Red-tailed Black Cockatoos in SE Queensland

To: "'Birding-Aus'" <>
Subject: Red-tailed Black Cockatoos in SE Queensland
From: "Atzeni, Michael" <>
Date: Tue, 16 Jun 1998 09:47:47 +1000
Since 1991, RTBCs have been annual visitors (except 1993) to Toowoomba
(27.35S, 151.54E).  Until then, I had not seen them anywhere in SE Qld.
For the years 1975-1990, there are only 3 or 4 RTBC records held by the
Toowoomba Bird Observers.  Prior to that period I have no knowledge of
their occurrence in the region, so I am interested if anyone has.

I have been intrigued by this turn of events, and attributed their
annual appearance since 1991 to the prolonged drought forcing them
towards the coast each year.  However, their arrival in recent years
cannot be attributed to the extreme drought conditions of earlier years,
and I can only surmise that they liked what they saw, and keep coming
back for more.

It seems their key food source in suburban Toowoomba is the berry of the
White Cedar (Melia azedarach).  In fact, it is the only species I've
seen them feeding in, and if there is a tree in your neighbourhood,
there is a fair chance a flock of these magnificent birds will descend
on it sooner or later, their distinctive call usually heralding their
approach long before you see them.  

Even the general public have understandably been impressed by the
presence of RTBC's around here.  The local paper featured them a couple
of years ago and didn't have to travel far for a photo - they had a
white cedar full of them in their carpark, near the centre of town.

This year, the birds arrived in early January and they seem to be more
numerous than previously.    Flocks of 3-15 birds are typical, although
they somtimes gather into a flock of  up to 40-50 birds.  In past years
they have arrived no earlier than February (1992),  but usually around
June.  The period they stay is variable, but usually 2-7 months.  I can
provide the monthly records if anyone is interested.

The continued annual appearance of RTBC in Toowoomba, even beyond the
drought, raises a few interesting questions:

How widespread is this phenomenon elsewhere in SE Queensland?
How long has it been occurring elsewhere?
Has there been corresponding absences elsewhere?
Is the white cedar a key food source elsewhere?
Where are these Toowoomba birds coming from?
Is it possible they now prefer Toowoomba's white cedars to some previous
food source in another locality, and therefore, will we be seeing them
every year from now on, even in good years?  I hope so!!

All information gratefully received.  Thanks in anticipation.

Michael Atzeni

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