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What is a Glossy Black-Cockatoo?

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  • Written By: R. Britton
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Images By: n/a, Lesniewski
  • Last Modified Date: 03 December 2016
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The glossy black-cockatoo is a native bird of Australia which can live for about 30 years. These striking birds are endangered across their native range, and there has been a disturbing number of localized extinctions in some areas. This species has very distinctive, mainly black plumage with bright red markings on the underside of the tail, with a total length of up to 20 inches (50 cm). Like many cockatoo species, the glossy black-cockatoo is a very social bird, and in the wild they tend to congregate in groups of around ten.

There is a debate among the scientific community regarding the classification of the glossy black-cockatoo. Some recognize three distinct subspecies, while others maintain that the differences between the birds are very small. Some argue that these small differences merely relate to localized adaptations and environmental factors and do not warrant multiple subspecies classifications.

The remaining population of wild glossy-black cockatoos is estimated at only 8,500 breeding pairs, and the species is at serious risk of extinction. Only found in scattered, isolated populations across parts of Australia, there is an additional population on Kangaroo Island, off the south coast of the country, estimated at only 70 breeding pairs. There are a wide range of threats to the continued survival of this species despite a number of projects and initiatives to protect and reestablish the numbers to sustainable levels.

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One of the biggest threats is the loss of habitat because of wild fires and human development. The destruction of the wooded areas these birds inhabit results in a lack of food sources and nesting and roosting sites. Another threat is the illegal activities of unscrupulous specimen collectors and poachers who steal eggs and very young birds to add to their own collection or to sell on the black market.

The breeding process of the glossy black-cockatoo is a very slow process, with young remaining in the care of their parents for a whole year, and only one egg produced every two years. This means that the remaining mature birds are unable to produce enough young to make up for the number lost each year, and each egg or young bird stolen is a serious blow to this species. Whether from private owners or wildlife centers, most captive birds are part of captive breeding programs in an attempt to rear birds which can be released into the wild to help boost numbers. Eventually these captive-bred birds can also be used to reestablish localized populations which have become extinct.

Glossy black-cockatoos live mainly in woodland areas with a high concentration of eucalyptus and she-oak trees. These birds nest or roots in dead or very old eucalyptus trees with large hollows. The primary diet of the glossy black-cockatoo consists of the seed cones of the she-oak tree. If she-oak cones are not available, the birds eat the seed from a very small number of other species. It is very common for the glossy black-cockatoo to select only one or two she-oak trees from which to feed, and stick to these trees for many years, even when there are lots of other she-oaks available.

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