Sulphur Crested Cockatoos - Cockatoos Of Australia - Pet Birds. Greater Sulphur Crested Species
White Cockatoo (Australia usage), Cocky, Greater Sulfur-crested Cockatoo (USA usage).
Length about 50 cm (20"), weight about 700 to 950 grams
The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo is monomorphic when young, but females may develop
a lighter eye colour at around 8 or more years old.
Four subspecies are recognised, only two of which are native to Australia.
These are the nominate subspecies, Cacatua galerita galerita, which
is found in eastern Australia and is the one most common in aviculture, and C. g. fitzroyi, from northern
and north-western Australia. C. g. galerita varies from fitzroyi
by having a white eye ring rather than pale blue, by having a paler yellow
colour to the ear coverts, and by having shorter crest feathers. The other
two subspecies are Cacatua g. triton and Cacatua g. eleonora,
which are only found in Indonesia and Papua-New Guinea to the north of
Australia, and are not considered here.
The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo is one of the icons of Australia's birds,
instantly invoking images of the Australian bush. It is a common and widespread
species, extending from Tasmania through Victoria and New South Wales to
the northern most tip of Queensland, and though the northern part of the
Northern Territory into the Kimberly area of Western Australia. Introduced
populations are established near Perth, in Western Australia, and in New
Zealand. The two Australian subspecies meet around the Gulf of Carpenteria,
in northern Queensland, where their ranges overlap
The species is gregarious, often forming flocks of several hundreds.
although when foraging for food these large flocks will often spilt into
small groups, coming together again at the evening roost site. Feeding
is often done on the ground, and in such situations some of the flock will
be sentry birds in trees, and alert the flock if danger approaches. When
flying as a flock they will frequently call out with a loud raucous screech;
the noise from a flock of several hundred can be deafening. Their food
in the wild is dominantly seed, nuts and fruit, and they can cause major
damage to cultivated grain crops. For this reason the bird is regarded
as a pest species in many parts of its range, and licensed culling is permitted
in certain states.
The breeding season extends from August to January in the south
and May to September in the north. A deep nesting hollow, high above the
ground, is preferred, with 2 or more rarely 3 eggs laid. Incubation is
by both parents and takes about 30 days and the babies fledge in about
The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, while very commonly kept as a pet, is unfortunately
relatively rare as an aviary breeding bird in Australia. This is in large part because
of the depressed effect on the price of any progeny caused by the ready
availability of legally wild caught young birds. An aviary at least 5 metres
by 1.2 metres by 2 metres high is needed, constructed of materials to withstand
the inevitable chewing that will occur. A hollow nesting log over a metre
long and about 35 cm in diameter should be supplied. An essential requirement
is to keep a constant supply of fresh branches of eucalyptus and other
native trees available to avoid boredom. The mate aggression that can be
a problem with some species of cockatoos seems to be rare in Sulphur-crested.
The diet needs to be varied, balanced and interesting. A variety
of seeds such as wheat, hulled oats, canary, and some grey striped sunflower,
should be provided as well as a wide range of fresh vegetables and fruit.
Animal protein is also beneficial, given by way of chicken or chop bones,
mealworms or other grubs. A tendency of the species to become overweight
should be guarded against, and there are arguments for the use of pellets
rather than seed for the Sulphur-crested.
The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo can make an excellent pet, with even wild
caught young birds capable of becoming affectionate and friendly birds.
They do have a tendency to bond to only one person, often becoming aggressive
to others. They are highly intelligent birds, which, like most cockatoos,
need constant stimulation with toys and objects to chew to keep them from
getting bored. They are not generally noisy, apart from early morning and
evening, although some are the exception to the rule and can drive one
to distraction with their loud screeching through the day. Both sexes can
become good talkers, possibly with the males being somewhat better.
A wild caught young bird can be obtained for under $100au in Queensland.
However because of the potential disease problems (particularly Psittacine
Beak and Feather Disease) of wild caught birds, aviary raised birds are
more expensive and a hand raised, aviary bred bird certified free of PBFD
can fetch up to $500.
Copyright © 1998 Mike Owen - All rights reserved.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for the text and Australian Birdkeeper for the photographs,
which are reproduced by permission of the Australian Birdkeeper
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