In WA we have two species of these magnificent birds, unique to southwest Australia, as well as a red tailed variety. All of them are under continuing threats from habitat destruction through urban and agricultural sprawl as well as persistent shooting by orchard fruit growers.
With the white tailed varieties the long billed form is called Baudin's and the short billed form is the Carnaby’s. Other than bill size they are very similar in appearance. See photo for comparison. The long billed form on the right, the Baudin's, to the left is the Carnaby’s.
Around Perth though it is the short billed Carnaby’s Cockatoo that most of us will see and hear. Endemic to WA noisy flocks from a few individuals to many dozens fly up and down the Swan Coastal Plain to visit seasonal feeding sites. They will then fly out to their main breeding grounds in the Wheatbelt during the winter months. They feed mainly on nuts and seeds of Banksia, Dryandra, Hakea, Eucalyptus and Grevilleas.
We get Carnaby’s feeding on remnant bushland near us in suburban Perth. After a feed the trees or bushes look like they have been thrashed by vandals, debris lies all around, those sharp strong beaks brutal in their efficiency.
Male Carnaby’s reaching maturity have the blackish bill and pink around the eye, whereas the females have a grey beak and grey around the eye. Baudins are very similar.
Life span: up to 50 years
All are endangered or threatened species. Further decline in the wild is difficult to halt although a number of rescue centres try to reverse the decline in numbers through rehabilitation and breeding. Various charities and agencies are involved in assisting these birds with the creation of artificial hollows in suitable habitat and through prosecution of those deliberately killing or disturbing them. As well as persecution from man they also suffer from lack of suitable natural nesting hollows in mature trees that are also sought by feral bees, lorikeets and others.
Without any doubt these endemic birds are in very real danger of extinction. One small way we can all help is to plant native species such as banksias to provide food and encourage others to do the same. If you have a large property mature native trees are essential for roosting and breeding.