Cockatoos – Did You Know…

… That cockatoos are the loudest of all parrots? They screech and even scream to communicate with each other. In the wild, cockatoos live in the rainforests of Australia, Indonesia, New Guinea and other nearby islands.

Cockatoos are recognizable by the showy crests and curved bills. Their plumage is generally less colorful than that of other parrots, being mainly white, grey or black and often with colored features in the crest, cheeks or tail. On average they are larger than other parrots; however, the cockatiel, the smallest cockatoo species, is a small bird. s. The five large black colored cockatoos of the genus Calyptorhynchus form one branch. The second and larger branch is formed by the genus Cacatua, comprising 11 species of white-plumaged cockatoos and four monotypic genera that branched off earlier; namely the pink and white Major Mitchell’s cockatoo, the pink and grey galah, the mainly grey gang-gang cockatoo and the large black-plumaged palm cockatoo.

Cockatoos prefer to eat seeds, tubers, corms, fruit, flowers and insects. They often feed in large flocks, particularly when ground-feeding. Cockatoos are monogamous and nest in tree hollows. Some cockatoo species have been adversely affected by habitat loss, particularly from a shortage of suitable nesting hollows after large mature trees are cleared; conversely, some species have adapted well to human changes and are considered agricultural pests.

The yellow-tailed black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus funereus) is a large cockatoo native to the south-east of Australia measuring 55–65 cm (22–26 in) in length. It has a short crest on the top of its head. Its plumage is mostly brownish black and it has prominent yellow cheek patches and a yellow tail band. The body feathers are edged with yellow giving a scalloped appearance. The adult male has a black beak and pinkish-red eye-rings, and the female has a bone-coloured beak and grey eye-rings. In flight, yellow-tailed black cockatoos flap deeply and slowly, and with a peculiar heavy fluid motion. Their loud eerie wailing calls carry for long distances.

The yellow-tailed black cockatoo is found in forested regions from south and central eastern Queensland to southeastern South Australia including a very small population persisting in the Eyre Peninsula. Two subspecies are recognised, although Tasmanian and southern mainland populations of the southern subspecies xanthanotus may be distinct enough from each other to bring the total to three. Birds of subspecies funereus (Queensland to eastern Victoria) have longer wings and tails and darker plumage overall, while those of xanthanotus (western Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania) have more prominent scalloping.

Unlike other cockatoos, a large proportion of the yellow-tailed black cockatoo’s diet is made up of wood-boring grubs, and they also eat seeds. They nest in hollows situated high in trees with fairly large diameters, generally Eucalyptus. Although, they remain common throughout much of their range, fragmentation of habitat and loss of large trees suitable for nesting has caused a population decline in Victoria and South Australia. In some places yellow-tailed black cockatoos appear to have adapted to humans and they can often be seen in parts of urban Sydney and Melbourne. It is not commonly seen in aviculture, especially outside Australia. Like most parrots, it is protected by CITES, an international agreement, that makes trade, export, and import of listed wild-caught species illegal.

We see the white cockatoos very often here. The black ones though are a treat, so I think. On one of our last hikes we had the pleasure to spot a flock of yellow-tailed black cockatoos. They are beautiful and I believe it’s a beautiful gift of nature to be able to observe them in the wild and something I’m grateful to have witnessed.

13 thoughts on “Cockatoos – Did You Know…

  1. Well, the only cockatoos I knew about before this post the only kind I knew about were white, and for some reason that memory is associated with Hawthorne’s Cockatoo Inn, one of the South Bay’s (where I lived and worked for most of my first thirty years) premier hot spots, featuring 210 guest rooms and numerous meeting rooms amid sprawling grounds laid out like a secret garden. They may actually have had other types and colors on display there, but the white ones really stick out in my mind.

    Built on the busy corner of a major intersection near LAX, The Cockatoo first opened in 1946 (well before my time) as a chicken-and-rib drive-in restaurant. It was owned and operated by by Andrew J. Lococo, a colorful man who later owned the world’s largest tuna-fishing boat and oh by the way was also a reputed Mafia associate.
    In 1958, a fire destroyed the restaurant but within months Mr. Lococo rebuilt it and added a two-story house so he could live next door. President Kennedy stayed there, as did his Air Force One pilots and his younger brother, Robert. One rumor has it that the Kennedy brothers brought Marilyn Monroe to Room 200 for a discreet rendezvous. Another is that a secret tunnel, used only by select celebrities, runs from the kitchen basement to the villa in the center of the 4-acre complex.

    In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the hotel grew popular among underworld figures, a Justice Department official testified at the time. Around then, the local newspaper ran stories describing an odd relationship among Lococo, police in Milwaukee, where Lococo previously lived, and Hawthorne. Milwaukee police, the reports said, stayed at the Cockatoo when they came to California to extradite prisoners. One prisoner described a surreal scene in which a Milwaukee detective picked him up at the Los Angeles County jail in a gold Cockatoo Inn station wagon, took him to the hotel for lunch, and then had a Cockatoo bellhop drive him to the Hawthorne jail in a limousine. The prisoners and others complained that they were left for days at the Hawthorne jail while the detectives partied at the Cockatoo.

    By 1970, Andrew J. was in trouble with the law when the U.S. attorney general’s office identified him as a major organized-crime figure. The same year, he was convicted of perjury in connection with testimony during a grand jury investigation of interstate gambling and horse-race fixing. In 1972, Lococo sold the Cockatoo and served three months in prison for lying to a federal grand jury investigating horse-race fixing and bribery. In 1973, he died after a stroke at age 55. I heard snippets of this early history from my parents, who owned an insurance business in Hawthorne for many years

    The colorful history of the Cockatoo continued for many years after that. It gained a reputation for fine food, grand banquet halls and elegant European decor, including an L-shaped bar of brass and red leather. Male patrons were not allowed in without neckties. After investors bought the property, the hotel shed its Mafia image but continued to be popular among high rollers from Hollywood Park, horse trainers and jockeys. It also catered to military and corporate travelers visiting the South Bay’s aerospace facilities, as well as community groups and politicians, who held fund-raisers there. I remember attending a few offsite luncheons and holiday parties at this famous and infamous place in the early years of my professional career as an aerospace buyer. On a related note, the Cockatoo
    during this period, too, witnessed its fair share of behind-the-scenes intrigue. In 1985, a Northrop Corp. employee was sentenced to life in prison after trying to sell military secrets to an undercover agent in a meeting at the Cockatoo bar. In the late 1980s, new owners embarked on a $1 million renovation of the property to help it compete with the new hotels sprouting up on Century Boulevard east of Los Angeles International Airport. But alas, the fair Cockatoo’s glory days ended shortly thereafter, in the early 1990s.

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