Promising results from cocky count

Image Michael Waters

More than 170 volunteers took part in the annual count for the endangered South-eastern Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo held on Saturday 4 May in stringybark forest across the range of the cockatoo in the South East of South Australia and South West Victoria.

The weather conditions improved this year with less wind and rain than the previous few years, which meant that the calls of the cockies were able to be heard more easily. After several years of lower count results it is pleasing to report that the number of birds counted increased considerably this year.

After taking into consideration double counts the final tally stands at 1193 birds, which is substantially higher than last year’s total of 839 birds. Additional sightings either side of the count were also incorporated into the total including a flock of 200 birds, the largest sighting recorded in the count.

The number of sightings reported by volunteers this year was 40, which is slightly less than last year’s total of 45. Flock sizes this year were larger than they have been in previous years, with seven large flocks (greater than 80 birds) recorded.

The distribution of sightings was fairly widespread, with birds again recorded as far north as McCallum (40km NE of Keith).

“The count result we achieved this year is great news for the species” said Kelsey Bennett, Project Coordinator for the Recovery Program. “With good weather on the day across most of the range it was easier to both see and hear the Red-tails, which may have contributed to the higher number of birds counted.”

“Volunteer effort was again outstanding, with 81 groups spending over 270 hours searching for the cockatoos across the range”, said Kelsey. “We are grateful to everyone who volunteered on the day including farmers who searched their own properties, a great team of locals who regularly give us a hand, and several participants who travelled from as far as Adelaide and Melbourne to help out with the cocky count”.

The information gathered during the annual count is crucial to determine patterns of habitat use, the minimum number of birds in the population and most importantly, the location of large flocks.

“The increased number of large flocks we’ve received this year has made conducting the flock counts much easier”, Kelsey said. “Flock counts provide the best indication of breeding success in the species.”

This year, large flocks were found near Edenhope, Penola, Rennick, Dry Creek, Wandilo and Kanawinka. Other sightings were made near Goroke, Harrow, Coonawarra, Dergholm, Nangwarry, Casterton, Nelson, Lucindale, Millicent, Tooan and Frances.

The annual Baileys Rocks campout was again a success, with volunteers gathering on the night to share stories on how many cockies they saw or the flock that got away.

BirdLife Australia and the Red-tail Recovery Team would like to thank all the wonderful volunteers involved, many of whom travelled long distances to participate.

Also a special thanks to Evan Roberts, Kerry Gilkes and Jeremy Freeman for their assistance with promoting the count and getting landholders and volunteers involved on the day, and Tim Burnard for conducting the training session at Casterton and organising the campsite at Bailey's Rocks

The SERTBC Recovery Program is managed by BirdLife Australia and is supported by the South East Natural Resources Management Board, Wimmera Catchment Management Authority and Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

A map of the count results will be available soon.

Kelsey Bennett

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