegetation project specifically for the Red-tailed Black-cockatoo.

 

References

  • Commonwealth of Australia (2007). National Recovery Plan for the South-eastern Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus banksii graptogyne. Department of the Environment and Water Resources, Canberra.

  • DEH (2000) Endangered Ecological Community, Buloke Woodlands of the Riverina and Murray Darling depression Bioregions.

  • Emison, B. (1996) Use of Supplementary Nest hollows by an Endangered Subspecies of Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Victorian Naturalist, vol 113 (5), p262-263.
  • Joseph L., Emison W.B., & Bren W.M., Critical assessment of the conservation status of red-tailed black-cockatoos in south-eastern Australia with special reference to nesting requirements :, Emu, 91(1), 1991, 46–50.
  • Loyn, R., Cheers, G., Roberts, E., & Lucas, A. (2007) Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos and Bulokes: what determines which trees are used for feeding? A report to the threatened species section, Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services Division, Department of Sustainability and Environment.
  • Maron, M. and Lill, A. 2004. Discrimination among potential buloke (Allocasuarina luehmannii) feeding trees by the endangered south-eastern red-tailed black-cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii graptogyne). Wildlife Research 31: 311-317.
  • Maron Martine (2005) Agricultural change and paddock tre loss: Implications for an endangered subspecies of Red-tailed Black cockatoo, Ecological Management & Restoration Vol.6, (3); 206-211.
  • Red-tail newsletter  Issue 43 November 2016  (pdf).
  • RFA (2000) West Victoria Regional Forest Agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of Victoria, March 2000.
  • Venn, D.R., Fisher J. (1993) Flora & Fauna Guarantee Action Statement No.37: Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, DSE.

See also

 

 

If you see a Red-tailed Black-cockatoo phone 1800 262 062, email  or report your sighting via the Red-tail website

When reporting a sighting please remember to include: date and time, place (CFS/CFA map reference is appreciated), how many birds, what they were doing (i.e feeding, drinking, flying), and your name and phone number/email.

If you see people behaving suspiciously at or near key Red-tailed Black-cockatoo habitat locations in Victoria; call DELWP’s Customer Call Centre on 136 186.

Please contribute information regarding the Red-tailed Black-cockatoo - observations, images or projects.  Contact SWIFFT 

 

 

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