The Palm cockatoo, the second largest flying parrot, is a predominately black bird with an impressively large backward curving crest at the top of its head. The upper bill meets only at the tip and is used for cracking nuts, which, along with seeds, fruits, berries, and leaf buds, make up the majority of the Palm's diet. Palm cockatoos have naked patches of skin on their faces, which can range in color from white to dark red, depending on the bird's stress level.
A recent study of Palm breeding patterns revealed that their procreative success is the lowest of any species of parrot, which contributes to their vulnerability to environmental changes like logging and fire. Those stressors, along with hunting pressures, have led to their near-threatened status.
Palms reach sexual maturity at about seven to eight years old. The birds form breeding pairs that commonly use the same nest (in a cavity within a large, mature tree) year after year, usually producing only a single egg per season. Both parents incubate the egg; after hatching, the chick does not leave the nest for another 100 to 110 days -- the longest nesting period known in any parrot species.
During courtship, males will approach the female with their wings partly extended and crest feathers erect and bow several times, while emitting loud whistles. Other vocalizations in the Palm's repertoire include cries, grunts, and screeches, although the bird's most impressive and unusual sounds are produced in an entirely different way -- using a cockatoo version of a musical instrument. As part of their courtship display, male Palms drum deliberately on the side of a potential nest using a small stick -- sometimes trying two or three before settling on the perfect drumstick. Females watch carefully, either to size up the bird or the nest-to-be.
Did you know? Palm cockatoos compete for nesting sites with other birds, marsupials, reptiles, and even bees.