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 Sydneys Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

Thursday, August 16, 2018
Success in the city: foraging and habitat behaviour of Sydney’s Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo revealed



The population of Australia’s iconic Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo has recently been reported by Birdlife as declining across eastern and southern Australia. Despite this, the species has been increasingly observed in urban Sydney, such as Centennial Parklands, during the winter over the last two decades.

Centennial Park and UNSW Honours student, Jessica Rooke, have been investigating this iconic parrot, examining their movements and habitat use to assess the apparent urban-dwelling behaviour of these beloved birds. 

Twelve individuals were tracked with solar powered GPS transmitters over one year, covering the non-breeding (March – August) and breeding seasons (September – February). Ms Rooke not only identified the habitat areas used, but also examined the birds’ diets using stable isotope analyses of feathers and potential food sources.

“The breeding and non-breeding phases of their lives, and the availability of their preferred food resources, largely explains how these beautiful birds are able to successfully occupy urban environments like Sydney. We've been able to confirm what many have suspected - that pine cones make up a large proportion of their diet, so it's no wonder why they love visiting Centennial Park!” said Ms Rooke.

“We were surprised to find that about a fifth of GPS tracked individuals remained in eastern Sydney throughout the year. During the breeding season, the other individuals dispersed from Sydney, frequently visiting natural habitats for short periods. These distances differed between the sexes, with males ranging up to 154 kilometres, and females up to 76 kilometres,” said Dr John Martin, Centennial Parklands Ecologist.

“Every winter we see hundreds of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos flock to Centennial Park to forage in the pine trees,” says Dr Martin.
“Studies such as this provide conservation opportunities and help researchers increase their understanding of species-specific habitat dependencies. We’re asking members of the community to report their sights to our survey:


so we can learn more about their movements and foraging behaviour”.

The Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos adaptation to forage in urban areas is welcomed by captivated onlookers, admiring their cheeky antics, powerful cries, and graceful flight – and the study shows that many of the tracked birds returned to forage in urban Sydney a year later, attracted by one of their favourite foods.



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