Mapping Glossy Blacks

Mapping Glossy Blacks

The Glossy Black-CockatoO (Calyptorhynchus lathami) is one of the more threatened species of cockatoo in Australia and is listed as vulnerable in NSW.

Help to map these special birds and their habitats

Atlas of Life and Canberra Nature Map are working with the OEH Saving Our Species program in an ongoing Special Project to map the distribution of Glossy Black-Cockatoos, and the location of suitable nest hollows.

You can help by recording sightings anywhere across south-eastern NSW & the ACT

Recognising the birds

Most people recognise a cockatoo, and 'black cockatoos' are a familiar sight in many parts of Australia. The Glossy Black-Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami), however, is a different species to the well-known Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus funereus).

And Glossy Black-Cockatoos are also much, much less common.

Click the images below to enlarge, and 'hover' for image details


Some features to look for in recognising Glossy Black-Cockatoos

  • Small size ... considerably smaller than Yellow-tailed blacks.

  • Red or orange-red tail feathers. Males have bright red panels in their tails, while females and juveniles have orange-red panels with varying amounts of black barring.

  • Females have variable amounts of yellow on the head and neck.

  • Heavy, rounded beak.

  • Short tail, clearly shorter than Yellow-tailed blacks when seen in flight.

  • Usually seen in pairs or small groups.

  • Soft, wavering call in flight - again, very different to the Yellow-tailed black call.

Where to look for Glossy Black-Cockatoos

Glossy Blacks feed almost exclusively on Allocasuarina fruit (often called 'she-oak cones'). They feed in trees, never on the ground. 

Small groups will sit quietly, chewing on the fruit, sometimes remaining in the same tree for hours. In fact the squeaking and cracking of their feeding is often the first indication of their presence. Such feasting also leaves tell-tale evidence long after they've gone ... the scattering of torn Allocasuarina fruit on the forest floor is quite diagnostic. 

What to record & photograph

The location, the number of birds (including sex & age - adult/juvenile - if apparent), and their behaviour at the time. Try to photograph the birds - even an image from a distance may be sufficient to confirm the identification.


Most NatureMapr sightings require a photograph. We recognise, however, that many experienced 'birders' are able to confidently identify a bird based on sight or call alone. We are keen to include such sightings. If you are confident in your identification, please go ahead and add a sighting to NatureMapr. We simply ask that in the comments field you describe what you based your identification on, including how you excluded similar, candidate species. Also, please note your level of experience (e.g. "active member of Far South Coast Birdwatchers for many years").


Recognising feeding sites

Identifying where Glossy Black-Cockatoos feed and nest is potentially even more valuable than sightings of the birds themselves. The tell-tale traces of recent feeding are the scattering of torn Allocasuarina cones. These small 'cones' are exceptionally tough, and if you find them torn apart in this way, you can be confident that Glossies have been feeding in the tree above.

The images below show the chewed cones, alongside intact cones, of Allocasuarina littoralis. This is a typical feed tree species for Glossy Black-Cockatoos across the Atlas of Life region.

What to record & photograph

Photograph the cones AND the tree, and record this as a sighting on NatureMapr.


Recognising potential nest hollows

The Threatened Species unit is particularly keen to identify trees which could be nesting sites for Glossy Black-Cockatoos. Protecting suitable nest sites is critical to saving this species. 

Glossy Black-Cockatoos nest in tree hollows ... but not just any hollows. Studies in central NSW have shown that Glossy Blacks in the Goonoo State Forest select nesting sites with the following features:

  • Hollow in a 'spout' that is either vertical or no more than 45 degrees off vertical

  • Entrance diameter of at least 15cm, in a branch or trunk of at least 30cm diameter.

  • Entrance at least 8m above the ground, in the upper part of the trunk or in large, broken branches close to the main trunk

  • Nest trees are usually large and very old eucalypts. As an indication, trunk 'diameter at breast height' (DBH in images below) of at least 60cm.

  • Nest trees are usually either dead or damaged. Storm, insect and (some) fire damage are important factors in creating hollows.

  • The birds favour nesting sites where there are numerous suitable hollows. Pairs prefer to nest in proximity to other pairs, rather than in isolation.

Below are four examples of potential Glossy Black-Cockatoo nest hollows in coastal forests of the Atlas of Life region.

What to record & photograph

Photograph any such hollow-bearing trees that you locate - even if you see no evidence of Glossy Black-Cockatoos in the area - and record this on NatureMapr. Make note of the type of hollow, the species of tree (include photos of the bark and, if possible, leaves, fruit or flowers), and the diameter of the tree at breast height (DBH).


All sightings are recorded using the NatureMapr database. Simply select the appropriate region for your sighting from the links below: 

The region covered by the project

NatureMap network map.jpg

The Mapping Glossy Blacks project involves the Atlas of Life: Coastal WildernessAtlas of Life: Budawang Coast, and Canberra Nature Map. This maps to the southern distribution of Glossy Blacks, and will provide valuable data for conservation of the species.

Surveys of Glossy Black-Cockatoos are challenging, as the birds are often in forested and remote areas. This is where citizen science can help. The more people out there, keeping an eye out and then reporting their sightings, the better! 


If you have any questions about this project, please contact the Project Leader:

David McCreery (‘Macca’)
A/ Senior Project Officer - Saving our Species
South Coast Branch
National Parks and Wildlife Service
PO Box 656 Merimbula NSW 2548 02 6495 5008 M 0438 451 765  W nationalparks.nsw.gov.au



The Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) is actively involved in monitoring and protecting threatened species in NSW, including the Glossy Black-Cockatoo. The data from this project will be used by the OEH to inform their conservation management plans. 


OTHER RESOURCEs, references & Links

OEH information on Glossy Black-Cockatoos

GLOSSIES IN THE MIST: a concurrent and related OEH project spanning the Great Western Wildlife Corridor, between the southern Blue Mountains and Morton National Park, NSW. There is further information on the Wingecarribee Shire Council website. And, if you sight a Glossy in the Great Western Wildlife Corridor, record it here.

Birdlife Australia descriptions: Glossy Black-Cockatoos ; Gang-gang CockatoosYellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos

Cameron. M. (2006). Nesting habits of the glossy black-cockatoo in central New South Wales. Biological Conservation, 127: 402-410.

Recent accounts and photos of Glossy Black-Cockatoos pair-bonding, mating, and feeding (Wonboyn, NSW)