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Glossy Black-cockatoo Recovery Program

Donate to the Glossy Black Cockatoo Recovery Program here

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Glossy Black-cockatoo Recovery Program

Image above:A young glossy black-cockatoo (centre) with it's parents. (Image: Mike Barth)

The glossy black-cockatoo we have on Kangaroo Island is a separate sub-species to those found in eastern Australia (Calyptorhynchus lathami halmaturinus) and is classified as Endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. This subspecies feeds almost exclusively on the seeds of the drooping sheoak (Allocasuarina verticillata), and nests in hollows in large old-age Eucalyptus species. Being a dietary specialist, this species is highly sensitive to changes in the amount or quality of sheoak seeds, and only occur where drooping sheoak is plentiful.

Recovery efforts for the species began in 1995, when the population was at a low of 158 individuals. The population has more than doubled but glossies still depend on habitat restoration and nest protection to survive, and are conservation dependent, meaning without our help they will likely become extinct. The 2019-2020 bushfires have now meant that a great deal of both feeding and nesting habitat have been lost.

Glossy black-cockatoos are also unique, in that they have a very low reproductive rate. They lay a single egg in a clutch and can only rear one clutch to fledging per year. The egg is incubated for 30 days, and after hatching the nestling is cared for by its parents for a further 90 days before it fledges.

The main threats to the population, and the management we undertake, are:

  • Predation of eggs and nestlings by abundant brushtail possums. Our staff protect every known nest from possum predation by installing and maintaining tree collars around nest trees.
  • Competition from other species. Galahs, little corellas and feral honeybees all compete with glossies for hollows, and little corellas and galahs have been recorded smashing glossy eggs and have been implicated in the killing of small nestlings. We control these species at nest sites to reduce competition.
  • Loss of drooping sheoak feeding habitat. We plant thousands of drooping sheoaks each year on private property to increase feeding habitat on Kangaroo Island.
  • Lack of nesting hollows in some areas. We install and maintain over 100 nest boxes across Kangaroo Island.

Thanks to this work, the Kangaroo Island Glossy black-cockatoo recovery program has been one of Australia’s most successful conservation programs, and work by the recovery program and the local community had increased the KI glossy population from less than 200 in 1995 to around 454 in 2020.

Graph of Glossy Black-Cockatoo Population Census Counts

Glossy Black-cockatoo Recovery Program

The 2019-20 Kangaroo Island bushfires

The 2019-2020 bushfires on Kangaroo Island have had a significant impact on the glossy black-cockatoo population on Kangaroo Island. Post-fire habitat surveys have revealed that at least 54 % of the glossies sheoak feeding habitat and 38.5 % of all known nests were destroyed in the bushfires. Now more than ever the glossy-black cockatoos need your help! In partnership with Nature Foundation, we have developed a fund that allows people to donate directly to the recovery program.

Amazingly, 454 glossies were counted in the population census post-fire in 2020, indicating mortality as a direct result of the bushfires was low. It is likely that the long-term conservation work carried out for this species, which has increased the population size and range over the years, has meant glossies are more resilient to this natural disaster than they would have been without management. In 2021, 377 glossies were counted, and flock sizes in some of the areas most heavily impacted by the bushfires were lower than in 2020. It is likely that flock sizes are now re-adjusting to the lower food availability in some areas post-fire.

Since February 2020, the Recovery Program has been supported by World Wide Fund for Nature, the Australian Government, Nature Foundation, Kangaroo Island Wildlife Network and donations from the public. Our work includes propagating and planting drooping sheoaks on private properties, managing nest sites to reduce predation and competition, and monitoring the population and the recovery of feeding habitat. Since the bushfires, we planted 13600 sheoaks across more than 50 properties, replaced dozens of nest boxes lost in the fires with new nest boxes, protected ~200 existing nests from possum predation and undertaken monitoring of the glossy population’s size and breeding success.

Our current work

The Recovery Program has been supported by World Wide Fund for Nature, Nature Foundation SA, Kangaroo Island Wildlife Network, donations from the public and the Australian Government to carry out post-fire recovery work for the glossy black-cockatoo on Kangaroo Island. Our work includes propagating and planting drooping sheoaks on private properties, managing nest sites to reduce predation and competition, and monitoring the population and the recovery of feeding habitat. In 2020, we planted 7100 sheoaks across 44 properties, replaced dozens of nest boxes lost in the fires with new nest boxes, protected ~200 existing nests from possum predation and undertook various surveys.

Glossy Black-cockatoo Recovery Program

Image above: A large nestling being weighed.

How to get involved

You can donate to the Recovery Program. Donations go towards activities such as propagating and planting sheoaks or protecting nest trees from predation. Donate to the Glossy Black Cockatoo Recovery Program here

At some times during the year we have volunteers opportunities available. In winter we have planting days to help plant sheoaks for glossies, and for one week in Spring we run the annual population census. Please contact us to find out what is available.

Corporate sponsorship of our program is also available.

Benefits of sponsorship

  1. Help save an endangered species.
  2. Promote and profile your business or brand with national exposure, including through the Natural Resources Kangaroo Island website, social media, project reports and community engagement products.
  3. Demonstrate your corporate social responsibility ethos and contribute to desirable environmental, social and economic outcomes for Kangaroo Island.

Sponsors will receive regular reports outlining project activities, outcomes and budget expenditure updates.

Please contact Natural Resources Kangaroo Island to discuss sponsorship opportunities and to tailor your offer to suit your needs and budget. All donations receive a tax deductible receipt from our partnering organisation Nature Foundation SA. Download the Glossy black-cockatoo prospectus to find out more.

Glossy Black-cockatoo Recovery Program

Image above: A young glossy nestling in an artificial next box.

Other information on Kangaroo Island’s glossy black-cockatoos

The extinction of glossies in mainland South Australia

Now extinct on mainland Australia, the last refuge for the endangered glossy black-cockatoo is on Kangaroo Island. Glossy black-cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus lathami halmaturinus) have a highly specialised diet, the seeds of the drooping sheoak (Allocasuarina verticillata). These trees once covered the hills of the Fleurieu Peninsula, southern Mt Lofty Ranges and Eyre Peninsula.

Drooping sheoak trees proved to be a highly valuable resource for early settlers. As a prized source of firewood, and of stock feed during droughts, drooping sheoaks were selectively cleared across the South Australian landscape, destroying habitat for the glossy black‑cockatoo.

Rabbit grazing prevented regeneration of sheoaks from the seedbank. With no food for survival, the glossy black-cockatoo disappeared from mainland South Australia. The last confirmed sighting of glossies on mainland South Australia prior to their extinction was in the 1970s on the lower Fleurieu Peninsula.

The expansion of glossies on Kangaroo Island

Thanks to the work of the Recovery Program, the glossy population on Kangaroo has not only increased in size, but has also expanded its breeding range across the island. At the start of the Recovery Program, glossies were only nesting west of Cygnet River, however now we have breeding flocks at American River and Penneshaw. To read about the expansion of glossies on Kangaroo Island, see this article: First records of nesting by South Australian Glossy Black-Cockatoos Calyptorhynchus lathami halmaturinus on eastern Kangaroo Island

Where to see glossies on Kangaroo Island

The best places to see glossy black-cockatoos on Kangaroo Island are Baudin Conservation Park near Penneshaw, along the Ironstone Hill Hike, which is where the Penneshaw flock often feeds. Look for them quietly feeding in amongst the sheoaks.

See them flying overhead at American River township in the evenings, where you can often see them calling raucously in the sugar gums in the evening.

During the nesting season (February-July) you can often get a glimpse of them flying through Lathami Conservation Park from the lookout on North Coast Road.

Glossies can be sensitive to disturbance by humans. If you are photographing glossies, please adhere to our photography guidelines to ensure you are not impacting this endangered species.

What glossy is that?

Can you tell a male and female glossy apart? What about juveniles? See the fact sheet below for details on how to identify glossies to age and gender.

Glossy black-cockatoos are amazing birds!

If you want to know more facts about glossy black-cockatoos, see the fact sheet below:

More information

Glossy Black Cockatoo Project Officer

35 Dauncey Street Kingscote

08 8553 2476

ki.landscapeboard@sa.gov.au