Palm cockatoo numbers declining due to habitat loss

An article published in the journal of Biological Conservation has painted a bleak picture for Australia’s iconic palm cockatoo. Professor Rob Heinsohn, from the Australian National University, believed the population could be cut in half if the current trend is not addressed by conservation efforts.

Palm Cockatoo in flight
Photo credit: Jim Bendon

Heinsohn’s research identifies habitat loss as major cause of the species’ decline. Australia’s palm cockatoos are found only in the rainforsts of Cape York Peninsula, at the northern tip of Queensland. Land clearing due to mining, and worsening bushfires due to climate change are shrinking this already limited viable habitat.

Making matters worse; the palm cockatoo has an unusually slow rate of reproduction. Females lay only a single egg every two years. Heinsohn’s research suggests that chick loss to due predation results in palm cockatoo pairs only producing—on average—a single offspring every ten years. There are thought to only be 1500 birds remaining in the wild.

Researchersare currently working to have the palm cockatoo’s conservation status changed from vulnerable to endangered. Beyond this, conservationists will try to preserve their habitat with better fire management and cooperation with mining companies.