A palm cockatoo holds a stick in its beak. Image Credit: Christina N. Zdenek
by Christina N. Zdenek
A long-term research project on the Cape York Peninsula is returning unusual insights and incredible photographs of the little-known palm cockatoo
SCREECH, SQUAWK, SMACK! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had just witnessed two male palm cockatoos clash in mid-air above a large, hollow tree and viciously wrestle, using their huge beaks, before finally tumbling to the ground.
Over years of researching ‘palmies’, I had never seen such intense conflict.
And the tussle didn’t end there – although the tall, tropical grass concealed the rival males from view, for what seemed like an eternity I could hear a horrible, loud growling coming from the now-grounded, brutal battle.
This extreme aggression could only mean one thing – whatever they were fighting over was worth dying for.
We’re near the Lockhart River in a remote part of the Cape York Peninsula, far north Queensland.
Despite the fact that the nearest city, Cairns, is 700km away, birders flock here from around the world and brave dirt roads and river crossings to see the iconic palm cockatoo in the wild. It’s no wonder, because it is a spectacular species.
Cockatoos are found in New Guinea, Indonesia, the Philippines, the Solomon Islands and Australia – and of the 21 known species, the palmy is the heaviest and one of the largest.