Palm Cockatoo Fact File


The palm cockatoo is the largest of the world’s 18 cockatoo species. They may measure up to 60cm (23.5in) long and weigh 1kg (2.25lbs). Their wing measures up to 1.65m (4.4ft).

They are noticeable for the black feathers which cover their body with a bare patch of skin between the beak and eye that is colored red. On top of their head are elongated feathers which can be raised in to a crest. Their tail feathers are entirely black which distinguishes them from the similar looking red tailed black cockatoo. The legs are grey or black in color.

The upper mandible of the beak is long and curved. The bottom edge of the upper mandible features curves that resemble steps and allow them to hold on to their food easier. The beak never closes completely. Their tongue is colored red with a black tip.


The palm cockatoo is primarily a herbivore. Most of their diet is made up of seeds, fruits and buds. On a rare occasion they will eat insects and larvae.

Their large beak is used to help crack open the seeds of hard nuts and seeds such as palm nuts.

Palm cockatoo
Palm cockatoo

Scientific Name

Probosciger aterrimus

Conservation Status

Least Concern


1kg (2.25lbs)


60cm (23.5in)


1.65m (4.4ft)


56 years



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Palm cockatoos can be found throughout Australia and New Guinea along with a range islands around this region.

In Australia the palm cockatoo is found only in Queensland in the upper portion of the Cape York Peninsula.


The palm cockatoo will make its home in rainforests, dense savanna and woodlands.

Their nest is made within a tree hollow. Most nests are located in woodlands.


Breeding takes place from August to January though there is some slight local variations in this.

Pairs appear to be monogamous and will typically mate for life.

Males will engage in fights over a nesting site. The nest is formed in a tree hollow. Inside the hollow they form a platform of twigs.

A single egg is laid in the nest. This egg is incubated for 30-33 days. At hatching the chick will have no feathers and rely entirely on the parents for its care.

Females do most of the incubation with some assistance from the male. The male is primarily responsible for finding food.

It will take 100 days for them to fledge. This is the longest parental care provided by any parrot.

Young will typically remain close to their parents until the next breeding season.

Survival rates are incredibly low, only 60% of eggs will hatch and 40% of these will make it to adulthood.

Sexual maturity is reached between 7 and 8 years of age.

palm cockatoo


When the palm cockatoo is excited or alarmed they raise the crest of feathers on their head.

The bare, red patch of skin on their cheek will deepen in color when they are excited and this makes it look like they’re blushing.

Their call is a whistle or squeak.One way that they defend their territory is to hold on to a stick and use this to bang against a hollow tree.

They often form large groups to feed and one bird will keep watch while feeding for predators.

Predators and Threats

Adults face predation from birds of prey and the eggs can be stolen by arboreal snakes and possums.

Humans affect their population through habitat clearing and hunting both for food and the pet trade. They have become a popular pet due to their large size and spectacular appearance.

Quick facts

Their scientific name “aterrimus” comes from a Latin word meaning very black.

They are also known as the great black cockatoo, Cape York cockatoo or goliath cockatoo.

Photo Credits

Copyright. The Animal Facts.


Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

San Diego Zoo Kids. 2020. Palm Cockatoo. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 14 July 2020].

Zdenek, C., 2020. Cape York Peninsula's Palm Cockatoo - Australian Geographic. [online] Australian

Geographic. Available at: <> [Accessed 14 July 2020].

Trust, W., 2020. Palm Cockatoo (Probosciger Aterrimus) | Parrot Encyclopedia. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 14 July 2020].

Zingsheim, J. 2006. "Probosciger aterrimus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed July 14, 2020 at

BirdLife International. 2016. Probosciger aterrimus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22684723A93043662. Downloaded on 14 July 2020.

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