Calling Counters for twentieth year of counting cockies!

Michael Waters
The Recovery Team and BirdLife Australia are again seeking volunteers to assist with the 2016 annual count for the endangered SE Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, which will be held on Saturday 7 May.


2016 marks the 20th year of counting cockies, with the Recovery Team keen to see a good turnout of volunteers to help locate as many flocks as possible across more than 60 sites in stringybark forest across the cockatoo’s range in the South-east of South Australia and South-west Victoria.

Participating is easy – all you need is a survey partner/friend or group, binoculars, a love of the outdoors and a vehicle; preferably 4WD. Volunteer groups will cover their allocated site, stopping their vehicle regularly to listen out for the distinctive call of Red-tails.

Volunteers need no prior experience with surveying for birds, but are required to become familiar with what Red-tails look and sound like, as they can often be mistaken for the more common Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo. To hear the difference between a Red-tail and Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo please visit our website

Sites are scattered from Nelson to Little Desert National Park in Victoria and from Mount Gambier to Keith in South Australia. Landholders who have remnant stringybark are also encouraged to search their own property. You can request a particular area to search when you register or nominate to search your own property.

Red-tails often use watering points such as cattle troughs and remnant stringybark habitat on private land that is inaccessible to our counters. As such, we encourage all landholders or anyone who notices birds on the day to phone in their sighting(s) to freecall 1800 262 026 so these sightings can be followed up.

Why do we count? The most important reason for conducting the annual count is to identify large flocks for subsequent counting (to determine the proportion of males and females/juveniles) as part of our annual flock counts. Flock counts are undertaken each year, following the volunteer count, to gain an indication of breeding success in previous seasons.

The count also allows us to better understand how the Red-tails use their habitat and build community knowledge and capacity to become involved in recovery efforts.

Come along to a training session. An annual count training session will be held on the morning of the count in Casterton for those who haven’t participated or would like some more tips on searching for Red-tails. Volunteers will learn what Red-tails look and sound like, what their feeding signs look like and how to identify stringybark habitat apart from other gum woodland habitats.

Following the count, volunteers are encouraged to attend the annual Bailey’s Rocks BBQ and Campout, this year celebrating 20 years of counting cockies. This is very informal; bring your own food, drink and camping gear.

Help us trial our smartphone app. This year the Recovery Team are seeking interested participants to trial the use of our annual count smartphone app to collect and record track/route data, time spent searching, and sighting information recorded as part of the survey. This will enable data collected to be digitally downloaded directly into GIS software and assist us to measure survey effort. Anyone wishing to be involved in the trial is encouraged to register their interest upon registration.
To register your interest in participating or to find out more information please contact Bronwyn Perryman on 1800 262 062 or via email

Registrations are taken up to two weeks prior to the count; however we highly recommend registering well before the deadline to secure your preferred search area. A package of survey instructions and a map will be sent out to registered volunteers in the fortnight leading up to the count.

The Recovery Team looks forward to hearing from both returning and new participants and hopes for another successful year of cocky counting. Although we can’t guarantee you’ll see a Red-tail on the day, we’re sure you’ll enjoy a fun day out in the bush searching for our colourful cockatoos.

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