Glossy black-cockatoo - have you seen one or two?
  • Last updated:
  • 04 Dec 2019

Article by Benjamin Green, Natural Areas Technical Officer, Sunshine Coast Council 

The Sunshine Coast region is home to a very unique, yet unfortunately threatened species of cockatoo, the glossy black-cockatoo.

This seldom seen bird frequents mainly eucalypt forest communities with good stands of she-oaks along the coastal plain and in hinterland areas. Unlike other cockatoos, the glossy is a quiet bird that often goes unnoticed, feeding almost silently on seeds contained within casuarina (she-oak) cones. An observer may only be alerted to the presence of this bird by hearing the sound of chewed cones falling to the earth.

Glossies are sometimes misidentified and confused with other similar black cockatoo species found in south east Queensland (SEQ), including the more common yellow-tailed black-cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus funereus) and the red-tailed black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii), a rare visitor to the Sunshine Coast. Both of these other cockatoo species congregate in large, noisy flocks, in stark contrast to the typically small, quiet groups that are characteristic of glossies.

Glossies are also not exactly black in colour like the other cockatoos; they are more brownish-black, and have a large bulbous bill. Female glossies can also have large yellow blotches on the head and neck, not found on other black cockatoos.

This fascinating bird is incredibly fussy when it comes to its culinary pursuits. In SEQ, glossy black-cockatoos’ favoured food trees are the black she-oak (Allocasuarina littoralis) and forest she-oak (Allocasuarina torulosa). They may return to the same individual food tree time and time again to feed on the seeds of casuarina cones, often ignoring nearby trees that are full of cones. The chewed cones, or ‘orts,’ can number in the hundreds at the base of certain casuarina trees; these are a tell-tale sign of the bird’s presence.

In Queensland, the more southern subspecies of glossy black-cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami lathami) is listed as ‘Vulnerable to extinction’ under the Nature Conservation Act 1992. Some of the main threats to this species include habitat modification and loss as well as inappropriate fire regimes resulting in the removal of food resources and nesting sites.

On the Sunshine Coast, the glossy has been recorded in a number of different areas, with recent sightings in Mooloolah Valley, Ilkley, Verrierdale, Cambroon, Kenilworth, Peachester, Cooloolabin, Yandina Creek, Caloundra and Sunshine Beach (Noosa Council region).

Sunshine Coast Council is protecting glossy black-cockatoo habitat through council’s Environment Levy Land Acquisition Program. Close to 200 hectares of native bushland was purchased in the Cambroon and Kenilworth area for the protection and enhancement of environmentally significant land. This area, Tuan Environment Reserve, has been observed to provide important habitat for the glossy black-cockatoo, as both the birds and their feed trees are regularly found here.

The Glossy Black Conservancy was formed in 2005 with the vision of enabling a coordinated approach between government, community and businesses to increase the awareness, protection and conservation of glossy black-cockatoos in the SEQ corner. The Glossy Black Conservancy partners with government agencies, private enterprises, researchers and the wider community to increase awareness, protection and conservation of this iconic species of bird. Sunshine Coast Council is a partner of the Glossy Black Conservancy and regularly contributes to conservancy activities.

If you were not convinced already about these gorgeous birds, here are some fascinating facts about the glossy:

  • 580 - maximum number of she-oak cones a non-breeding glossy can process in a day
  • 15km - distance a glossy may travel to feed
  • 200 - number of years it takes for a tree hollow to form before possibly being used a nesting habitat by glossies
  • 1 - number of eggs a glossy lays once every two years.

Getting involved

If you have been lucky enough to spot a glossy, please register your sighting on the Glossy Black Conservancy website. Sightings of glossies help inform guidelines and strategies aimed at conserving this beautiful bird.

The Glossy Black Conservancy hosts an annual event called the Glossy Black-Cockatoo Birding Day. The birding day event attracts volunteers throughout SEQ and northern NSW to search for glossies and their feed trees. In May of this year, we had 26 participants on the Sunshine Coast record 12 glossies and 31 feed trees. The number of chewed cones or orts found in our region came to a total of 5,565.

The next Birding Day will be in October 2020. This event will be promoted by council and the Conservancy closer to the date.

Do you have a glossy black-cockatoo story to share? Please get in touch via Facebook

Your Glossy Black Conservancy representative for Sunshine Coast Council is Ben Green. Please email naturalareas@sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au if you want to learn more or get in touch about glossies on the coast.