Sunday, 26 March 2017

Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo

Two recent chance encounters with Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus funereus), one at home and one in nearby forest, moved me to do a post on this species as a follow on from my last post featuring the Glossy Black-Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami), the other species of Black-Cockatoo found in East Gippsland.

Unlike the Glossy, the Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo is relatively common in East Gippsland though encounters are mostly by chance, given this bird is locally nomadic and perhaps also a seasonal migrant, probably moving to higher altitudes in spring and summer and returning to the foothills and coastal forests to spend autumn and winter. That said, they can be found in our district at any time of year and I suspect we do not have a clear and certain handle on their movements.

About 35 years ago now I witnessed a flock of well over 100 Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos at the northern end of Flinders Island where I felt at the time they were gathering for a flight across to the mainland. I suspect at least some birds of this species migrate between Tasmania and mainland Australia.

We sometimes see lone birds and pairs or threes are common and sometimes flocks of five to ten birds. Larger flocks in our area are rare. Yellow-tails pair bond for life and usually one chick is raised, so two parents with a dependent-young is a common encounter.

The Yellow-tails are weakly dimorphic with the most obvious difference between adult males and females being the red eye-ring on males and grey on females. Also, the yellow spot on the ear coverts is dull on males and brighter yellow on females and the male bill is blackish and the female’s whitish.

Please click on photos to enlarge.

In this photo the male is on the left and the female on the right. The main differences between the male and female are obvious - eye-ring, bill colour and the depth of the yellow ear patch.

The female has flown and the male is about to follow her. 

The above photos were taken in our garden of a pair with a third bird (possibly a young one - not photographed) as they perched briefly in an old peppercorn tree as they passed through on their local nomadic travels.

The following photos were taken of a lone male in nearby forest.

Lone male Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo. The bird sat quietly for a while as I snapped away.

And then it started to stretch ahead of departing.

Having stretched the bird is about to fly.

The Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo (along with its fellow-species) is an iconic Australian bird and its unmistakable and far carrying call, sometimes described as “why-lar” or “wee-lar” (Pizzey & Knight) or “a prolonged kee__________ow . . . kee_________ow” (Forshaw and Cooper), always elicits an emotional response in me, and I suspect in others.