Food for black cockatoos

Casuarinas and wattles will be planted at two ACT Healthy Waterways sites in Belconnen to provide more food sources for Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos.

Local resident, Daryl King, has studied the spectacular native birds along a nine kilometre stretch of Ginninderra Creek for more than three years. He has mapped over 200 sightings and compared that data with the type and prevalence of tree species.

“Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos come here during the non-breeding season to feed. The casuarinas are a good source of seed and wood-boring insect larvae which they dig out of the timber with their strong beaks. Wattles also provide seed and harbor the large larvae of the Cossid Moth which is an important source of protein for their new fledglings.

“They also excavate the trunks of exotic trees”, said King but he’s not sure why. “Perhaps they are searching for wood-boring insect larvae. Perhaps they find edible fungi or slime-moulds under the bark or perhaps they just enjoy exercising their enormous chiselling bills on some softer wood.  Whatever the reason, often this excavation results in hollows or nesting spaces which other native birds use for breeding.

“I have found there is a direct correlation between the distribution and density of food tree species and the presence of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos,” said King.

Work will soon start on two new wetlands beside Ginninderra Creek as part of the ACT Healthy Waterways project.

Program Manager, Justin Foley, met Daryl King on site to discuss his findings and subsequently instructed the construction team to add Acacia spp (wattles) and Casuarina cunninghamiana (river oaks) to the planting list at both sites.

“It’s a great opportunity to contribute to the ongoing re-vegetation of the Ginninderra Creek corridor that started in the early-1970s and to extend the habitat corridor for this impressive bird,” explained Foley.

“Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos were probably breeding residents along the creek once but, as a result of activities like ring-barking and land-clearing, were effectively banished to the ranges west of Canberra.

“They rarely visited urban Canberra until 2003 when much of their habitat in the ranges was burned in catastrophic bushfires. They are fantastic birds and it’s great to see them feeding along the corridor every year in autumn and winter,” said King.

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