13 Sept 2023

7 AMAZING FACTS ABOUT THE GLOSSY BLACK COCKATOO

You may have seen them flying overhead as their black-feathered wings create cockatoo-shaped silhouettes in the sky. 

Perhaps you’ve seen them eating she-oak cones, their favourite food. 

The glossy black cockatoo, found across eastern Australia, is an incredible bird and the smallest of the five species of black cockatoo living here. 

Perhaps you’ve seen them and wanted to know more. Well, now’s your chance. 

Here are seven amazing facts about the glossy black cockatoo.

1. Male and female glossy black cockatoos have distinct appearances

Known as sexual dimorphism, where males and females exhibit different physical traits despite being of the same species. 

In the case of the glossy black cockatoo, the male has a black body, a brown-black head, and a red or red and orange-yellow tail. Whereas the female glossy black cockatoo has yellow patches on their head and tails, which tend to be slightly redder, with some black detailing as well. 

Barry, a male glossy black-cockatoo feeding on she-oak
© Locky Cooper / Pixofnature.com
The Baroness. a female glossy black-cockatoo feeding on she-oak
© Locky Cooper / Pixofnature.com

2. They’re a one-bird kind of bird

Glossy black cockatoos are monogamous, with each adult bird pairing with a partner for life. 

They lay a single egg every one to two years and, occasionally, a second one, should something happen to the first. The female incubates the egg for around 30 days while the male gathers food and feeds her, making himself useful, until it hatches.

3. Rarely alone, rarely in large groups

Glossy black cockatoos are social creatures and true believers in the saying, “One is the loneliest number”. However, they are not exactly what you would call extroverts, as they also live by the old adage, “Two’s company, three’s a crowd”.

The glossy black cockatoo usually feeds or flies in pairs, trios or small groups, but unlike the red-tailed or yellow-tailed black cockatoo, they seldom form large flocks except when gathering at a drinking site or heading off to roost. 

4. The Kangaroo Island glossy black cockatoo is found only on Kangaroo Island

Of the glossy black cockatoos, there are several sub-groups, one of which is the Kangaroo Island glossy black cockatoo, which, you guessed it, can be found exclusively on Kangaroo Island. 

Tragically, up to 75% of all Kangaroo Island glossy black cockatoos lived in areas affected by the devastating bushfires of 2019-20. Prior to the bushfires, to help the population survive, more than 90 artificial nesting boxes had been erected to ensure healthy breeding populations on the island. 

In the wake of these bushfires, we decided we needed to do more to help secure a future for the Kangaroo Island glossy black cockatoo. So, with the help of WWF supporters, we deployed additional funds to Natural Resources Kangaroo Island and have been working with Greening Australia and local landholders to plant 19,000 food and nesting trees just across the water on the South Australian mainland. You can learn more about this vital work below: 

5. Those she-oaks bring all the birds to the yard

To a glossy black cockatoo, there really is nothing quite like a she-oak tree, and can you blame them? Those she-oak cones are delicious. 

Specialist feeders, glossy black cockatoos eat the seeds inside the cones of the she-oak trees almost exclusively. This might sound difficult, but thanks to their large and bulbous bills, which have evolved specifically to handle the task, glossy black cockatoos can extract the seeds from these conical seed prisons with ease. Even more so, most glossies will always stand on their right leg and feed exclusively from their left foot. 

She-oak, the glossy black cockatoo's main food source
She-oak, the glossy black cockatoo's main food source © Ross Evans Natural Resources Kangaroo Island

6. A bit of hush, please, I’m eating

While glossy black cockatoos can be noisy at times, particularly around drinking sites or when breeding, fighting or flying. They are generally very quiet when eating, and discarded she-oak cones are often the only clues that the birds have been feeding there at all. 

Basically, they’re well-behaved birds. They don’t talk with their mouths full.

7. Sadly, they are in trouble

Climate change, habitat destruction, invasive species and pollution are causing all sorts of wildlife to lose their homes and driving Australia’s globally significant wildlife, land and seascapes to breaking point. 

In the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia, only 2% remains of what was once thousands of hectares of she-oak woodland habitat.  

A Kangaroo Island glossy black-cockatoo in an artificial nest box
© WWF-Aus / Paul Fahy

WWF is working with Greening Australia and local landholders to bring these vital food trees back to mainland South Australia and, hopefully, with them, the glossy black cockatoo. 

However, if we’re going to ensure the glossy black cockatoos have a future, we need to fast-track critically needed environmental law reform to help protect and restore Australia’s natural environment, as our current laws and the funds required to uphold them are insufficient. But there is hope. 

Right now, the Australian Government is rewriting our national nature laws for the first time in over 20 years, which means we have a small window of opportunity to ensure we get them right. WWF-Australia is asking for the new laws to include a national, genuinely independent Environment Protection Agency and significantly increased funding to help recover threatened species and the places they call home.

Currently, the Kangaroo Island glossy black cockatoo is listed as Endangered to extinction, and the southeastern subspecies is listed as Vulnerable. Add your voice now to help make a difference.

Want to help protect glossy black cockatoos? Here’s how you can get involved.

  • Sign the petition and call on the Australian Government to commit to stronger protections for our wildlife and the wild places they call home.
  • Discover if threatened animals need protection in your local area by using WWF’s My Backyard tool, and find out how well they’re being cared for.
  • Tune in to Scat Chat with WWF to learn about the weird and wonderful ways that animal scat is being used to help wildlife conservation.