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Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Cacatua galerita

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Photo copyright Dave Watts

Description

The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo is a large (to 500mm) white parrot with a distinctive yellow crest. The underwing and undertail are tinged yellow. The bill is dark grey-black, and the legs are grey.

Sexes are similar, although the female can be separated at close range by its red-brown eye. The eye is darker brown to almost black in the male. Young Sulphur-crested Cockatoos resemble the adults.

The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo is similar in appearance to the two introduced species of corella that may be seen in Tasmania, however corellas lack the prominent yellow crest.

Habitat

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are found in a variety of timbered habitats and are common around human settlements, cultivated areas, parklands, open pasture and croplands. The species has benefited from clearing, cropping and improved access to water.

The birds stay in the same area all year round. The popularity of the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo as a cage bird has increased its range, as these birds either escape or are released deliberately in areas where they do not already occur.

Diet

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos have a varied diet of berries, seeds, nuts and roots, green leaves and stems, flowers, bark, bulbs, rhizomes and insect larvae. Feeding normally takes place in small to large groups, with one or more members of the group watching for danger from a nearby perch.

When not feeding, birds may use their powerful bill to bite off smaller branches and leaves from trees. In urban areas, they can destroy timber decking and panelling on houses. This activity may help to keep the bill trimmed and from growing too large.

Breeding

The breeding season is from August to January. Two to three white eggs are laid in a suitable tree hollow upon a bed of wood chips, which is prepared by both sexes. Both birds also incubate and raise the chicks. The chicks remain with the parents all year round and family groups will stay together indefinitely.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are very long-lived, and can live upwards of 70 years in captivity, with birds of over 100 years having been recorded. They only live to about 20–40 years in the wild.

Call

A loud, single distinctive screech as a contact call; an occasional high-pitched call while roosting or feeding, and a series of harsh screeches when alarmed.  (Audio recordings courtesy of David Stewart/Nature Sound)

Distribution

Distribution Map courtesy Natural Values Atlas, data from theLIST
© 2010 State of Tasmania
The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo is found throughout northern and eastern mainland Australia, but avoids treeles, arid inland areas. The species also occurs in New Guinea, and has been introduced into New Zealand, Singapore, Palau and Indonesia.

In Tasmania it is a common resident but is nowhere abundant, with a patchy distribution throughout the southern and western forests. It can often be seen in the Midlands, particularly in pastureland near Epping Forest.