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Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Picture

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The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Cacatua galerita, is a relatively large white cockatoo found in wooded habitats in Australia and New Guinea. They can be locally very numerous, leading to them sometimes being considered as pests. They are very popular in the aviculture.


In Australia, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos can be found widely in the north and east, ranging as far south as Tasmania, but avoiding arid inland areas with few trees. They are also numerous in suburban habitats in cities such as Adelaide and Sydney. Except for highland areas, it occurs throughout most of New Guinea and on nearby smaller islands such as Waigeo, Misool, Aru, and various Cenderawasih Bay and Milne Bay islands.

Introduced species

Within Australia, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos have been introduced to Perth, which otherwise 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 individuals. These birds make the most human contact in Changi Road as well as central Singapore, mainly Bishan, Toa Payoh and Braddell. In New Zealand, the introduced populations may number less than 1000 individuals, and it has also been recorded from various islands in Wallacea (e.g. Kai Islands and Ambon), but it is unclear if it has managed to become established there.


It has a total lengh of 45-55 cm (18-22 in), with the Australian subspecies larger than subspecies from New Guinea and nearby islands. The plumage is 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 (east Australia) or light blue (remaining part of range). Males typically have almost black eyes, whereas the females have a more red/brown coloured eye, but this require optimum viewing conditions to be seen.

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.


Their distinctive raucous call can be very loud; it is meant to travel through the forest environments in which they live, including tropical and subtropical rainforests. These birds are naturally curious creatures, as well as very intelligent. They have adapted very well to European settlement in Australia and live in many urban areas.

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 also emit a very fine powder to waterproof themselves instead of oil as other creatures.

Pest status

In some parts of Australia, the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo can be very numerous, and may cause damage to cereal and fruit crops. Consequently, they are sometimes shot or poisoned as pests. Government permit is required, as they are a protected species under the Australian Commonwealth Law.

They can also be destructive to timber structures such as house planking, garden furniture and trees.

In aviculture

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos may no longer be imported into the United States as a result of the Wild Bird Conservation Act. However, they have been bred in captivity. The potential owner should be aware of the bird's needs, as well as how loud these birds can be and their natural desire to chew wood and other hard and organic materials.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, along with many other parrots, are susceptible to Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease, a viral disease, which causes birds to lose their feathers and grow grotesquely shaped beaks.


Closeup of distinctive crest in raised position

On a balcony in Sydney, Australia

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo, East Hills, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

A Sulphur-crested Cockatoo at Georges River in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo, Mount Nebo, Queensland, Australia

Sulphur Crested Cockatoo in flight, Cheltenham, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

An apparent Sulphur-crested Cockatoo in a painting by Andrea Mantegna, 1496 - over a hundred years before the first recorded European sighting of the Australian continent. Although widely cited as evidence of early visitation to Australia, the bird depicted is almost certainly a yellow-crested cockatoo from Indonesia.

Two Sulphur-crested Cockatoos in a painting by Melchior de Hondecoeter, second half of 17th Century. As with the Mantegna painting, but also considering the warm yellow to orange hues of the crest of the upper bird, the yellowish cheeks of the lower bird, and the fact that many of the other birds are Indonesian, these parrots are also Yellow-crested cockatoos from Indonesia.


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