The Black Palm Cockatoo is the largest of the Australian cockatoos. They are extremely intelligent birds that possess a large and very powerful beak. These parrots are not known to be very affectionate, so if you are searching for a cuddly cockatoo this bird is probably not for you.
Overview of the Black Palm Cockatoo
This large companion parrot has a scientific name of Probosciger aterrimus and goes by a number of other common names such as the Black Macaw, Great Black Cockatoo, and Goliath Cockatoo. There are three subspecies that vary slightly in size.
Black Palm Cockatoos measure about 20 inches (51 cm) in length and weigh between 31 and 42 ounces (910-1200 g). Males and females have an identical appearance so DNA testing is required to determine their gender. The birds are almost totally black, with bare crimson cheek patches.
The Black Palm Cockatoo is native to the Cape York Peninsula in North Queensland, Australia, which is a large area of unspoiled wilderness. They also can be found in New Guinea and have made use of the islands in the Torres Straits to migrate between the two locations. They favor rain forests, monsoon woodland, and tall secondary growth. They are a slow-breeding bird that requires specific types of tree hollows to breed and are thereby impacted by a reduction in trees such as results after wildfires.
Sounds and Appearance of the Black Palm Cockatoo
The Black Palm Cockatoo is completely black or smoky gray with the exception of a bare, red patch on its cheeks. This patch gets brighter or darker if the bird is excited or feels threatened. Only the Hyacinth Macaw has a larger beak, and the Black Palm’s is extremely strong, allowing it to feed on hard pandanus nuts in its native setting.
In the wild, this cockatoo has many different calls of a higher-pitched variety than Sulphur-crested cockatoos. Calls range from wavering whistles to loud screams. They can learn to mimic human voices and are considered one of the best talking cockatoos. Black Palms are very loud, making them unsuitable for many home situations. Below is a video of a group of Black Palm Cockatoos living in the wild
How Do Black Palm Cockatoos Act?
These birds are fairly high-energy and need plenty of exercise as they are prone to becoming overweight in captivity. Expect to spend several hours a day with your bird as they demand a lot of attention if you wish them to become tame and socialised. They are intelligent and can be good companions but are not generally an affectionate bird. They can get along with other cockatoos in an aviary, but their strong beaks make them a potential danger around small children.
Black Palm Cockatoos exhibit the very rare animal behaviour of using tools. The male cockatoo takes a stick and uses it as a drumstick on a tree before making its nest there. Researchers are not certain why the birds do this. It may be to mark its territory. Another theory is that the female can discern if the tree is suitable for nesting by listening to the drumming sound. Below is an video of an example of this type of drumming displayed by a Black Palm cockatoo listening to music.
These parrots are very intelligent and inquisitive and need mental stimulation to avoid behavioural issues such as feather plucking or excessive screaming. They will want your attention as much as possible and will try to gain it by becoming loud if not properly trained. You can train one of these cockatoos to perform many simple tricks with time and positive reinforcement.
How Do I Care For a Black Palm Cockatoo?
These birds can tolerate variable temperatures but it should never get below freezing in their enclosure. They are best kept in a large cage size of 2.6 m W X 4m L X 2.6m H (8.5X13X8.5 feet),Bar spacing should be 1 inch (2.54 cm) and the cage needs to be sturdily constructed to stand up to the bird’s strong beak.
Nail clipping may be required as will beak trimming if you cannot supply native pandanus nuts. These powder down parrots enjoy baths and should regularly get the opportunity to get wet. Molting is a steady process where the bird loses one to two feathers at a time.
Feeding should be with a high-quality pelleted diet with at least half of its diet consisting of fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Obtaining nuts from its natural environment can be very beneficial to your bird and help it keep its beak in good shape.
These large birds need physical exercise to avoid becoming overweight and will benefit from ladders, perches and play stands. Breeding is difficult as the birds only lay one egg every two years. This fact, combined with habitat loss in their native regions, is cause for concern about the wild population of birds.
Are Black Palm Cockatoos Healthy?
In captivity, a Black Palm Cockatoo can live for over 40 to 60 years. Though it is a large bird, it is light for its size and is subject to becoming overweight in captivity. Your bird can suffer from kidney problems, PFBD, and bacterial infections. Maintaining a proper diet is key for this parrot.
What is the Cost of a Black Palm Cockatoo?
A Black Palm Cockatoo is a serious investment in time and money. Expect to pay at least $15,000 for this bird and on average around $19,000 because the bird is so rare in the pet trade. Add to that the expense of a very large enclosure and accessories and you have startup costs of well over $20,000. Feeding a bird of this size is another expense, as is beak and nail trimming. Other more affordable cockatoos are listed in our guide here.