The Major Mitchell's Cockatoo, Lophochroa leadbeateri, also known as Leadbeater's Cockatoo or Pink Cockatoo, is a medium-sized cockatoo restricted to arid and semi-arid inland areas of Australia. It is placed in its own monotypic genus Lophochroa.
Taxonomy and naming
It is possibly (though not certainly) a little closer related to Cacatua than the Galah, and its lineage diverged around the time of or shortly after the acquisition of the long crest; probably the former as this crest type is not found in all Cacatua cockatoos and therefore must have been present in an early or incipient stage at the time of the divergence of the Major Mitchell's Cockatoo's ancestors. Like the Galah, this species has not lost the ability to deposit diluted carotene dyes in its body plumage, although it does not produce melanin coloration anymore, resulting in a lighter bird overall compared to the Galah. Indeed, disregarding the crest, Major Mitchell's Cockatoo looks almost like a near-leucistic version of that species (see also "External links" below). Another indication of the early divergence of this species from the "white" cockatoo lineage is the presence of features found otherwise only in corellas, such as the plaintive yodeling cry, as well as others which are unique to Major Mitchell's and the true white cockatoos, for example the large crest and rounded wing shape.
The scientific name commemorates the British naturalist, Benjamin Leadbeater. In Central Australia south of Alice Springs, the Pitjantjatjara term is kakalyalya.
With its soft-textured white and salmon-pink plumage and large, bright red and yellow crest, it is generally recognised as the most beautiful of all cockatoos. It is named in honour of Major Sir Thomas Mitchell, who wrote "Few birds more enliven the monotonous hues of the Australian forest than this beautiful species whose pink-coloured wings and flowing crest might have embellished the air of a more voluptuous region".
Distribution and habitat
Unlike the Galah, Major Mitchell's Cockatoo has declined rather than increased as a result of man-made changes to the arid interior of Australia. Where Galahs readily occupy cleared and part-cleared land, Major Mitchell's Cockatoo requires extensive woodlands, particularly favouring Callitris, Allocasuarina and Eucalyptus. In contrast to other cockatoos, Major Mitchell pairs will not nest close to one another; in consequence, they cannot tolerate fragmented, partly-cleared habitats, and their range is contracting.
Major Mitchell's Cockatoo are not listed as threatened on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
- Major Mitchell's Cockatoo are listed as threatened on the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act (1988). Under this Act, an Action Statement for the recovery and future management of this species has been prepared.
- On the 2007 advisory list of threatened vertebrate fauna in Victoria, this species is listed as vulnerable.
Cookie, a parrot that is at least 75 years old housed in Brookfield Zoo
One Major Mitchell's Cockatoo that has become quite famous is "Cookie," a beloved resident of Illinois' Brookfield Zoo near Chicago since it opened in 1934. Cookie is at least 75 years old but still enjoys whistling at and preening for visitors.
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Major Mitchell's Cockatoo with supine crest.