Carnabys Article for Kings Camp

By Paul Strydom on October 14, 2010

Article posted by admin on behalf of a guest.

Hi my name is Heather and I live in Perth Western Australia. I have lived and breathed animals since I was a little girl and during my life have been very privileged to be able to work with many amazing animals and incredible people who work hard to help animals…

Two years ago I was lucky enough to obtain employment with the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation (probably your equivalent of Parks and Wildlife) I work at a beautiful place called Yanchep National Park – a park of great natural beauty and biodiversity and of some 3000 hectares. It is situated some 45 kilometres north of Perth. Yanchep is one of Perth‘s oldest national park having been in existence since the 1930‘s.

It boasts incredible fauna and flora, a wetlands area, a resident population of gorgeous koalas (not in the wild) and an amazing 600 caves – some of which can be explored by visitors as a guided tour – others purely for scientific and research purposes and accessible only by specialist cavers. It is steeped in history both aboriginal and European and is known as Perth‘s cultural and natural meeting place. It also has 8 amazing walk trails of varying length from 500 metres to 17.2 kms. We also have a longer trail of 3 days which encompasses some amazing countryside. We have indigenous activities and a growing volunteer program.

Back in 2000 due to a wonderful volunteer opportunity in a north west town called Broome I developed a great love for birds. This has grown considerably over the years and as the result of opportunities at the Park I am now involved in a number of volunteer activities involving a magnificient bird called the Carnaby‘s Cockatoo or white tailed black as they are commonly known. These birds are only found in Western Australia and is one of only two species of white tailed black cockatoo (the other is the Baudin‘s black cockatoo).

This gorgeous creature is a threatened species due to habitat loss, competition from other bird species and feral bees for their hollows, loss of food sources, illegal shooting and poaching. The Carnaby‘s Cockatoo are an extremely gregarious bird of some considerable size being 53 to 60 cm in length.

There is not much difference between the males and females – apart from the bill and eye ring colour. The males have red eye rings and black bills and the females grey eye rings and lighter grey coloured bills. The juveniles are similar in colour to the mature females.

They are a long lived bird of some 50 years and form permanent relationships with their mate. Their young are hatched after 35 days gestation and are fed for the first two weeks by the female then after that the male also assists up to a period of 11 weeks. When the young are fledged they stay with their parents in a family group until the following season where they join the flock. Whilst the young are being fed the cockatoos roam within a 5 to 10 kilometre radius of their hollow searching for food.

Carnaby‘s black cockatoo migrate throughout the year to satisfy their different nesting and feeding needs.

From early summer through to early winter, the cockatoos live in higher rainfall coastal or near coastal areas in large flocks where they forage for food. In July they begin to move out to the East of Perth to the wheat belt region in search of suitable nesting hollows and breeding sites. The nesting season lasts from late winter to early summer.

The Carnaby‘s require hollows in either live or dead eucalyptus trees (primarily the salmon gum and wandoo). For a hollow to be suitable for their needs they need to be at least 2-10 metres above the ground and have a depth of 0.25 to 6.0 metres. For a tree to support such a hollow it needs to be at least 130 years old.

Following breeding the cockatoos move to the Coastal plain to feed on hakea, dryandra and banksia woodlands. As well they feed in the pine plantations which are located to the East of Yanchep and in other areas on the Swan Coastal Plain. They are omnivores and feed on seeds, nectar and insect larvae. They are also very adaptable and have been seen feeding on other plant species. (e.g. wild radish and corkscrew grass). Banksia is however their principal native food source accounting for 50% of their native feedings and is a critical food source.

The sight of these magnificient birds in the Park is a pleasure to see – their call a delight to hear. There are a lot of people doing amazing things to preserve the Carnaby‘s.

One such amazing person is a fellow by the name of Glenn Dewhurst who co-ordinates the Kaarakin Black Cockatoo Rehabilitation Centre in a place called Martin in the hills area East of Perth. Glenn with his wife, family and a multitude of very dedicated volunteers are working tirelessly to help these birds by developing a rehabilitation and education centre on his 40 hectare property. To visit Glenn is truly inspirational and a privilege to encounter these birds at close quarters.

There is always hope for the future and with dedicated people like Glenn and many others we will continue to hear the call of these magnificient cockatoos for many years to come.

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3 thoughts on “Carnabys Article for Kings Camp

  1. Thank you, Heather, for you informative and insightful narrative. Hope to return to Australia some day..such variety and beauty in your country.

    My hope for future generations, is that we all learn to respect all creatures NOW…the measure of civilization is how we treat all living things. This beautiful and fragile planet needs more like you. Joy, Camarillo, USA

  2. Thank you Heather for taking the time to add your article to our blog. For us at Kings Camp who have a passion for the natural world it is always exciting to learn new things about the wonderful animals and birds around the world.

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