Ian’s Bird of the Week – Palm Cockatoo ~ Ian Montgomery
I’ve just returned from Mungkan Kandju National Park between Coen and Weipa on Cape York Peninsula where I took part in the second of a series of Qld Parks and Wildlife surveys to measure the effect of feral animals on the park. It wasn’t all hard work, though, and during one of the surveys I got the opportunity to photograph a couple of Palm Cockatoos, my most ‘wanted’ bird on the Peninsula since I took some poor photos of them in early 2004 and again during the first Mungkan Kandju survey last November.
The first two photos show an adult Palm Cockatoo in a fruiting tree (Nonda Plum). Previously I’d found these birds rather shy, but the adult bird was prepared to tolerate me below the tree while it had breakfast. Palm Cockatoos are spectacular birds by any criterion,up to 64cm/24in in length, and unlike some cockatoos are not at all coy about displaying their huge crests. They have massive bills and in the second photo you can see the bird has evolved to be a huge nutcracker with wings. The lower bill is broad to prevent the fruit rolling out sideways while the upper bill has a big notch to hold the fruit in place and is slim and sharp like a blade. The tongue has a pad on the end used to manipulate the fruit, and if that isn’t enough the bird balances casually on one foot to leave the other free to use as a hand.
The third photos shows the other bird in flight. This is an immature bird, distinguishable by the barring on the chest, so I suppose that the adult bird was one of its parents. The young bird flew away when we approached and wasn’t seen again, but the adult seemed to think food was more important than parental care. Very young birds have a greyish rather than red face, so this one was old enough to look after itself.
Palm Cockatoos occur in Papua New Guinea and the Aru Islands but in Australia their range is restricted to the northern part of Cape York south to the Archer and Coen Rivers and Princess Charlotte Bay, so Mungkan Kandju is at the southern limit of their distribution. Within this range they are reasonably common on the edges of rainforest and in eucalyptus forest and they call loudly in flight.
I’m just about to post other photos of these birds to the website, so you can check them out at http://www.birdway.com.au/cacatuinae/palm_cockatoo/index.htm .
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Palm Cockatoo is part of the Cockatoos & Allies – Cacatuidae Family in the Psittaciformes Order. This Order includes not only the Cockatoos, but also the New Zealand Parrot (Strigopidae) and Parrot (Psittacidae) families.
What magnificent birds the Lord has created in this Order. Many of these have been captured and tamed, but is is nice to see these photos of the birds out in the wild.
For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: (James 3:7 KJV)