Carnaby’s Cockatoos In Trouble, Conservationists Warn

Australian researchers hope state and federal governments will step in to help these endangered birds.

Carnaby's cockatoo
By Ken & Nyetta [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Carnaby’s cockatoos are also known as short-billed black cockatoos.

Carnaby? cockatoos ?formally
Calyptorhynchus latirostris, now Zanda latirostris, according to BirdLife International ?are in trouble in Australia, as recent surveys have shown. Habitat loss is to blame, and due to population decreases, Australian conservationists are hoping the Federal Threatened Species Commissioner will step in to help them.

“Over the past 45 years their population throughout the south-west has dropped by half,” Tegan Douglas told 720 ABC Perth in the article “Saving Carnaby’s cockatoo: Survey shows numbers of the WA birds worryingly low, habitat loss blamed.?Douglas is a coordinator with the Birdlife Australia program Cockies in Crisis. “These figures show the population in Perth is going to drop by half again over the next five years.”

According to BirdLife:

“Since the 1950s, most feeding habitat for breeding [Carnaby? cockatoos] has been cleared for agriculture. Remnants are fragmented, threatened by rising soil salinity and weed invasion, and are often so far from nesting areas that growth rate and survival of nestlings are affected and eventually breeding ceases altogether. Fires and the introduced plant pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi have also destroyed large tracts of suitable habitat. Breeding habitat has also been extensively cleared and, for at least 60 years, there has been little regeneration of nest trees because of grazing by sheep and rabbits.?lt;/span>

BirdLife Australia keeps track of the population, doing annual “Great Cocky Counts,” where 600 volunteers in 300 locations count the birds, according to 720 ABC Perth. “Everyone goes out on the same night so we know we are not double counting birds,” Douglas said. “If you repeat this year after year you get to see the pattern with these birds … Unfortunately at the moment it is a pattern that we are not happy to see.”

As more and more of their habitat is lost, the birds lose their breeding grounds, according to BirdLife: 

“As habitat is cleared, the species is likely to become more susceptible to human-related threats such as collisions with cars and shooting (Saunders 1982). Many patches of native habitat are situated near human settlements and traversed by roads and railway lines (Saunders 1990), and birds may become increasingly reliant on commercial crops (Saunders 1982). As habitat becomes patchy, local populations may fail to locate suitable feeding areas (Saunders 1990). The species’s long pair bonds and high breeding-site fidelity may mean that birds do not disperse following disturbance and may persist at the same breeding sites until all habitat in an area is cleared or the local population dies out.”

Birdlife estimates the population to be around 40,000 birds, separated into four subpopulations. For those who want to help the birds, BirdLife Australia is asking people to plant native trees and provide water for the birds to help them.

“Birdlife Australia is also hoping to see action at a state government level,” writes Emma Wynne, the author of the 720 ABC Perth story. “With an overarching plan for the greater Perth region that supports biodiversity along with development.?lt;/span>

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