The endangered Baudin’s cockatoo is under examination following increasing threats to its existence. Researchers at Murdoch University, Western Australia in partnership with the Department of Parks and Wildlife are set to release nine rehabilitated Baudin’s cockatoos into the wild following the implementation of an innovative tracking system. Little is known about the endangered bird’s migratory patterns and the key threats facing it, with the program offering a unique opportunity to better understand the species in the state’s south-west region.
Associate Professor Kris Warren of Murdoch University believes that the declining numbers of Baudin’s cockatoos is the result of habitat loss through agricultural, forestry and mining development, fire and tree diseases, illegal shooting and climate change, which has led to a shortage of nest hollows. “The [cockatoos] nest in the hollows of old trees, which is a favoured home for other types of parrots, introduced European honey bees and even native ducks, so they are having to compete for limited habitat,” she said.
The nine cockatoos have been fitted with coloured leg bands, a satellite transmitter and solar-powered GPS tracker. Dr Jill Shephard, a fellow research team member from the university, noted that the equipment in use is a first for Australia in parrot species and provides unprecedented collection of ecological data. “The GPS technology is particularly exciting as we will be able to gain an understanding of fine-scale movement by the birds, including when they are flying, eating or roosting,” she said.
The tracking program is scheduled for a one-year period, with the devices – developed by the University of Amsterdam -removed naturally through feather moulting or preening by the birds, although research indicates that birds respond well to satellite tracking devices, allowing for the significant length of the program.