Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Fact Sheet
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Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Fact Sheet

Published on Tuesday, 12th February 2013

Scientific name
Cacatua galerita

Common names
Greater Sulphur-crested
Cockatoo;Triton Cockatoo; Eleonora or  “Medium” Sulphur-crested Cockatoo.

Identification
Greater: beak black but looks dark grey (covered in powder down), large size, crest of yellow forward-curving feathers. (Crest feathers longest in northern sub-species fitzroyi).

Triton: distinguished by smaller size and pale blue bare skin around eye, larger in extent and more prominent than in the Greater. Body less broad and massive.

Eleonora: slightly smaller size but in practice difficult to separate from the Triton.

 

 
Adult length
Greater (C.g.galerita) about 50cm
C.g.triton, about 45cm
C.g.eleonora, about 43cm.

Adult weight
C.g.galerita 700-1,000g
C.g.triton 550-600g
C,g.eleonora about 530g. Males usually heavier.

Sexual dimorphism
Possible slight difference in eye colour which is usually very dark brown, almost black: iris browner in the female and black in the male in others.

Immature birds
Differ from adults in having the iris grey and a pinkish tinge to the bare skin of the cere. They leave the nest at the age of about eleven weeks.

Potential lifespan
About 60 years.

Status in wild
Greater: excessively common.
Triton and Eleonora: heavy trapping  before and during the 1980s  and continued illegal trapping has caused serious declines on some islands and lesser declines throughout much of the range.

Origin
Greater Sulphur-crested: Australia, eastern and south-eastern areas from northern Queensland south to Tasmania, also coastal regions of the Northern Territory and the northern part of Western Australia. There are thriving introduced populations in south-western Australia and in New Zealand.
 

Triton Cockatoos originate from New Guinea and some of its offshore islands.

Eleonora’s Cockatoos are found in the Aru group of islands in the southern Moluccas.

Availability outside native countries
The Greater Sulphur-crested Cockatoo is rarely available in Europe and the USA but is of course readily available in Australia where most captive birds are probably rescued chicks or fledglings. It is too familiar in most areas to be sought as a pet. Export was permitted from New Zealand because it is not a native species.

The Triton and Eleonora Cockatoos are quite well established in Europe and the USA. However, captive breeding of cockatoos has declined in recent years. Most of those offered for sale are hand-reared young.

Suitability as pets and Problems
There are few more demanding companions. Expect to devote as much time to them as you would to a human companion. See  Moluccan Cockatoo for further information on this subject.

Personality
These are super-intelligent birds -- especially the Australian Greater. It is an enormous challenge to keep them occupied and contented.  Some of the toys devised to test Parrot intelligence and skills might keep them busy for a while but they are so observant and such quick learners that possibly they would soon tire of them. However, they never tire of destroying wood.

I cannot overstate the fact that to keep these birds busy and to prevent them from destroying items in the home, the aviary or the nest-box, a frequent and regular supply of fresh wood is essential. Apple, hazel and thick branches of willow are very good for this purpose.  Fresh wood needs to be given every week. A cockatoo that cannot gnaw is a very frustrated bird.
 

Diet
The basic diet should consist of seed, cooked or sprouted beans and pulses and fresh fruits and vegetables. A mixture of small seeds should include plenty of small seeds such as canary, white millet, safflower, oats, buckwheat and a little hemp, to help keep them occupied.

Sunflower seed (preferably soaked and sprouted sunflower), also spray millet. Corn on the cob and peas in the pod are favourites. During cold weather, warm cooked peas are relished. Favoured vegetables including carrot, celery, green peas and beans and fresh corn on the cob. They should be encouraged to eat dark green leaves such as spinach and dandelion. All fruits can be offered. For a treat give cooked chicken and chop bones, also dry biscuits (unsalted).

Breeding
The main problem is finding a compatible pair: putting two adults together is a risky procedure. These days it is hard to find a male that is not hand-reared. Sadly, many females have been killed by their mates, often hand-reared males who have not been socialised with their own species and identify more with humans.

CCTV cameras are the best way to find out if aggression is occurring before you pick up the mutilated body of the female. These are definitely not birds for inexperienced breeders. Two eggs are laid (sometimes three in the Triton); incubation is carried out by male and female.
 

 
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