Rare Palm Cockatoo Hatches at San Antonio Zoo

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The San Antonio Zoo announced recently that a rare bird has hatched at their facility – a bird that was 19 years in the making. The bird, a palm cockatoo, represents the first successful hatching of a palm cockatoo in the United States since 2014. Palm cockatoos only lay one egg every second year and have one of the lowest breeding success rates reported for any species of parrot. The bird’s parents also live at the San Antonio Zoo.

According to the zoo, palm cockatoos are native to Northern Australia and small Indonesian Islands. The birds are part of the Species Survival Plan, developed in 1981 by the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums to ensure the survival of threatened and endangered species.

One of the Largest Bills of Any Parrot

palm cockatoo

Photo: Facebook/SanAntonioZoo

The palm cockatoo is a distinctive bird with a large crest and has one of the largest bills of any parrot (only the hyacinth macaw’s is larger). This powerful bill enables palm cockatoos not only to eat very hard nuts and seeds but also enables males to break off thick sticks from live trees to use for a drumming display when courting a female. The male has a larger beak than the female.

The bill is unusual, as the lower and upper mandibles do not meet for much of its length, allowing the tongue to hold a nut against the top mandible while the lower mandible works to open it. The palm cockatoo also has a distinctive red cheek patch that changes color when the bird is alarmed or excited.

A Large and Complex Vocal Repertoire

Palm Cockatoo adult

Photo: Flickr/Hans De Bisschop

The palm cockatoo has a large and complex vocal repertoire, including many whistles and even a “hello” call that sounds surprisingly human-like. Distinct dialects occur throughout the species’ range. Palm cockatoos have been known to reach 80 or 90 years of age in an Australian zoo. Although longevity of captive birds is known, the lifespan of palm cockatoos that live in the wild is still unknown. The palm cockatoo is still relatively common in some parts of the world but is threatened by habitat destruction, particularly due to bauxite mining and altered fire regimens elsewhere. Palm cockatoos are hunted in New Guinea.

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