The Annual Cocky Count returns in 2021

Image: Luke Leddy


After having to adapt last year’s annual Red-tail count to a backyard counting event due to Covid-19, the Recovery Team and BirdLife Australia are happy the regional Annual Cocky Count can return in 2021 and are seeking volunteers to assist.

This year the Annual Cocky Count will be held on Saturday 1 May, with volunteers searching in stringybark sites across the Red-tails’ range in south-east South Australia and south-west Victoria.

“Last year due to Covid-19 lockdowns we were unable to send volunteers onto public land or drive far from home to search for Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos,” said Project Coordinator Kelsey Bennett. “The landholders and volunteers who helped us in 2020 did a wonderful job and we’re hoping with so many in the community keen to get back out and about to enjoy this beautiful part of the world we will see an increase in the number of volunteers in 2021.”

While the count can return this year there have been several new rules introduced to the event, due to government health regulations, to ensure the health and safety of participants. All vehicles must also carry hand sanitiser and participants can only search an area in the state where they live.

The method of the count however will be the same as previous years. Participants will search in pairs or small groups and drive around their allocated site in stringybark forest, stopping at regular intervals to look and listen out for the birds.

Survey sites are spread across the range of the cockatoo from Nelson to Little Desert in Victoria and Mount Gambier to Keith in South Australia. Landholders who have stringybark on their property are also encouraged to search their own land on the day.

“Participants who are interested in taking part in the count do not need prior bird survey experience but need 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,” said Kelsey. “You can hear the difference between the two species by visiting our website at”

The main reason for conducting the count each year is to find large flocks of Red-tails across the range. Using these records we undertake flock counts to gain an indication of breeding success in previous years.

In 2019 there were more than 170 volunteer participants who managed to count 1193 birds. This year we are hoping to count more birds in the final tally. To do this we need people to report their sightings.

“At this time of year we ask the public to report sightings of cockies to ensure that all areas where birds have been seen recently are searched on the day”, said Kelsey.

Reporting Red-tail sightings is always valuable but especially from March to May. Sightings can be reported on freecall 1800 262 062, email or by visiting our website.

“If there are changes to restrictions or lockdowns due to Covid-19 that will affect the count, we will communicate with all our registered participants to outline the rules; their safety is our top priority”, said Kelsey.

For more information on how to become involved or to register to participate please contact Kelsey Bennett on 1800 262 062 or email

The count is made possible with the support of the Limestone Coast Landscape Board, Wimmera Catchment Management Authority, and Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.

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