Three-month search to snap this rare bird

ABOVE: The glossy black cockatoo snapped after a three-month search. Photo: Contributed

A three-month search for the elusive glossy black cockatoo led to the photo above. The splendour of the red panels on the tail of the male glossy black cockatoo can be clearly seen.

It was a photo ecologists feared might never be taken after searching for the rare birds for almost three months in the Northern Rivers without success.

Glossies Northern Rivers is an ambitious project to save the species across the region.

The first step was finding remaining glossy black cockatoos but team members faced an uphill challenge.

How do you find a rare cockatoo in an area of nearly 21,000 square kilometres?

The black glossies were already declining because of a reduction of  sheoaks the birds rely on for food and hollow-bearing eucalypts they needed for nesting.

Their habitat conditions weren’t helped by the 2019-2020 fires which impacted on almost 50% of the region’s suitable glossy black habitat.

Glossies Northern Rivers project manager Harry Hackett said they had no idea how many birds were left.

“Glossy black-cockatoos had become a rare sight in the Northern Rivers, which was evident throughout our field surveys,” he said

The surveys began in February 2022.

“We identified several feed trees by the tell-tale sign of chewed sheoak cones, but the birds remained elusive,” Mr Hackett said.

Chewed sheoak cones were clues to finding the glossies.

“As the search rolled on, we continued finding chewed sheoak cones but by late March, we were yet to see any glossies.

“During the Great Glossy Count on March 26, about 25 volunteers were in the field in our area, surveying for the birds. Still, none were found.”

The team was concerned glossies were not turning up where we thought they might be.

“Loss of habitat caused by the fires would have dislocated the birds, and who knows the impacts of the catastrophic rain and flooding events across the Northern Rivers earlier this year. We pushed on, determined as ever to find them,” Mr Hackett said.  

Persistence paid off and in May the team zeroed in on one particular spot in Bogangar in the Tweed Shire where they found a small cluster of feed trees with recently chewed cones.

Several days later a male and female pair of glossies were seen

The pair were named ‘Barry’ and ‘The Baroness’.

Meet Barry.
Here’s the Baroness.

The team needs keen citizen scientists across the Northern Rivers to help them find more glossies and become part of the Glossy Squad.

“We want people who live in the Northern Rivers to get behind the project by letting the team know when they find a glossy or its feeding habitat by logging it on the Birdata app,” Mr Hackett said.

“Glossies are commonly mistaken for yellow tailed black cockatoos or red tailed black cockatoos, their larger and much noisier cousins, so we recommend people brush up on their glossy ID skills before venturing out to search for the birds.”

Glossies Northern Rivers is supported by the State Government’s Saving our Species program and the World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia, as part of its Regenerate Australia program.

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