Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo Care Sheet

Scientific Facts

Common Name:Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Great Billed Cockatoo, Banks’ Black Cockatoo
Scientific Name:Calyptorhynchus banksii
Life Span:Up to 100 years
Weight:Up to 2.20 pounds
Length:55 cm to 60 cm
Country of Origin:Australia

Physical Description

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Although the red-tailed black cockatoos are members of the cockatoo family, the similarities between them and the other cockatoos are only basic, and the red tails come with an entire variety of unique details. Their uniqueness, including their bold and striking colors, makes these birds a little easier to spot and identify. These birds reach an average weight of 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds, and an average length of 24 inches or 60 centimeters.

The red-tailed black cockatoo is distinguished for their mostly glossy black plumage and having an erectile crest that forms an obvious helmet when pushed forward and raised. As for how these birds are named, the red-tailed black cockatoos are birds that are encased with a majorly black plumage that is accented by scarlet panels in their tails, especially for the males.

The females, on the other hand, are also characterized by yellow spots on the head, neck, and wings, plus an orange and yellow blend barring on their under tails and breasts feathers. Their plumage is a duller brown-black, and their tail feathers are unlike the males, which are yellow to orange to red with irregular black barring. Their beaks are light gray to off-white in color.

Both sexes also have dark brown eyes and brown and gray legs and feet. The males have a dark grey bill, while the bill of the female has an off-white color

Juveniles are known to have a similar appearance to the females, but they have a whitish ring in their eyes and have incomplete barring on the feathers around their head, neck, abdomen, and collar.

Another unique detail of these birds is their zygodactyl feet. This means they have two toes in the back and two toes at the front. This characteristic allows them the ability to grab things easier and to hold on to things with surprising skills.


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There are five distinct subspecies of red-tailed black cockatoos recognized in Australia. These have considerable variations in overall size, bill size, color, and bill shape between the different subspecies.

  1. Calyptorhynchus banksii banksii – Living in northern and eastern Queensland.
  2. Calyptorhynchus banksii graptogyne – Living in southwest Victoria and southeast of South Australia.
  3. Calyptorhynchus banksii macrorhynchus – Living in northern Western Australia, Northern Territory, and the Gulf of Carpentaria.
  4. Calyptorhynchus banksii naso – Living in the southwest corner of Western Australia.
  5. Calyptorhynchus banksii samueli – Living in Inland Australia from the western side of Western Australia, Central Australia, and through the Murray-Darling area in western New South Wales.

Conservation Status

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In the IUCN Red List, the category for the red-tailed black cockatoo is LC, which means Least Concern. But, it cannot be denied that the population of the species is quickly dwindling, in fact, one of the subspecies is currently enlisted as endangered in its natural habitat, according to Australia’s Department of Environment and Heritage.

Specifically, for the subspecies, here is relevant information on them. C. banksii is currently as a whole listed as Appendix ll on Cites, which means it could become threatened in the future, however C. b. graptogyne found in Victoria, and Southeast South Australia is currently endangered in the wild. C.b.graptogyne is currently endangered due to habitat loss resulting in a lack of suitable nesting sites, and it is estimated that there are only 1,000 individuals left in the wild.

The main threat against the existence of the red-tailed black cockatoos is considered to be a shortage of their food sources. Here are the details on the threats faced by these birds:

  1. Loss of Buloke Feeding Trees –The intensification of agricultural practices as well as natural senescence are largely contributing to the loss of the trees in the Southern Wimmera area, of which most of the Buloke vegetation community can be found.
  2. Fuel Reduction Burning – In park reserves and state forests, the burning of fuel reduction register a major impact on seed production of the trees. The extremely hot fires can reduce the fruit production of the trees for up to nine years, which therefore further limits the availability of food.
  3. Wildfire – In Australia, wildfires can be very common, and this occurrence can wipe out a significant population of red-tailed black cockatoos as well as their habitats. In burning, even dead trees can be lost, which means a loss of nesting opportunities for the birds.
  4. Illegal Bird Trade – The collection of eggs, chicks, hatchlings, and adult red-tailed black cockatoos is a major concern, particularly as their nesting sites become a significant target of thieves. It is also quite difficult to monitor this, which is why civilians are encouraged to report unlawful sightings.

Availability and Natural Habitat

The red-tailed black cockatoo is one of the most well-known parrots residing in Australia. In fact, these birds have always been an essential symbol and have been included as sports mascots, postage stamps, and has been included in many aboriginal mythologies in the country.

The red-tailed black cockatoo is endemic to mainland Australia, and it has populations spread in eight distinct communities all over the continent. This species of the red-tailed black cockatoo can be found from the Kimberleys and Pilbara in Western Australia through Top End, as well as the Queensland region and the New South Wales border. Basically, the species of these black cockatoos are living in three geographically separate regions: first, southwest Victoria and southeast South Australia; second, southwest and west of Western Australia; and finally, central Australia in the southern Northern Territory and northern South Australia.

These red-tailed black cockatoos are known to inhabit a wide variety of habitats. The places are usually forests and woodlands that are dominated by casuarinas or eucalyptus trees. Some subspecies also prefer specific vegetation assemblages, such as brown stringybark forests in southwestern Victoria and southeastern SA. Some stay in Jarrah, Marri, and Karri forests in southwestern Australia, but others are less restricted in the habitats where they reside in. Some individuals also occur in some cities and regional towns.

Behavior, Exercise and Training

The red-tailed black cockatoo is a gregarious species, which is often seen congregating in large flocks, though groupings can also happen in pairs and trios. These birds can be very noisy, active, and conspicuous, which mainly live arboreal lives. They also spend most of their days feeding; then, they are also seen flying high during sunsets. They also return from their feeding areas to roosts in large trees along the banks of streams and rivers. These cockatoos may also be less wary when they are feeding, and they generally do not allow a close approach by an observer, readily taking flight and screeching a little loudly.

These birds can also be described as dispersive, which means that they tend to move away from the place where they were born to transfer to a place where they could breed. Usually, they prefer breeding in separate locations. Another reason that they migrate from one area to another is seasonal food availability.

Cockatoos are famous for being extremely noisy, and they can be raucous and a little difficult to tolerate for some. But, red-tails can be very different. These birds are not loud at all. They have a calm personality, and their natural calls are simple “kree” and “caw” sounds. Most humans believe that their sounds are a mix of cute and goofy.

Usually, these red-tailed black cockatoos are famous for having a gentle disposition. They are known to be easy pets, and they rarely cause any problems for their owners. Staying content with foraging toys is not a big deal for these birds. But, owners should take note that placing them outside, near furniture, entails the birds to become curious about their surroundings and try to chew things off. For avoiding that, it is essential to keep a playpen in a place where you can keep watch on your red-tailed black cockatoo.

Food and Eating Habits

Red-tailed black cockatoos primarily eat seeds. Usually, these seeds have been extracted from the hard seed pods of casuarinas, eucalyptus, and banksias, using their robust bills to tear them open. Sometimes, these red-tailed black cockatoos also ingest insect larvae, which are revealed by tearing open the branches of trees. In other regions, these black cockatoos are seen foraging on the ground, eating the seeds of various weeds. When they are in other places, the red-tailed black cockatoos can also be quite picky, preferring the seeds of species of trees.

The diet of the red-tailed black cockatoos is specialized, which means they mainly prefer eating the seeds from the Brown Stringybark or Eucalyptus baxteri as their primary source of food. At certain times, they also eat Bulokes.

But for red tails in captivity, there is a great variety of commercial seed-based mixes that are specially designed for the nutritional needs of the cockatoos. If you see a balanced diet for your pet red-tailed black cockatoo, these mixes will be the best choice. But, do supplement this diet; keepers should also include adding a regular amount of nuts, like pine nuts, almonds, and walnuts, as they love eating nuts while in the wild.

Keepers could also provide fruits and vegetables to your pet bird, but always make sure that they are in fresh conditions. You should also provide them with cuttlebones and iodine bells, to ensure they get the proper vitamins and minerals that they need.


Breeding red-tailed cockatoos can be difficult to achieve in captivity. This is because the birds require a roomy flight with privacy. Usually, their clutch size is between 1 to 2 eggs.

Their nesting box must be open on top, and about 24 inches by 24 inches by 48 inches in vertical space. The act of chewing a wooden nest box may stimulate reproductive behavior, so the red tails must be provided with branches that they can use to line their nests.

For these birds, an incubation period of approximately 27 to 30 days is needed. The chicks will usually fledge at about 10 to 12 weeks of age. For breeding in captivity, it can be difficult to hand-rear these red-tailed black cockatoos, so these must also be attempted by well-experienced hand-feeders. Ideally, the chicks of the red-tails should be parent-reared so that imprinting will be avoided.

Male cockatoos have the tendency of being frequently aggressive towards their mates. While these kinds of attacks have also occurred in red tails, this behavior is usually uncommon. The male red-tails should not also be clipped, like other cockatoos in captivity, especially since large flights are required of the species. When breeding cockatoos, proximity to neighbors and noise must be considered. Calling at night is quite common for the breed, and this consistently occurs more during a full moon. In southern states, outdoor caging must be protected from opossums to prevent exposure to the Sarcocystis falactula parasite, which might result in deadly lung disease.

Common Health Problems

Like other birds, red-tailed black cockatoos can also be exposed to various types of diseases.

Owners should do daily health checks to check if their birds are normal and healthy. A normal and healthy bird should exhibit the following:

  1. Actively moving around their enclosure
  2. Both eyes clear and wide open, with no discharge or swelling
  3. Both nostrils open, with no discharge
  4. Breathing is barely detectable
  5. Bright and alert behavior
  6. Feathers are in good condition
  7. No darkening or stains on feathers
  8. Perched on their normal spots
  9. Responsive to the human approach
  10. Socializing
  11. Standing erect with their weight well-distributed to their feet

Illnesses can be typically shown through the following symptoms:

  1. Behavior that is out of character
  2. Diarrhea
  3. Droopy wings
  4. Feces discoloration
  5. Fluffed up or ruffled feathers
  6. Head under one wing
  7. Inability to swallow food
  8. Lethargy
  9. Nasal discharge
  10. Reduction in appetite or not eating at all
  11. Unresponsive to human presence
  12. Visible masses or lumps in the body
  13. Vomiting
  14. Weight loss

Some common issues that these red tails develop are:

  1. Candidiasis – Infection caused by a fungal yeast organism Candida albicans, which can affect the mouth. This is most common for babies, but can also occur in adults. It can also be caused by underfeeding and stress.
  2. Feather plucking – This can be caused by a poor diet, Beak and Feather Disease, skin infection, and allergies. It can also happen during breeding when females feel discomfort on their abdomens. It can also be a psychological problem brought by boredom, separation anxiety, and insecurity.
  3. Nutritional Secondary Hyperparathyroidism – caused by a calcium deficiency in the diet, and is common in neonatal and juvenile red-tailed black cockatoos. This occurs when calcium is drawn out of the bones to supply the needs of the muscle. This comes from the parent cockatoos who are receiving a poor diet, and this will often cause the chicks to die as the repair of bones and beaks can be very difficult at a young age.
  4. Psittacosis – This is highly infectious and can also affect humans. It is caused by an intracellular organism called Chlamydophila psitacci, which can be acquired through exposure to infected droppings, feather dust, and excretions from sneezing.
  5. Tapeworms – This can be caused by cockatoos ingesting an insect that contains the eggs of the tapeworm. This can also be passed on by coming into contact with regurgitated food or feces by infected birds.

Environment and Housing

In designing a housing environment for a red-tailed black cockatoo, it is imperative to take their locomotive lifestyle into account. These birds have the ability to sustain flight, and they are acrobatic climbers, too. They also have powerful beaks, which owners should take into consideration. Their enclosure should have the following:

  1. Inch by inch mesh with a thickness of about 2.5 mm to 3 mm
  2. Reasonable distance to allow flying, about 5 meters or more
  3. A clear flight path
  4. Branches of different sizes to climb or perch on
  5. The airlock to prevent escaping
  6. Spacious height
  7. Shelter about 30% total size
  8. Suitable nesting and rooting size
  9. Ideally, facing north for sunlight
  10. Tap to provide water
  11. Pest-proof, with concrete or iron at least 2 feet high
  12. A pest control system
  13. A feed station

The holding area must be a minimum of 2 meters by 2 meters by 4 meters to allow flight and sufficient space to move about. The housing should also be at least 30% covered, which allows the birds to choose between warmer or cooler areas as they wish. The shelter should also make them feel safe and provides them protection from various elements. If keepers can provide, aviary sprinklers can also help the red tails during extremely hot days, while heat lamps can provide warmth during the colder climate.

The most functional flooring, though it is not aesthetically pleasing, would be concrete floors. If you want to add some sand for additional beauty, it is okay but requires extra cleaning.

In terms of furnishing, perches are very important. Natural branches of various sizes are the best options. Perches provide the birds with exercise and help prevent Bumble Foot or Repetitive Strain Injury.

Hygiene and Cleaning

Here is an ideal cleaning schedule that red-tailed black cockatoo owners must follow.

  1. Daily
    1. Remove old food
    2. Wash away feces from the aviary floor through scrubbing or hosing
    3. Clean food and water bowls
    4. Replace and provide clean water and fresh food
  2. Weekly
    1. Assess enclosure for repair needs, and repair as required
    2. Clean perches
    3. Disinfect the enclosure floor
  3. Monthly
    1. Assess perch damage, and replace as required
    2. Assess enclosure for repair, and repair as required
    3. Check if nest box needs new nesting material

Fun Facts about the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo

The red-tailed black cockatoo’s scientific name is Calyptorhynchus banksii. Calyptorhyncus came from the Greek word “calypsos,” meaning “hidden” and “ryhncus,” which meant “beak.”

  1. This bird species is also called Bank’s black cockatoo to honor the scientist, Sir James Banks.
  2. Some Australians believe that seeing the red-tailed black cockatoo is a sign that rain is coming, and these make them very happy.
  3. The beaks of the red-tailed black cockatoo are very strong, which they can use to break nuts and seeds that can be quite hard.
  4. Red-tailed black cockatoos are prone to shedding their feathers, which means that they are not suitable to be earned by people who are allergic to feathers.
  5. The male red-tailed black cockatoos use their crest to attract and allure the female counterparts that they are interested inmate with.
  6. Compared to other subspecies, the C. banksii graptogyne is the smallest of them all. They also have the lowest population among the five subspecies.

Where Can You Get a Pet Red-tailed Black Cockatoo?

In Australia, owning a red-tailed black cockatoo requires holding a Class 1 Bird Keeper License. This can be applied for through the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage website.

In the United States and other countries, a red-tailed black cockatoo can be acquired from reputable online and local breeders, as well as through avian expos and avian specialty pet shops.

How to Care for a Pet Red-tailed Black Cockatoo?

Feeding these birds properly will show the ultimate care from their owners. Unlike other breeds of cockatoos, the red tails are very efficient in breaking down and utilization of calories. They should be fed with a formulated diet, whether extruded or pelleted, as the basis of good nutrition. Supplementation using fruits and vegetables is also important to add variety and psychological enrichment.

Feeding them must involve approximately 1/3 cup of a formulated diet and 1/3 cup of fresh fruits. They should also be offered 2 to 3 large nuts every day. Your best options are pecans, almonds, filberts, and macadamia nuts.

For additional red-tailed black cockatoo care reminders, keepers should clean their cage on a regular basis, and providing them with fresh water every two to three hours is required. Another important thing is worming them, and this should not be skipped at any cost. Every three months, use a bird wormer.

If it’s your first time to care for a red-tailed black cockatoo, here is what your shopping list should look like:

  1. Cage with thick gauge wire, best to be 65 inches by 30 inches by 75 inches
  2. Food bowl
  3. Perches
  4. Water bowl
  5. Pet Litter
  6. Cage Tidy
  7. Cage Cover
  8. Seed mix or pellets
  9. Carrying cage
  10. Worming
  11. Vitamins
  12. Cage disinfectant
  13. Mixed nuts as a treat
  14. Lice spray
  15. Mites spray
  16. Natural perches
  17. Cement perches
  18. Ladders
  19. Swings
  20. Colorful toys
  21. Foraging toys
  22. Play stand
  23. Parrot pad

Frequently Asked Questions

How many red-tailed black cockatoos are left?

Red-tailed Black Cockatoos are at an estimated population of 1,000 individuals, which means the numbers are quickly dwindling and in the danger of being extinct.

Is the red-tailed black cockatoo endangered?

At present, the red-tailed black cockatoos are of Least Concern as per the IUCN Red List. But, there is no denying that these species of cockatoos have a quick decreasing population.

Do red-tailed black cockatoos make good pets?

Red-tailed black cockatoos are a silly pet, but they are also very calm in nature. They can adapt to most captive conditions well, and they are good household pets.

Where do red-tailed black cockatoos live?

Red-tailed Black Cockatoos can be found living in various types of environments, but they are usually found in woodlands, farmlands, grasslands, and Eucalyptus forests.

Do Red-tailed Black Cockatoos migrate?

Red-tailed Black Cockatoos have been studied to migrate from the coastline of New South Wales to lower lying areas during the winters.

Why are red-tailed black cockatoos endangered?

The main reason for the unfortunate decline of the population of the red-tailed black cockatoos is the loss of their habitat, mainly because of clearing the forests for agriculture and urbanization.

Do you need to get a license to own a red-tailed black cockatoo?

In order to own a red-tailed black cockatoo in Australia, a potential owner must apply for a Class 1 Bird Keeper’s License.

What do red-tailed black cockatoos eat?

The red-tailed black cockatoos favor eating seeds from trees, pinecones, and seeds from plants found on the ground, flowers, insects, fruits, and berries.

How much does a red-tailed black cockatoo cost?

The red-tailed black cockatoos can be a little expensive, with prices ranging from 800 US Dollars to 3,000 US Dollars, depending on the bird’s subspecies and the keeper’s location.

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