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Palm Cockatoo - BirdForum Opus

Probosciger aterrimus

Alternative names: Black Macaw; Goliath Aratoo; Goliath Cockatoo; Great Black Cockatoo; Great Palm Cockatoo;

Photo © by Mehd Halaouate
Geniyem, Papua New Guinea December 2003


51-64 cm 21.6-23.6 inches. 550-1,000 g.


  • Red facial skin on a large black parrot with characteristric large crest.
  • Very large grey black beak with upper mandible 94 mm long in male, 74 mm in female
  • Red gape
  • Red tongue with black tip
  • Eye dark brown
  • Legs grey to black with bare grey tibia


P. a stenolophus
Photo © by Mehd Halaouate
Yapen Island, Papua March 2005
  • Smaller cheek patch than male


  • Feathers of underparts and underwing coverts have pale yellow edges
  • White tip to beak for about the first 18 months
  • White eyering
  • Pink facial skin.


New Guinea and northern Queensland, Australia. This species is threatened by capture for the pet trade, especially in New Guinea.


It is the only member in subfamily Microglossinae and monotypic genus Probosciger.
It's unique position within the cockatoo family has been confirmed by molecular studies.


There are 4 subspecies[1]

  • P. a stenolophus Larger than nominate with narrower crest feathers
  • Yapen Island and northwest New Guinea
  • P. a. goliath Larger than nominate
  • West Papuan islands and west and central New Guinea
  • P. a. aterrimus
  • Aru Island, Misool Island, and southern New Guinea
  • P. a. macgillivrayi:

And two more that are only recognized by some authorities: intermedius, and salvadorii.


New Guinea: Rainforest, gallery forest, monsoon woodland, forest edges, tall newgrowth forest and partly deforested areas. Usually below 750 m but can occur up to 1350 m.
Cape York Peninsula: Areas between lowland moonsoon and bordering Eucalyptus woods, thick savannah and paperbark forest.
Australia: Prefers woodland to rainforest.


These birds do not form large flocks, preferring to stay in pairs or very small family groups.


Woodland feeder, eating seeds, fruits, nuts, berries and buds from a large choice of plants, mainly Pandan and Blackbean sometimes eats dropped ripe seeds such as Okari nuts and Canarium nuts. Nuts are cut in half using the massive bill.


Normally one white egg is laid between Juy and March. Incubation period of about 30–35 days is carried out by the female, which is in turn fed by the male partner. The newly hatched chicks are naked and stay in the hollow for 100-110 days where it is fed by the female for up to 6 weeks after leaving the nest. The new family stays together until the next nesting season. Nests high up in hollow trunks of dead or living trees. (Australia: Eucalyptus trees) The hollow is lined with shredded twigs and wood chips up to 1 m deep, prepared by both sexes. More nests are built than needed for breeding and the rest are used for display purposes. Both partners drum at nest hollow, using a specially prepared Bushman's Clothespeg stick or nut as a tool. It is held by the foot and beaten against hollow trunk. They breed on average about every 2 years on Cape York.


A broad spectrum of calls, which are higher pitched than the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. The often used 2 note contact whistle is not as rough as the Black Cockatoo group, with a deeper and more mature first syllable followed by a second which is sharper, higher pitched, extended and ending sharply with a rising modulation. It also has hasher calls including a far carrying, donkey-like “keeyaank!”, “eeyohn!” or “raah!” and a sharp throaty screech.


Pairs are territorial and resident. May gather in flocks of up to 30 birds when foraging outside the territory wherever fruit is available, but they break up into pairs and return to roost in their own territories at night, where they do not tolerate others of the same species.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2021. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2021. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved October 2015)
  3. Brown, D.M. and C.A. Toft. 1999. Molecular systematics and biogeography of the cockatoos (Psittaciformes: Cacatuidae). Auk 116(1):141-157.
  4. Astuti D., Azuma N., Suzuki H., Higashi S. "Phylogenetic relationships within parrots (Psittacidae) inferred from mitochondrial cytochrome-b gene sequences." Zool. Sci. 23:191-198(2006).

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