Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo

Usual contact call loud rolling metallid kree or krurr-rr, uttered in flight or when perched; also sharp krur-rak in alarm; all calls loud, harsh and far-carrying.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
Minimum Size: 
Maximum Size: 
Average weight: 
Breeding season: 
Varies depending on subspecies
Clutch Size: 
1, sometimes 2 eggs
28 days
Conservation Status
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
Featured bird groups: 
Atlas Number: 
What does it look like?

The Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo is the largest of the black cockatoo species found in Australia. Overall, plumage is mostly black with erectile crest that forms prominent helmet when raised - it has a large, robust bill. Adult males have bright red in tail, very conspicuous when taking flight or viewed from below. Adult females have overall duller plumage with pale yellow spots on the head, neck and inner wing coverts as well as orange-yellow barring on its undertail as opposed to red in males. Juveniles are similar to female but have white eye ring. Both sexes have dark brown eyes and brown-grey legs and feet; males have a dark grey bill, while the bill of the female is off-white.

Similar species: 

In northern and Western Australia it is the only black-cockatoo with red or yellow/orange panels in tail - however, in south-eastern Australia it can be confused with the smaller, duller Glossy Black Cockatoo. Female Glossy Black-Cockatoos have yellow patches on head as opposed to the yellow spots of the female Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo. Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo's have an obvious distinct yellow cheek patch.

Where does it live?

Endemic to mainland Australia, Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos are found in all mainland states, with five distinct subspecies occurring in eight discrete populations across the continent.


Occur in a wide variety of habitats, prefer Eucalyptus forest and woodland but are often found in adjacent habitats such as Acacia or Casuarina woodland or pretaceous woodland especially if recently burnt. Some subspecies prefer specific vegetation assemblages, such as Brown Stringybark forests in south-western Victoria and south-eastern SA, or Marri, Jarrah and Karri forests in south-western Australia, but others are less restricted in the habitats they occupy. They also occur in some regional towns and cities.

Seasonal movements: 

Widely considered to be dispersive, with seasonal movements related to food availability in different areas

What does it do?

Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos mainly eat seeds, which are usually extracted from the hard seed pods of eucalypts, casuarinas and banksias, using its robust bill to tear them open. They sometimes also eat insect larvae, which are revealed by tearing open the branches of trees. In some regions, they forage on the ground, eating the seeds of various weeds, and in other places they are quite picky, preferring the seeds of particular species of trees


Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos lay one white egg (or sometimes two) in a tree hollow lined with wood dust, woodchips or splinters. Nesting hollows are usually situated in mature or dead eucalypts. Only the female incubates and feeds the young nestlings, but as the chicks grow older, both sexes feed them.

Living with us

Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos like many other large hollow breeding Australian birds have suffered due to human induced land clearing in some areas of Australia. Land clearing has also had an impact on food availability in many areas where Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos were once considered to be common.

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