Sunday, 29 June 2014

Unique Palms

palm cockatoo jadewelchbirds ben adelaide jade
Ben - Adelaide Zoo's resident breeding male
The Palm Cockatoo is a unique and very cool bird with a high level of intelligence. Large and greyish black in colour they are equipped with a distinctive bill and bare cheek patch. The cheek patch says a lot about a Palm Cockatoo and will vary in colour from light reddish pink to a bright red depending on the bird’s age, level of excitement and or alarm. The crest too is erected when alarmed or excited and also features in their dramatic mating displays. Unlike members of the Black Cockatoo genus Calyptorhynchus the Palm Cockatoo lacks a coloured tail panel.

Varying in size from 60-68cm’s (depending on sub-species) with females tending to be smaller in size Palm Cockatoos use that bill to open large fruits such as those of the Pandanus. A small population of Palm Cockatoos occurs on the Cape York Peninsula, Australia and extends up into Papua New Guinea where the species is widespread. Four sub-species occur and they are Probosciger a. aterrimus, Probosciger a. goliath, Probosciger a. stenolophus and Probosciger a. macgillivrayi.

pandanus palm cockatoo fruit jadewelchbirds
The fruits of Pandanus sp. make up part of the natural diet of Palm Cockatoos
Adding to the uniqueness of the Palm Cockatoos is that they have quite a large series of calls (compared to many other Parrot & Cockatoo species). One even sounds very much like the bird is saying hello. For many years this species has captivated people and it continues to do so today with studies of wild and captive birds currently being undertaken. It is hoped much can be learnt from these studies to help us better understand these birds.

fruit measure palm cockatoo jadewelchbirds pandanus
Measuring tape used to show the size of an unripe Pandanus Fruit bunch
Male Palm Cockatoos on the Cape York Peninsula have been observed fashioning a broken off branch into a tool and using it to drum on a hollow. Why they do it is yet to be determined although there are a number of theories surrounding why. Pairs of Palm Cockatoos appear to occupy a large range, have access to a number of tree hollows and only breed every second year.

Once a successful hollow is chosen the pair start to drop splintered sticks into the nest. This affectively gives them a platform on which the hen will lay her eggs. The platform may assist in preventing the egg/chick from drowning if heavy rains set in. This behavior of building a platform has also been observed in captivity. As with the Cockatiel both sexes will incubate.

palm cockatoo aterrimus jadewelchbirds nominate welch
Probosciger a. macgillivrayi 
Natural predators include goanna's and snakes which are known to eat chicks and eggs. Threats from humans such as mining and deforestation pose a great concern for the future of wild populations. In Captivity Palm Cockatoos have posed somewhat of a challenge but with improved understanding, avicultural practices and techniques we are seeing numbers increasing throughout the world. Within Australia though where the worlds first breeding of these birds took place (by the late Bob Lynn in 1968) very few are held in captivity and at present Adelaide Zoo in South Australia may be the only place breeding them. 
Happy Birdkeeping.

Copyright © Jade Welch - All Rights Reserved. All photographs and text are protected
by copyright and may not be reproduced by any method without written permission from Mr Jade Welch.

No comments:

Post a Comment