Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo Fact File
The sulphur-crested cockatoo is one of Australia’s most recognizable birds. Their body is covered with white feathers. On the head is the crest of yellow feathers which can be raised to show their emotions. The underside of the wings feature a yellow wash and a small yellow patch is present behind the eye. They have a short, rounded tail.
Two subspecies exist. A key difference between them is one has bare, white skin around the eye while the other has a bluish eye ring.
The beak is grey or black and curved. It is adapted for cracking through the tough shells of seeds.
Males and female sulphur-crested cockatoos are similar in appearance. Their body measures 44-51cm (17-20in) long and they weigh 950g (34oz). Their wingspan may be up to 103cm (40.5in) across.
The sulphur-crested cockatoo is a herbivore. They feed on berries, seeding grasses, flowers, seeds, nuts and roots.
Often they are found in suburban backyards where they will accept food from humans.
They have a sensitive tongue which can be used to store uneaten seeds in the beak while they open other seeds.
Captive 80 years
Sulphur-crested cockatoos can be found in Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. They have been introduced to Puerto Rico, New Zealand and Palau.
In Australia they can naturally be found along the Northern and Eastern coastlines. They are also found in Tasmania and other offshore islands. An introduced population exists around Perth in Western Australia.
Due to their large range the sulphur-crested cockatoo is found in a wide variety of habitats. These include forests, semi-arid inland areas and farmlands.
They are commonly seen in suburban areas including being found in some of Australia’s largest cities.
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The breeding season is variable across their range. In the south they breed from August to January while in the north they will breed from May to September.
A male will court the female by strutting towards her with his crest of feathers raised. He will then flick his head from side to side while chuckling.
A nest if formed in a tree hollow or trunk. Both parents will work together to chew around the entrance and shape the nest. In parts of their range they may nest in a cliff hole.
The male and female will remain together throughout the year and work together to raise the chicks.
In to the nest the female will lay 1-3 eggs which both parents will incubate for a 30 day period.
At hatching the chick is covered in yellow, down feathers. The parents care for them in the nest for 65 days. In the nest the chick is fed regurgitated food by the parents. Chicks remain with their parents for the next year.
Sexual maturity is reached between 6 and 7 years old.
Often they will chew branches and leaves. These are not eaten and it is believed that chewing them helps to wear down the beak so it doesn’t become too long.
They produce a loud call which is a raucous screech.
Behavior varies across their range. In the south they form large flocks which roost together at night in forested areas and then fly to open areas to feed on the ground by day.
Northern populations are typically more arboreal and will live in small flocks or as a family unit.
When a flock is foraging together they will have one bird sit in a tree to look out for danger while the rest feed on the ground. If a predator approaches this watcher will emit a loud call which alerts the other birds so they can fly to safety.
Predators and Threats
In some parts of their range they may be killed as they are considered a pest species. This is mainly be due to them eating crops or as a result of them chewing parts of houses.
Sulphur-crested cockatoos are reliant on the presence of old growth trees in their habitat which generate hollows in which they nest. Old trees are often removed from areas and this has lead to a decrease in nest sites.
The word cockatoo means ‘vice’ or ‘grip’ in reference to their strong beak.
Sulphur-crested cockatoos are some of the most popular birds to keep as pets and over collection for the illegal wildlife trade is a significant threat to their survival.
As pets they are often trained to talk.
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The Nature Conservancy Austraila. 2020. Cockatoos Of Australia | The Nature Conservancy Australia. [online] Available at: <https://www.natureaustralia.org.au/what-we-do/our-priorities/wildlife/wildlife-stories/cockatoos-of-australia/> [Accessed 31 August 2020].
The Australian Museum. 2020. Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo. [online] Available at: <https://australian.museum/learn/animals/birds/sulphur-crested-cockatoo/> [Accessed 31 August 2020].
Wildlife.vic.gov.au. 2020. Our Wildlife Fact Sheet Sulphur–Crested Cockatoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.wildlife.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0025/91393/Sulphur-crested-Cockatoo.pdf> [Accessed 31 August 2020].
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Billabong Sanctuary. 2020. Billabong Sanctuary - Australian Native Wildlife Park Townsville. [online] Available at: <https://www.billabongsanctuary.com.au/sulphur-crested-cockatoo/> [Accessed 31 August 2020].
BirdLife International. 2018. Cacatua galerita. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22684781A131914971. Downloaded on 31 August 2020.
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