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Choosing a White-tailed Black Cockatoo

By: Dr. Susan Clubb

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The white-tailed black cockatoo is a unique and magnificent species. They are large black cockatoos with recumbent crests. The male is solid black except for a broad white panel across the middle of the lateral tail feathers and white ear patches. The central tail feathers are solid black. The female's undersides are faintly barred with white scallops on the covert feathers and a larger white ear patch. In both sexes the tail feathers have white patches.

White-tailed black cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus latirostris) are common in the southwestern Australia. They inhabit eucalyptus forests especially along rivers. They are not as nomadic as the red-tailed black cockatoo. They are dependent on large trees, especially for nesting sites and the population is declining due to habitat degradation. They feed primarily on seeds of trees. Very few birds are in captivity, even in zoos.

White-tailed black cockatoos and other cockatoo species can be very long lived (probably around 50 years) but precise life span is unknown.

White-tailed black cockatoos are gentle by nature. They are relatively quiet except for their breeding call. Their rarity outside of Australia makes it unlikely they will be available in the pet trade.

White-tailed black cockatoos are inquisitive and love to chew objects in their surroundings. Their beak was designed for chewing trees and they are very powerful chewers. They are very destructive if allowed to perch on furniture. They should always be provided with toys, blocks of wood or branches that they can chew.

Feeding

White-tailed black cockatoos are lean, lanky birds and should be fed a formulated (pelleted or extruded) diet as a basis for good nutrition. The diet should be supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables daily to add variety and psychological enrichment. Feed approximately 1/3 cup of formulated diet and 1/3 cup of fresh fruits and vegetables daily. They should also be offered 2 to 3 large nuts daily. The best choices are walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, almonds or filberts. If peanuts are fed they should be shelled first and inspected for fungal growth. White-tailed black cockatoos are usually lean by nature and not likely to become overweight. Vitamin supplements are not needed for birds that are eating a formulated diet. Provide fresh branches for additional chewing.

Breeding

White-tailed black cockatoos are difficult to breed in captivity. They require a roomy flight with privacy. Clutch size is typically 1 to 2 eggs. One inch by one inch by 12 gauge-welded wire is a good choice for cage construction. For birds that are destructive of wire, chain link is the most durable caging material. A full flight (to the ground) is recommended. A suggested size is 5 feet wide by 8 feet tall by 12 feet long.

The nest box should be open on top, 24 inches by 24 inches by 48 inches vertical. The act of chewing a wooden nest box may stimulate reproductive behavior. The box should be provided with branches that they may use to line their nest.

Incubation period is approximately 27 to 30 days. Chicks will usually fledge at approximately 10 to 12 weeks of age. White-tailed black cockatoos are very difficult to hand-rear and should only be attempted by very experienced hand-feeders. Ideally chicks should be parent reared to avoid imprinting.

Male cockatoos frequently become aggressive toward their mates. While such attacks have occurred with white-tailed black cockatoos, this behavior is uncommon. Because of large flights needed for this species, the male should not be clipped as in other cockatoo species.

When breeding cockatoos, noise and proximity to neighbors must be considered. If housed outdoors cockatoos often call at night especially during a full moon. In southern states outdoor caging must be protected from opossums to prevent exposure to the parasite Sarcocystis falcatula which can result in a fatal lung infection.

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