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Join the Palmy Army and help the ‘Rockatoo’ tackle the housing crisis

With fewer than 2000 individuals left in the wild in Cape York, Australia’s largest cockatoo by weight, the endangered palm cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus), is in severe decline due to poor reproductive rates and nesting habitat destruction.

But Cairns-based Not-For-Profit, People For Wildlife, has partnered with ecologist Dr Christina Zdenek to conduct vital conservation research and to create new nesting sites for this iconic species.

People For Wildlife Executive Director, Dr Daniel Natusch said; The palm cockatoo’s habitat is facing threats throughout Cape York from land-clearing and more extreme bushfires. This is resulting in destruction of nesting trees.”

Female palm cockatoos only lay one egg every second year and are thought to have the lowest breeding success rate of any parrot species.

Due to their large size (65cm in length), palm cockatoos need large nesting hollows that are only accommodated in trees of around 300 years of age.

Dr Zdenek, who has been researching palm cockatoos since 2008, said; “The natural creation of palm cockatoo real estate is a complex and slow process that takes over 100 years in an already old tree.”

“First, a tree trunk must be hollowed out by termites and fungi that enter the tree via a small fire scar at the base of the tree. Then, a cyclone or the like needs to twist the top of the tree off, exposing the termite-mud-gut centre of the trunk. This incredibly hard material slowly erodes away via rain, eventually hollowing out a large enough space for the palm cockatoo to nest in,” Dr Zdenek said.

Dr Zdenek and People For Wildlife received $67,546 of funding from the Queensland Government's Threatened Species Research Grant program (round 2) to fill knowledge gaps and aid in palm cockatoo recovery and management.

Dr Natusch said: “With the grant from the Queensland Government we will conduct nest site surveys, capture audio data to develop a call recogniser, and install some nest cams - to record cockatoo family life and to learn why nests fail.”

“We will also create protective fire breaks around nest trees, plus build artificial nesting hollows to create new homes,” he said.

Palm cockatoos or ‘Palmies’ are a bit of a rockstar and have even been nicknamed after the Beatles drummer ‘Ringo Starr.’ The male palmy has a unique knack for making drumsticks out of branches to bang out a beat on tree trunks - to mark territory - and attract a mate.

Dr Natusch said: “Conservation work is expensive, and much of the palmy habitat is in remote and tough terrain to access, so while the Queensland Government's Threatened Species Research Grant will get us started on what needs to be done, we want to do a lot more.”

Dr Zdenek said: “So that’s why we are calling out for community support and for people to sign up for the ‘Palmy Army’ and help the Palmy keep marching to the beat of their own drum.”

“Now, more than ever, is a crucial moment to pledge your support to help Palmies by joining the Palmy Army.”

To donate to the Palmy Army go to:


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