June 2018: Glossy Black & other cockatoos


Glossy Black-Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus lathami)  are one of the more threatened species of cockatoo in Australia and are listed as vulnerable in NSW. Atlas of Life is working with the OEH Threatened Species unit in on ongoing Special Project to map the distribution of Glossy Black-Cockatoos, AND to map location of suitable nest hollows.

In June 2018 we are asking you to report sightings of all cockatoo species, but with a particular focus on Glossy Black-Cockatoos and the other darkly-coloured species in our region - Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus funereus) and Gang-Gang Cockatoos (Callocephalon fimbriatum).

We are concurrently launching a Special Project, Mapping Glossy Blacks. All Glossy Black-Cockatoo data collected during June will contribute directly to this ongoing project.

Glossy Black-Cockatoos

Most people recognise a cockatoo, and 'black cockatoos' are a familiar sight in many parts of Australia. The 'Glossy black', however, is a different species to the well-known 'Yellow-tailed black'. They are also much, much less common.

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. 

Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos

These are the large, long-tailed black cockatoos often sighted flying as a flock, calling loudly. 

Some features to look for in recognising Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos:

  • Large, slender bird with long tail and long wings.

  • Pale yellow tail panels, variously mottled with black in both males and females.

  • Yellow cheek patch, larger and brighter in adult female than in the male.

  • Adult male has red skin surrounding eye.

  • Juveniles have colouration like female, but are best recognised by their continual, rasping begging calls.

Where to look for Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos:

Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos may be seen flying in small or large flocks. In flight their long-tails, dark colour, and loud calls are distinctive. 

They feed in a wide variety of trees and may be found in woodland, parks, coastal heath or forest. For example, they take the woody fruit of Eucalyptus, Hakea, Banksia and a variety of introduced trees, including plantation pine trees. They are also famous for tearing into the bark and branches of various trees, often dropping branches or snapping small saplings. This apparently destructive behaviour is due to their determined searching for wood-boring grubs of moths or beetles.  

A feeding flock often involves some birds sitting high in the trees, calling an alarm if approached. Feeding birds may be at any level in the vegetation, even at ground level. And juveniles sit begging - constantly and loudly – making no apparent attempt to feed for themselves.

Gang-gang Cockatoos

The forests of our South-east Corner are the core habitat for the Gang-gang Cockatoo. 

Some features to look for in recognising Gang-gang Cockatoos:

  • Small, grey cockatoo.

  • Males have a bright orange-red face, head and crest.

  • Both sexes have a wispy, brush-like crest of fine head feathers.

  • Distinctive, rasping call in flight, sometimes described as a 'creaky door' or a 'rusty hinge'.

  • Family groups or small flocks.

Where to look for Gang-gang Cockatoos:

Gang-gangs often feed quietly, high in the canopy of eucalypts. A shower of falling fruit and seeds may be the first indication of their presence. They will also feed in low, fruiting shrubs, including Acacia and introduced species such as Hawthorn, and may be seen in urban parks and gardens. At such times, feeding birds are often tolerant of a careful, quiet approach by people.

In flight, they typically fly through rather than over the forest canopy, dodging and weaving between branches on their short, wide wings. 

Other species which may look similar

Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus banksii), widespread in Queensland and the Northern Territory, are rarely seen on the NSW coast south of about Coffs Harbour.

What to record & photograph

The location, the number of birds (including sex & age - adult/juvenile - if apparent), their behaviour and - if feeding - what type of trees they are using. Try to get a photo of the birds, but if this is not possible or if they have moved on, photograph evidence of their feeding and of the feed tree. Remember that we are keen to record any species of cockatoo, not only the Glossy Black-Cockatoos. 

For Glossy Black-Cockatoos, if you see them using or investigating a tree hollow, this is very important information. Please add this to your sighting! 


Recording a sighting without a photo - for experienced bird watchers

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").


Now simply upload your sightings!

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


If you have any questions about this survey, or about any Atlas of Life activities, please feel free to contact us.

LEADER: Dean Ansell


How information from this survey will be used

The Office of Environment and Heritage is actively involved in monitoring and protecting threatened species in NSW, including the Glossy Black Cockatoo. The data from this survey, and related NatureMapr data recorded at other times, will be used by the OEH to inform their conservation management plans. 


As with many hollow-dependant species, Glossy blacks are threatened by loss of habitat caused by activities such as land-clearing for development, firewood collection and inappropriate fire regimes.

Other resources

* OEH information on Glossy Black-Cockatoos

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

Glossy Black-Cockatoos calling -  recording made in the Atlas of Life region (Wonboyn, NSW) - on Youtube

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

Gang-gang Cockatoo feeding on Acacia - recording made in the Atlas of Life region (Wonboyn, NSW)

Kerri-Lee Harris