Monday, 15 February 2016
A chance encounter in a University carpark has led a group of ECU students to discover the first recorded breeding sites of endangered Carnaby’s black cockatoos in Perth since European settlement.
The cockatoos are a common sight around ECU’s Joondalup Campus feeding on seeds and nuts. However they’ve never been recorded breeding so close to the metropolitan area.
But that all changed this year when two chicks, now named Chappie and Ronnie, hatched in the newly discovered sites in Joondalup.
ECU School of Science student Jessica Bruce was walking back to her car after an exam late last year when she spotted a pair of the endangered cockatoos late one afternoon.
“We’d learnt about the Carnaby’s in our studies earlier that year and I thought it was strange that they’d be around Joondalup at that time,” she said.
After watching for several minutes she noticed one of the birds lean down into the tree appearing to feed a chick.
“I knew that was really unusual if they were breeding in the Joondalup area,” she said.
She let a group of her classmates know about the discovery, including Grant Buller who went to check it out for himself. He discovered a second breeding site and another Carnaby’s chick being fed by two attentive parents.
“I was just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to see Ronnie’s dad enter the hollow,” he said.
“The first hollow in a dead tree had been recorded before being used by other species – but never Carnaby’s but the second breeding hollow was completely unknown to anyone.
“It just shows how even in a carpark in the middle of suburban Perth, we never know what’s going on in the trees only a few metres above us!”
The discovery also shows the importance of retaining large old trees in metropolitan areas to help native species breed, forage and survive.
Jessica and Grant worked with fellow students Candice Le Roux, Melissa Karlinski, Casper Avenant and Professor Will Stock from ECU’s School of Science to record the breeding sites and the chicks.
The birds were banded and had their DNA taken by officers from the Department of Parks and Wildlife.
Professor Stock said having Carnaby’s cockatoos breeding on our campus in close proximity to Ngoolark, ECU’s new building named for the Nyoongar name for the Carnaby’s black cockatoo was a real treat.
The discovery has led the University to invest in cockatoo-specific artificial nesting hollows around the Joondalup Campus to encourage the endangered cockatoos to breed and nest.
If you’re interested in studying Conservation Biology and Environmental Science, visit our Biology and Environmental Science web page.
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For more information on Carnaby’s black cockatoos and what’s being done to conserve them visit the Birdlife Australia webpages.