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Choosing a Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

By: Dr. Susan Clubb

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The yellow-tailed black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus funereus) is a unique and magnificent species common in wet forest areas of eastern Australia from Queensland to Tasmania and South Australia. Very few birds are found in captivity, except in zoos and specialized private collections. Yellow-tailed black cockatoos and other cockatoo species can be very long lived (probably around 50 years) but precise life span is unknown.

The yellow-tailed black cockatoo inhabits eucalyptus forests, especially along rivers, feeding on seeds of pines, eucalyptus, casurina, acacias and also the larvae of wood boring insects. They are nomadic and move about in search of food in flocks of up to 2000 birds.

Appearance and Personality

Yellow-tailed black cockatoos are large, lean and lanky black cockatoos with recumbent crests. The male and female can be differentiated by coloration. The male is solid black except for a broad yellow panels on the middle of the lateral tail feathers, yellow ear patches, and red eye-rings. The female's undersides have light yellow scalloping, a larger yellow ear patch and grey eye-rings. The tail has panels of yellow-orange with black bars.

Yellow-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 for pets, and it is only rarely that you will see a companion yellow-tailed black cockatoo.

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

Feeding

Yellow-tailed black cockatoos 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. You can also offer them 2 to 3 large nuts daily, preferably walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, almonds or filberts. If you offer peanuts, shell them first and inspect for fungal growth. Yellow-tailed black cockatoos are usually lean by nature and not likely to become overweight and vitamin supplements are not needed for birds that are eating a formulated diet. However, you should provide fresh branches for additional chewing.

Breeding

Yellow-tailed black cockatoos are difficult to breed in captivity. They require a roomy area with privacy. A good choice for cage construction is one inch by one inch by 12 gauge-welded wire. For destructive birds, chain link is the most durable caging material. A suggested cage 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. They should be provided with branches, which they may use to line their nest.

Incubation period is approximately 27 to 30 days and clutch size is typically one to two eggs. Yellow-tailed black cockatoos can be difficult to hand-rear and should only be attempted by very experienced hand-feeders. Ideally, chicks should be reared by the parents to avoid imprinting.

Male cockatoos frequently become aggressive toward their mates. 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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