BLACK COCKATOOS

Image by Phillipa Beckerling

South West Black Cockatoos

There are three species of Black Cockatoos endemic to Australia’s South West. The Ngolak (Baudin’s Black Cockatoo) and the Ngolyenok (Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo), and the Karak (Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoo)

All three Black Cockatoo species have been experiencing severe population decline over the last few decades. Threats to Black Cockatoos are primarily through forest clearing and loss of habitat, although road kills, illegal shooting and fires also take their toll.

Highly sociable, monogamous, and long-lived, their role in the forest includes pollinating flowers, spreading seeds, and ridding trees of grubs 

Noongar names

There are a variety of names used by Noongar people for the different species of Black Cockatoos, often with the same name used for both Ngolak and Ngolyenok. The ones chosen for this campaign are taken from a research paper by Ian Abbott: Aboriginal names of bird species in south-west Western Australia, with suggestions for their adoption into common usage.

THE THREE SPECIES OF BLACK COCKATOO

Two Red-tailed Black cockatoos on a dead branch
Image by Keith Lightbody

Karak, or Forest Red-tailed Black Cockatoos

Loud and showy with brilliant red tails flashing, the Karak is a flagship species for the Karri and Jarrah Forests and is well-known and well-loved in the South West of WA. For Noongar people, the Karak is a common totem and the wearing of one or two of the red feathers traditionally denotes leadership. As the ancient trees they depend on for nesting hollows are being felled and the food plants they rely on are bulldozed, leadership is needed from our politicians to save their habitat.

Closeup of Black cockatoo
Image by Phillipa Beckerling

Ngolyenok, or Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo

These white-tailed black Cockatoos used to fill the skies around Boorloo/Perth and the South West of WA in their thousands. A semi-migratory species, they fly from the inland Wheatbelt areas where they breed, to coastal woodland areas to feed. With the loss of habitat they are now extinct from a third of their range. Famed for the piercing calls they make as they fly over before rain, they have been recorded making 15 distinct calls and many Noongar people hear their cries as messages from ancestors.

Black and white cockatoos preening each other on a dead branch
Image by Keith Lightbody

Ngolak, or Baudin’s Black Cockatoo

Similar to the Ngolyenok but with longer, thinner beaks, slightly different calls, and different breeding habits (they prefer forests to woodlands) this species has the lowest numbers of all three Black Cockatoos and is now considered critically endangered. Like all Black Cockatoos, they play an important ecological role in pollinating flowers, spreading seeds, and ridding trees of grubs.  But as so much of their forest habitat has been destroyed, they have taken to eating apple and pear seeds and many are illegally shot on orchards.