Each morning during this fabulous season of Djeran I wake to the glorious sounds of a large flock of magical Ngolyenoks, the Noongar name for our endemic white-tailed black cockatoo species, leaving their roost site near my house in the Perth Hills. Most of the flock are Baudin's Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus baudinii), the white-tailed species with a long bill, with a handful of Carnaby's Cockatoos (the shorter-billed variety) among them. Although Baudin's is a common visitor to this area during the non-breeding season, it is not known to breed further north than the Wungong catchment, preferring to migrate to the deep south to breeding sites in the wetter Karri forest.
Over the past few weeks, however, I've observed some very interesting prospecting behaviour. During mid mornings and late afternoons, when most of the flock has dispersed into the surrounding forest to feed, pairs of Baudin's have floated quietly in to land in the tree-canopy and inspect a variety of nest boxes in my backyard, including those designed for much smaller species like parrots and ducks. In most instances, the male has sat near a box while the female has looked inside, chewed around the entrance, and (with the larger cockatoo box pictured above), climbed inside for a closer look.
|This box is a bit small for a cockatoo! Luckily it's reinforced with metal to stop that beak!|
As with many creatures (wink, wink!), females are the dominant sex and I've watched them aggressively pushing the males away from the nest box entrances. Some of this behaviour is captured in the below video, which shows a pair of Baudin's inspecting a nest box installed in 2012. This box was successfully used by Maranganna (Australian Wood Duck, Chenonetta jubata) and Dowarn (Australian Ringneck, Barnadius zonarius) last breeding season.
White the WA Museum tells me that Baudin's Cockatoos often prospect for nest sites in the Perth Hills at this time of year but still end up moving away to breed, I remain hopeful that this wonderful, endemic, forest-dwelling species of south-west Australian bird might breed here later in 2016. Given the Carnaby's Cockatoo magic we had last year, I think there's a good chance!
You can read more about the breeding biology and conservation of our beautiful black cockatoos at the WA Museum's Cockatoo Care website. Note: For Noongar bird names, I refer to Abbott 2009's paper which states the two white-tailed species were not distinguished.
Prospecting Baudin's from Simon Cherriman on Vimeo.