Calls for native bird on ACT’s emblem to be listed as endangered

James Coleman 15 September 2021 41
Gang-gang cockatoo

The gang-gang cockatoo is an occasional visitor to Canberra backyards. Photo: Dalal Nizam.

With it’s slate-grey body and bright red head, Canberra is the only city in Australia the gang-gang cockatoo chooses to call home. But there are concerns its numbers elsewhere are dwindling.

The population of the native bird has been relatively stable in the ACT region for the past 30 years, but the rest of southeast Australia has seen a 69 per cent decline in its reporting rate, according to the Canberra Nature Map.

The gang-gang cockatoo (Callocephalon fimbriatum) has been listed as endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, and the ACT Government’s Environment Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate will be running a citizen survey to record its whereabouts.

The directorate says the Black Summer bushfires had a severe impact on gang-gang cockatoo habitat across the region.

The surveys will cover the last two weekends of September and first weekend of October, 2021, and aim to identify areas of high gang-gang cockatoo occupancy and gain a better understanding of their breeding locations and habitat needs.

Community members can register to participate here.

The gang-gang cockatoo was adopted as the ACT’s fauna emblem on 27 February, 1997, and also features on the logo of the ACT Parks and Conservation Service.

Gang-gang cockatoo

Gang-gangs cockatoos feed on native berries and pine cones. Photo: Geoffrey Dabb.

During winter, small flocks of the birds are common in gardens around Canberra where they feed on pine cones, firethorn and hawthorn berries. They are often so busy feeding that observers can get close enough to admire their beautiful plumage.

In summer, most of the flocks return to the mountain forests to breed in tree hollows.

Their call is a distinctive sound resembling a squeaking gate.

Canberra naturalist Ian Fraser says the gang-gang cockatoo has been categorised as vulnerable in NSW for some time, although its situation is considered less dire here in the ACT.

“The 2019 bushfires definitely would have affected a lot of their breeding habitats in the mountains,” he says. “But the fact they’re in trouble is not just to do with that.”

Ian says it’s hard to put a finger on why certain species decline in numbers, but for cockatoos, logging certainly shares part of the blame.

“My feeling is that, as with other cockatoos, the real trouble is the progressive loss of breeding trees,” says Ian. “Fires will have exacerbated that, but the real problem has been the logging of forests over many, many decades.

“Cockatoos, in particular, need hollows in tree trunks to make their nests. This typically requires 200-year-old eucalypts, which are most often the very ones that are coming down.”

Aerial view of Orroral Valley

The Orroral Valley in December 2020, almost 12 months on from the devastating Black Summer bushfire. Photo: ACT Parks and Conservation Service.

‘Threatened’ is a general term comprising categories ‘endangered’, being the second-highest one, and below it, ‘critically endangered’.

“It’s all defined in legislation in terms of during how many generations there has been a decline and how many generations can we expect before it will disappear,” says Ian.

“I wouldn’t say gang-gangs are threatened, but they are certainly vulnerable, which means if things don’t change, they will become threatened.”

In regards to other species affected by the Black Summer bushfires, Ian says, “We really don’t know about all of them.”

In 2020, Birdlife Australia reported that 180 million birds were impacted by the 2019-2020 bushfires, with 17 species identified as being in urgent need of management.

Ian says it’s the smaller species that can fall by the wayside when it comes to tracking their numbers.

“There’s never enough resources to do the sort of intensive studies that are needed to follow populations over years,” he says. “It’s really too early to say what effect the bushfires had on native fauna.”

“My own sick feeling is that the next Australian bird to become extinct could well be the regent honeyeater. It’s dwindling in numbers; we’re probably down to less than a couple of hundred birds left now scattered the full length of the east coast and hinterland.”

The regent honeyeater is currently classified as endangered in the ACT, and critically endangered in NSW.

“There’s a huge amount of work that’s gone into habitat planting and doing what seems to be the reasonable things to do to protect them, but numbers just keep dropping.”


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41 Responses to Calls for native bird on ACT’s emblem to be listed as endangered
Dick Tarlinton Dick Tarlinton 6:16 pm 26 Aug 21

I saw one in Kalgoorlie Cresent Fisher on the 29th and 30 th of March 2021

Richard Perry Richard Perry 5:43 pm 24 Aug 21

They were at Paddy's River Dam near-ish to Batlow a couple of years ago in large numbers, but the bushfires of 2020 swept through this beautiful spot.

Des Hodgson Des Hodgson 6:52 pm 23 Aug 21

I got a tattoo of one of them on my Arm

    Jens Fritz Sorensen Jens Fritz Sorensen 8:02 pm 23 Aug 21

    Des Hodgson that is why the population is dwindling

Katie Tranter Katie Tranter 5:34 pm 23 Aug 21

Spotted my first one in Clermont st fisher!

daveinhackett daveinhackett 1:13 pm 23 Aug 21

Saw a couple in the backyard (Hackett) a couple of weeks ago.

David Cole David Cole 12:53 pm 23 Aug 21

There’s been a group of 4 hanging around my place for the last fortnight. (Murrumbateman)

Deborah Lee Deborah Lee 12:34 pm 23 Aug 21

I saw a pair in my front garden on Saturday beautiful, they also sound beautiful, wild bird seed

Darryl Alexander Darryl Alexander 9:38 am 23 Aug 21

In Namadgi National Park.

Judith White Judith White 8:59 am 23 Aug 21

I haven't seen one in Flynn, but would love to..... anyone else seen one here ?

Elisha Margaret Elisha Margaret 8:04 am 23 Aug 21

Lots in Cook!! 🥰

Margie Dorman Margie Dorman 1:10 am 23 Aug 21

Barely returned to our tree after the bushfires in January 2020. Had one on our tree last year. And one in neighbours about two weeks ago. I’ll keep looking.

Robert Knight Robert Knight 12:35 am 23 Aug 21

There are a whole bunch of them living between Garran and Hughes.

Linda Walker Linda Walker 12:22 am 23 Aug 21

I finally saw my first Gangangs in Queanbeyan about April this year. Such beautiful birds 💜

Allira Middlebrook Allira Middlebrook 10:05 pm 22 Aug 21

Had some visit late autumn 🍂💕

Daniel Robb Daniel Robb 9:30 pm 22 Aug 21

Don’t have to look very hard as to why their numbers would be dwindling, anyone that has anything to do with the brindies and snowies will tell you that the feral cat problem is out of control, pair that with feral and domestic cats around town and it’s little wonder you don’t see many native cockatoos/parrots let alone gang gangs around.

Drew Allen Drew Allen 9:16 pm 22 Aug 21

I've seen plenty

Sharon Pech Sharon Pech 7:55 pm 22 Aug 21

We see them a lot in the old part of Watson, especially the streets closest to the reserve.

Jo Pybus Jo Pybus 7:53 pm 22 Aug 21

Red Hill yesterday.

Shaunee Robb Shaunee Robb 7:45 pm 22 Aug 21

Saw this little guy, by tLBG yesterday. He was back at the same spot with his partner today.

Barbara Cooper Barbara Cooper 7:41 pm 22 Aug 21

A pair in the tree right outside my office window in Equinox Deakin, right before lockdown began. Glorious!

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