Red-tailed Black Cockatoo

Look to the skies in the country’s north, particularly during dry periods, and you may see (or hear) a strange and beautiful bird. A dark creature with red panels on its tail, the red-tailed black cockatoo is a diurnal and notoriously raucous bird. In courtship, the males softly growl before puffing out their feathers, hiding their beak, singing and then flashing their red tail at the female, who then often bites him.

Red tailed Black Cockatoo

The female red-tailed black cockatoo, unlike the its name suggests, has yellow/orange panels on its tail. Males juveniles appear similarly until puberty, at about four years of age. Here their yellow feathers are gradually replaced with red ones, a process which takes four years to complete. Other differences in the sexes are that male’s bills are grey, while female’s are a pale horn colour.

Red tailed Black Cockatoo

In breeding, this obsidian-looking bird nests in tall, hollow, vertical and often isolated trees (to escape from predators) from May through to September. And if a particularly good nest is found, the bird may use it for a number of years.

Endemic to Australia, the red-tailed black cockatoo will often nest in the drier parts of the country, particularly across northern Australia. They can often be seen in large flocks near Thala during the dry season, where they’re in search of their main staple food, eucalyptus seeds. However, like other parrots and cockatoos, the bird can feed on a wide variety of grains.

Also like many other Australian parrots and cockatoos, this dark, seed eating screecher has zygodactyl feet, with two toes facing forward and two facing backward. This particular trait allows the birds to stand on one leg, while grabbing something with the other. And like many other birds of its kind, the red-tailed black cockatoo is almost exclusively left footed.

Other, more unfortunate traits it shares with parrots and cockatoos is that it’s threatened by the illegal bird smuggling trade, as it can fetch a high price in areas within Asia. However, the red-tailed black cockatoo is more adaptable to aviculture compared with other birds of its species. In 1938, ornithologist Neville Cayley reported one living to over 50 years of age at Taronga Zoo.