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Cacatua galerita Tas 2

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo at Austins Ferry, Tasmania, Australia.

The sulphur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) is a relatively large white cockatoo found in wooded habitats in Australia and New Guinea and some of the islands of Indonesia. They can be locally very numerous, leading to them sometimes being considered pests. They are well known in aviculture, although they can be demanding pets.

Distribution Edit

In Australia, sulphur-crested cockatoos can be found widely in the north and east, ranging from the Kimberley to as far south as Tasmania, but avoiding arid inland areas with few trees. They are numerous in suburban habitats in cities such as Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane. Except for highland areas, they occur throughout most of New Guinea and on nearby smaller islands such as Waigeo, Misool and Aru, and various islands in the Cenderawasih Bay and Milne Bay.

Introduced Species Edit

Within Australia, sulphur-crested cockatoos of the nominate race have also been introduced to Perth, which is far outside the natural range. Outside Australia, they have been introduced to Singapore, where their numbers have been estimated to be between 500 and 2000. They have also been introduced to Palau and New Zealand. In New Zealand the introduced populations may number less than 1000. This species has also been recorded as established in Hawaii and from various islands in Wallacea (e.g. Kai Islands and Ambon), but it is unclear if it has managed to become established there.

Description Edit

It has a total length of 44–55 cm (17.5–21.5 in), with the Australian subspecies larger than subspecies from New Guinea and nearby islands. The plumageis overall white, while the underwing and -tail are tinged yellow. The expressive crest is yellow. The bill is black, the legs are grey, and the eye-ring is whitish. Males typically have almost black eyes, whereas the females have a more red or brown eye, but this requires optimum viewing conditions to be seen. The differences between the subspecies are subtle. C. g. fitzroyi is similar to the nominate race but lacks the yellow on the ear tufts and has slightly blueish skin around the eye. C. g. eleonora is similar to C. g. fitzroyi but is smaller and has broader feathers in the crest, and C. g. triton is similar to C. g. eleonoraexcept it has a smaller bill.

It is similar in appearance to the three species of corellas found in Australia. However, corellas are smaller, lack the prominent yellow crest and have pale bills. In captivity, the sulphur-crested cockatoo is easily confused with the smaller Yellow-Crested Cockatoo or the Blue-eyed Cockatoo with a differently shaped crest and a darker blue eye-ring.

Behavior Edit

These birds are very long-lived, and can live upwards of 70 years in captivity, although they only live to about 20–40 years in the wild. They have been known to engage in geophagy, the process of eating clay to detoxify their food. These birds produce a very fine powder to waterproof themselves instead of oil as many other birds do.

The sulphur-crested cockatoo is a seasonal breeder in Australia; little is known about its breeding behaviour in New Guinea. In southern Australia the breeding season is from August to January, whereas in northern Australia the season is from May to September. The nest is a bed of wood chips in a hollow in a tree. Like many other parrots it competes with others of its species and with other species for nesting sites. Two to three eggs are laid and incubation lasts between 25–27 days. Both parents incubate the eggs and raise the nestlings. The nestling period is between 9 and 12 weeks, and the young fledglings remain with their parents for a number of months after fledging.

A 2009 study involving an Eleonora cockatoo (the subspecies Cacatua galerita eleonora) named Snowball found that sulphur-crested cockatoos are capable of synchronising movements to a musical beat. Species that feed on the ground are very vulnerable to predator attack. The cockatoo has evolved a behavioural adaptation to protect against this: whenever there is a flock on the ground, there is at least one high up in a tree (usually a dead tree), keeping guard. This is so well known that it has even entered Australian slang: a person keeping guard for sudden police raids on illegal gambling gatherings is referred to as a cockatoo or cocky for short.

Pest Status Edit

In some parts of Australia, the sulphur-crested cockatoo can be very numerous, and may cause damage to cereal and fruit crops, newly planted tree seedling, and soft timber on houses and outdoor furniture. Consequently, they are sometimes shot or poisoned as pests. Government permit is required, as they are a protected species under the Australian Commonwealth Law.

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