About the Forest Red Tailed Black Cockatoo

The Forest Red Tailed Black Cockatoo is one of the five subspecies of red tailed black cockatoos native to Australia.

Forest Red Tails are only found in south west Western Australia, from near Perth south to just east of Albany.They occur north to Gingin east to Mt Helena south mainly along the hilly interior to King River.

This subspecies was named Naso, referring to its large beak, by John Gould in 1837. It is known to the Noongar people as ‘karrak’. His scientific name is Calyptorhynchus banksii naso.

Description of the Forest Red Tailed Black Cockatoo

Forest Red Tail black cockatoos is 55-60 cm in length and weighs 570-870 grams. They have rich black feathers, that can have greenish hues in the sunlight.

The males have scarlet panels in the tails and a dark grey bill. The females have yellow spots on the head, neck and wings, the tail has orange yellow barring. The beak of the female is off white. The juvenile birds are similar to the female although paler yellow spots, with dark grey or blackish beak.

Red Tailed Black Cockatoos in rehabilitation

Where do the Forest Red Tailed Black Cockatoos live?

The Forest Red Tail lives in eucalypt forests, feeding on Marri, Jarrah, Blackbutt, Karri, Sheoak and Snottygobble. They use their robust beak to tear open the nuts to get to the tiny seeds inside.  They also eat insect larvae under the bark of tree branches. Forest Red Tails will forage on the ground.

With the loss of habitat, they now eat the introduced Cape Lilac and on some garden eucalypts. They live in small flocks (up to 50) that split into family groups (4-10) during the day when foraging. Forest Red Tails are largely sedentary, night roosting in Jarrah, Marri, Blackbutt habitat generally within 4 kms of their feeding sites.

According to latest research by Erika Roper, Forest Red Tails have adapted to a wide variety of non native trees such as cape lilac, olives, liquid amber, lemon scented gum, sweat introduced tree fruits and rosewood. Erika found that the Forest Red Tail cockatoos can spend less time and energy eating non native fruits and seeds than eating Marri nuts for example. Urban Forest Red Tails have also adapted their calling sounds to be heard amongst the noise such as the noise of cars and trucks. 

Map by Birdlife WA

Breeding season of the Red Tail Cockatoo

Between March and December the Forest Red Tails nest in the hollows of Jarrah, Wandoo, Karri and Bullich trees, particularly using old veteran and stag marri trees. They are also opportunistic breeders and breed every other year, always in ancient marri trees. Lately some breeding has been recorded in artificial hollows.

The female prepares the hollow by covering the bottom with wood chips usually laying only one egg which hatches about 30 days later. Only the female incubates and broods the chick. Hatchlings are covered in sparse yellow down. Forest Red Tails are long lived and may survive in the wild for 25-50 years.

A species in decline

Although the species as a whole is not under threat, each sub-species faces unique problems. The species has experienced a constant decline in population numbers over the past 60 years.

Destruction of forests and woodland for housing developments has significantly reduced the habitat for Forest Red Tail Black Cockatoos. There is competition for nesting hollows from feral European honest bees, Australian Shelduck and Wood Duck, Galahs and Lorikeets.

The impact of fire particularly in breeding season and Raven attacks have significantly reduced the numbers of young Forest Red Tails. The species is listed as Vulnerable by both the WA and Federal governments.

What you can do to help the Forest Red Tail Black Cockatoo

  • Protect veteran and stag marri trees.
  • Identify and report feral bee hives in nesting hollows.
  • Lobby your Local council to plant native trees in parks and reserves that will feed Black Cockatoos.
  • If you have a big backyard, plant native trees such as marri and jarrah
  • Spread the word
  • Support Kaarakin and why not come and visit our centre to learn more about our conservation and rehabilitation efforts.
  • Participate in the Great Cocky Count. It is a long-term citizen science survey that monitors known roost sites of Carnaby’s cockatoos, but also takes note of Baudin’s and Forest Red  Tail cockatoos. Anyone can get involved, with volunteers participating in the one-night survey every autumn across the south-west of WA.
  • If you think you have seen a Carnaby’s, Baudins or Forest Red Tail black cockatoo, fill out a Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions fauna report form and send it to the Department’s Species and Communities Branch at fauna@dbca.wa.gov.au. The Department keeps track of the distributions of threatened species to help monitor population trends and inform management decisions.