Yellow-tailed black cockatoo – Zanda funerea

Yellow-tailed black cockatoos are reasonably common along certain sections of the range and always leave a lasting impression in anyone who sees them, because of their sheer size.

They are in fact Australia’s largest cockatoo – by length but not weight. That honour goes to the Palm cockatoos in northern Queensland.

The sexes are most easily distinguished by the red eye ring which only the males have. They favour eucalypt forests along the range when breeding, which occurs in our area in winter and spring. As large birds they need sizeable hollows which can be up to two metres in length. This requires mature trees and throughout Australia they are suffering due to habitat loss and the felling of trees.

They usually lay two eggs, which are incubated only by the female. In this period she will be fed several times a day by the male. The first egg is laid a few days ahead of the second and is larger as well. This chick hatches first by a few days and the second chick is ignored by its parents and dies shortly afterwards. Both parents feed the surviving chick and upon fledging the chick will stay with its parents until the breeding season the following year. For this is reason it is quite common to see them in groups of three.

Although favouring seeds from native trees and shrubs such as eucalypts banksias and hakeas they are one of the few Psittaciformes to actually eat animals. They will listen along branches for the movements of moth and beetle larvae and then strip the wood back with their powerful beak to reveal the grub. For more on these beautiful birds see birdbites.com.au and the Bird Bites facebook and youtube channels.

This article first appeared in the High Country Herald 4th of December 2023