Palm Cockatoo Profile

Probosciger aterrimus

by Sally Blanchard

» Sometimes called the Goliath cockatoo or the Black cockatoo
» There are 4 subspecies: P.a.aterrimus, P.a.goliath, P.a.macgillvrayi, P.a.stenolophus 
» One of the largest cockatoos at 22 to 24"
» Range includes the rainforests and woodlands of New Guinea in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the York Peninsula of northern Queensland, Australia
» CITES I While the Palm cockatoo is considered stable in some of its range, it is threatened in other areas due to habitat destruction. It is still hunted in New Guinea.

I have never lived with a Palm Cockatoo but I have spent time with several of them over the years. The ones I have met seemed quite docile and readily stepped onto the hand of their caregiver when asked. They seem to be content to sit on their perches and chew on wood but I know that this is not the sum total of their personalities. One of the Palms that I met would bob up and down and greet people he liked with his unique call. The call was loud but not obnoxious. Evidently, these birds have a large 'vocabulary' of sounds and calls. Their red patch goes from a pinky-orange color to bright red when they are excited.

Palm Cockatoos are quite different from most of the other companion cockatoos and they are certainly not as common as pets. Over the years, I have received a number of calls from people who want one simply because they are expensive and rare. The Palm Cockatoos have interesting wild behaviors that may transfer to their lives in captivity. These birds get up late in the morning, are crepuscular (active at twilight) and are often active and quite noisy well into the night. They may not be a good choice for people who like to greet the sunrise and may be a far more appropriate companion for someone who likes to stay up very late. 

These spectacular looking birds are quite demonstrative with raised crests and outspread wings while they sway back and forth. When they are excited, their faces become a deeper red. One of the highlights of anyone’s travel to see wild Palm Cockatoos is to watch and hear a demonstrative male sit atop a snag tree in full display and banging a stick or rock on the hollow trunk.

The famous naturalist François Levaillant (1753-1824) determined that the Palm Cockatoo was an Ara (the genus for macaws) because of its bare facial patch even though these birds are separated by thousands of miles. The Palm was classified as the Grey-trunked Ara.




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