Early last year the City of Armadale gave me the wonderful opportunity of installing a variety of nest-boxes for wildlife throughout several bushland reserves, many of which were designed for Black Cockatoos. I was extremely excited when Tony Kirkby, a cockatoo biologist, who, along with Ron Johnstone from the WA Museum's Cockatoo Care Project, has studied Kaarak's (Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoos Calyptorhynchus banksii naso) for many years, emailed me through the above photo. This was a fantastic sign that less than a year after installation, one box was being used for breeding!
|Fresh chew-marks on the sacrificial chew-posts provide convincing evidence of cockatoo occupancy.|
Today I was installing more nest-boxes (this time for microbats) in the area and took the opportunity to visit the active cocky box. Under Tony's guidance on the phone, I walked quietly through the bushland to the nest tree, and after observing for a few minutes then 'raking' (knocking on) the nest tree, discovered the female did not emerge. This was a good sign that a chick had hatched because adult Kaaraks are known to only brood their nestling for a week or so, then leave it on its own for most of the day while away foraging. Tony was happy for me to scale the tree and confirm there was a chick present, and also to photograph in order for its age to be estimated. When I reached the rim of the nest-box, I was met with this absolutely remarkable view!
A tiny ball of yellow natal down-feathers huddled in one corner of the nest-box, swaying ever so gently from side to side. This beautiful new gift to the world was only the second Kaarak chick I had seen in real life, and appeared a lot smaller than I expected. I lowered my camera inside the box to snap a few closer photos from a side angle, then film a few short video clips (watch a short one of this beautiful young bird on my Facebook feed here), just as a large flock of Baudin's Cockatoos flew noisily over the treetops. The nestling made a few soft rasping noises and swayed from side to side, but otherwise showed no reaction to the goings on in the outside world. Keen to keep disturbance to a minimum, I snapped some descending gear onto my rope and left the canopy behind, then walked away from the nest tree as quietly as I had come. The only sign of adult red-tails was a single, distant 'kreeee'.
After seeing these photos, Ron and Tony tell me this young Kaarak is just under a week old, and is quite young to be left alone by itself, but it does happen. I am most grateful to Tony and Ron, who mentored me during the successful use by Carnaby's Cockatoo of a nest-box in the Mundaring Shire just over a year ago, and who continue to offer guidance with various ornithological projects I am involved in. What a lucky find - and an awesome way to end the week!