Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus funereus) are seldom seen around North Sydney, but they’re common in the coastal suburbs where their food-trees abound. Last week I first heard— and then saw—a small flock near Malabar headland.
This was the first bird I saw:
I was able to edge closer to get this shot without disturbing her:
She was “talking” to some other cockatoos, and shortly after I took this photo, she flew off to join them. I thought that would be my last sighting, but on the way back the path passed near a banksia thicket where I spotted a small flock grazing on the banksia cones. It included this female. She might have been the same one I’d photographed earlier, but now her facial feathers were sleeked back for feeding, and she’d just nipped off a leafy twig (visible falling to the ground):
This gave her better access to her chosen cone, and she began to tuck in:
When she moved to another cone a bit further away, I switched to this male (identifiable by his red eye-ring, darker bill and smaller pale yellow ear-patch):
He bent back down to his banksia cone:
And ripped out a seed which he held in his left claw while demolishing it:
Then he was on to the next seed:
The cockatoos didn’t seem perturbed by my closeness, or the proximity of other passers-by. They just got on with demolishing their banksia cones, and after a while I left them to it.
Because I was so close to them, I couldn’t get a whole-body shot of a bird, so here are some older pictures that I took at Clovelly, north of Malabar. This is one of another male:
And this was a female. You can clearly see the black mottling in the yellow patches in her tail, and the yellow edging to the feathers on her chest:
The yellow tail patches are most visible when the cockatoos are flying, making them easy to distinguish from the other local black cockatoo species, which have red tail patches:
So far, Yellow-tailed Cockatoo numbers seem to be holding up in the changing environment. They range around the South East coast, from southern Queensland to near Adelaide. Suburbia doesn’t seem to bother them when there are enough banksias and grevilleas to feed on.
The birds have the usual powerful cockatoo beak, with its articulated upper and lower mandibles which they use to crush seed—and also to penetrate several centimetres into timber to extract moth and beetle larvae. Fortunately they don’t seem to have acquired the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo habit of shredding the external woodwork of houses. I’m not sure about TV aerials, though this cockatoo probably wasn’t responsible for the damage to two of the dipole elements:
They also don’t make the harsh screeching noises of their Sulphur-crested cousins except as an occasional alarm call. Their regular call is a wailing “weeee-yu”, distinctive but not unpleasant.
I certainly enjoyed watching that little flock quietly grazing at Malabar.