Psittaculture Conservation

Palm Cockatoo

(Probosciger aterrimus)


CITES: Appendix I

IUCN Red List: Near threatened (LR/nt)

This is a large, black cockatoo with a piercing call and spectacular displays. Display may occur in groups with elaborate calling and bowing, or by a male at or near the nesting tree, probably territorial. With crest fully raised, wings outstretched and cheeks brightly coloured, the bird will slowly twirl, striking the dead trunk with a branch, stone or large seed held in the foot, while constantly calling.

Pairs are thought to occupy a permanent display territory all year, though often feed away from them, sometimes in flocks. Nests are in large hollow trees, primarily large eucalypts in woodland, and pairs are also thought to claim numerous other hollow trees as display sites. Food is taken both from the canopy and on the ground, and appears to consist largely of the kernels of fruit and nuts.

Distribution of Palm Cockatoos



Palm Cockatoo (author unknown)




There are four subspecies of Palm Cockatoo, three confined to New Guinea and one to the Cape York Peninsula in northern Queensland (separated on the basis of differences in courtship behaviour. The Australian subspecies (P. a. macgillivrayi) occupies the fringe zone between rainforest and open tropical woodland dominated by paperbarks, eucalypts and acacias, with the number of breeding birds estimated at 3,000.



Conservation Management


In some parts of the range the woodland habitat in which hollow trees occur is being invaded by rainforest. However fire, which is used to maintain the stability of the rainforest/woodland margin, also has the potential to reduce hollow availability if managed incorrectly, by destroying hollow-bearing trees. Recommended actions include determining the effect of fire on habitat and using these findings as the bases for fire management where the species occurs.

Priam Psittaculture Centre has assisted in the research into radio tracking of the Palm Cockatoo. It has also financed Palm Cockatoo research in North Queensland. This includes equipment donated by, and tested at, Priam Psittaculture Centre.




Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

Australian Wildlife Conservancy

New Guinea Palm Cockatoo Research