Skip to main content

Palm cockatoo

Probosciger aterrimus

Description: Palm cockatoos are the only cockatoo with all dark feathers. They have a backward curving erectile crest and a massive upper mandible (top portion of the beak) that is larger in males than in females. The tongue is red with a black tip. The feathers have a powder down, which dulls the beak and adds a gray color to the black plumage. The legs are grayish-black with some feathers on the thighs. A red, naked facial marking is located just to the sides of the beak. The color ranges from off-white to burgundy, depending on stress level and/or general health.

Size: Palm cockatoos are large birds, standing 19- 27 inches (49-68 cm) and weighing between one to two pounds (0.45 -0.9 kg). Their wingspans are between 27.5-39 inches (70-100 cm).

Behavior: Probosciger aterrimus are very social birds, usually seen in pairs, small groups, but often feeding in large groups. One bird stands guard to alert the groups of a predator or danger approaches. Much time is spent preening or interacting.

Diet: They feed on fruit, nuts, berries, seeds and buds of leaves.

Communication: Palm cockatoos have several different calls. They make a harsh screeching call when they feel threatened and they will call to one another as the sun rises. They also have whistles, grunts and cries. Each of the calls allows them to stay in contact with or to locate one another.

Reproduction: Palm cockatoos build their nests in the hollows of trees. Breeding normally occurs during October, November and December (spring to early summer). They lay one egg. The same nest is often used by the pair each year. Parents share the incubation of the egg, which lasts approximately 30 days. The young usually fledge after 100 days.

Habitat/range: Probosciger aterrimus is found only on the Cape York Peninsula of northern Australia, the Aru Islands, Papua New Guinea and other surrounding smaller islands. They are the only cockatoo species adapted to tropical rainforest habitat. They require large trees for nesting and roosting.

Status: They are listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. Palm cockatoos were listed as CITES Appendix II in 1975 and were moved to Appendix I in 1987. They are considered to be near threatened in the wild. Logging and seasonal fires destroy significant numbers of their nest trees each year.