Australian Native Birds - Sulphur Crested Cockatoo

Cocky showing off it's Sulphur Crest

The Sulphur Crested Cockatoo is one of many varieties of Cockatoo in Australia

To my knowledge there are a number of different Cockatoo in Australia. The most commonly seen Cockatoos in Australia are:

  • The Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, named for its upward sweeping 'yellow' crest.
  • The Black Cockatoo, with a striking red tail this bird is very hard to spot in the shadows of the trees.
  • Major Mitchell's Cockatoo/ sometimes called Pink Cockatoo, a truly beautiful bird!
  • Gang-Gang Cockatoo, colorful with an unusual call, sort of like a creaky growl with an sound like a whip at the end. (I have only heard it once myself)
  • The Galah, this bird is the lead comic in the Cockatoo world. ( If you are playing around or mucking up here in Australia, you are often, quite fondly referred to as a 'Silly Galah')

In this article I will be talking mainly about the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo which is by far the most populous.

Cockatoo showing some color

Cockatoo flashing it's wing (copyright)
Cockatoo flashing it's wing (copyright)
Black Cockatoo,  by this birds looks and demeanor  I believe that he was not long out of the nest.
Black Cockatoo, by this birds looks and demeanor I believe that he was not long out of the nest.
Sulphur Crest Cockatoo in flight (copyright)
Sulphur Crest Cockatoo in flight (copyright)

Sulphur Crested Cockatoo

The Sulphur Crested Cockatoo has the very majestic official name of 'Cacatua galerita'. Quiet grand isn't it ?

However in the Australian Vernacular, depending on the mood of the conversation, it is simply known as 'Cockatoo' 'Bloody Cockatoo' or simply 'Cocky'

This Cockatoo is probably the most prolific of all of the Australian Cockatoos and is found mainly down the Eastern Coast of Australia.

The Cockatoo breeding season is usually around Spring/Summer time In Australia that is any time from August on through to January. The Female Sulphur Crested Cockatoo lays anything up to three eggs in a rough nest constructed from materials like wood chips etc. usually in a tree hollow that the pair of Cockatoo have found.

After an incubation period of up to 27 days, both parents take turns in the incubation process and after the eggs hatch the nestlings are tended to by both parents.

After about 12 weeks the, by then, fledglings are taught by the parents how to fly and forage for food. This is quite funny to see especially when the fledgling is coming in to land!

The fully grown Sulphur Crested Cockatoo is quite a large bird measuring close on 2 feet long and a wing span to match.  This size bird is quite formidable and,  coupled with being very intelligent, consequently the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo does not have many predators and subsequently has been able to breed in large numbers!

Driving through the country side it is not uncommon to see flocks of these birds. They travel in large numbers and have become a huge problem for farmers, especially cereal growers.

Sulphur Crested Cockatoo as Pets

The Sulphur Crested Cockatoo although almost in plague proportions in some parts of Australia do actually make great pets both for adults and children.

I remember with great fondness how a Cockatoo saved our house from burning down!.

When I was a young boy many, many years ago we had this white Sulphur crested cockatoo.
He was christened (I believe with a glass of beer of which it became quite fond) with the name of 'Cocky' by my very pragmatic father.

"Why would you not call a cockatoo 'Cocky' ?" he said when he brought him home. Who were we to argue?

It was allowed to roam at large during the day and kept in a cage at night and covered up with a blanket because it's screeching would wake the dead. The cage was placed in the laundry on top of a 'copper' used for boiling water and washing the clothes. (Before washing machines were invented for the masses)

Early one morning while it was still dark we were all awakened by this unholy screeching and rushing out to trace the noise we found smoke billowing from the laundry and 'Cocky' was screeching and flapping it's wings like I had never seen (The blanket had been shaken off the cage) 'Cocky' was rescued from the smoke and the smoldering fire extinguished.

What had happened after we investigated was the fire under the 'copper' had not been put out and the metal cover had blown off with a backdraft and ashes had fallen onto the wooden floor starting to smolder. Thanks to Cocky giving us the warning there was only minimal damage done to the floor. Unfortunately though Cocky had got out of it's cage and in panic flew up into a tall pine tree next door. ( We did not realize it could fly as it was never tethered).

Next morning my very brave (some said stupid) brother climbed the tree and rescued Cocky and we kept him for many years after that!

So you can see I have an affinity with the white Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.

This cocky can afford to be 'cocky'  look at it's beak and It's talons / claws (copyright)
This cocky can afford to be 'cocky' look at it's beak and It's talons / claws (copyright)

Keeping Cockatoos as Pets

A timely warning for those interested in keeping a Sulphur Crest Cockatoo as a pet.

Keep in mind that Cockatoo's have almost the same life span as we humans, they can live to the ripe old age of 70 and over. The oldest record that I can find documented is over 100 years of age.

Another factor is the sheer size of the bird. As birds go they are quite large, measuring close on 2 feet long and a wingspan to match. This makes them very time consuming when tending to their needs of Hygiene and they can be susceptible to normal bird diseases.

They are also capable of inflicting a nasty wound with their beak.

I was on the receiving end of a friendly nip from the above mentioned 'Cocky' when his meal was not delivered quickly enough :-)

They can also give some nice scratches from their claws (or is that talons, I never know) and when handling it is better to wear thick protective gloves.

On the plus side they are great company and they can be trained to 'talk' ( they are great imitators and pick up swear words very easily) and if acquired at a reasonable young age do learn to dance . It is something to see a Cocky dancing to music!

Personally I do not like to see birds kept in cages but if you really want to have a bird as a pet my suggestion is the smaller Budgerigar.

Comments 22 comments

BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

Beautiful bird. I like the crest. I agree with you about caging though. Thanks for the information. Rated up!


Mentalist acer profile image

Mentalist acer 5 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

Cocky's are beautiful agvulpes,are part of the parate family?


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

@BkCreative yes the crest is a stand out of the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo and do they like to show it off. They will use it to both show that they are not happy and also in a playful way. It is in the tone of 'voice' that you pick their mood. They are a very intelligent bird and are never to be underestimated.

Thanks so much for leaving a kind comment :-)


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

@Mentalist acer, nice observation about the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo being part of the Parrot family.

I'm no expert but I believe that the Cockatoo and Parrot are closely related and belong to the 'order of Psittaciformes' with the cockatoo belonging to the 'family Cacatuidae ' and the Parrot belonging to the 'family Psittacidae' so I guess they would be cousins?

Thanks for dropping by and adding to the discussion :-)


Multiman 5 years ago

What an intereting bird! I have had occasion to handle very large parrot but this seems a little more interesting actually. Godd article voted up.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

Thanks Multiman, I think Cockatoos and Parrots are tarred with the same brush. They are both highly intelligent.

That is probably the trouble with the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo! It is so intelligent that, even though it's habitat has been decreasing at a great rate of knots through urban spread this bird has adapted so well that it is increasing in numbers and becoming a pest. I might add through no fault of it's own. I think that is a shame and an indictment on the human race that as guardians of this earth we don't do it better.

Thanks for dropping by and leaving a nice comment :-)


sabu singh profile image

sabu singh 5 years ago

Hubs on Birds are always welcome. Thank you for this informative Hub.


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Good hub.

Yes, I too have a soft spot for these particular birds. I probably wouldn't have such a soft spot if I had a wooden roof. It is just too sad seeing cockatoos go through our garbage bins looking for a feed.

Yes, they are intelligent.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

@sabu singh thanks for taking the time to read my Hub on the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo and leave a kind comment. Your visit is very much appreciated. :-)


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

@Rod, Yes I would reckon most of us as Aussie kids growing up would have a tale to tell about a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo in the lives. It is a real shame to see what we are doing to the habitats of our native fauna and flora and all in the name of 'progress'.

I wonder just when it stops being progress?

I appreciate your visit and kind comment :-)


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

It has already stopped being progress, agvulpes. But our government representatives have yet to grow up and smell the concrete.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

Thanks Rod and I certainly agree with you! People 'wake up and smell the Concrete' it's almost too late!

The operative words are "OUR Government representatives".

Most pollies seem to loose track of who actually puts them into their positions and very quickly learn to toe the Party line.

Still, I say the worst days in our country is better than the worst days in most other countries!


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Yes, Australia is a pretty good country. I just hope it continues to be fairly good.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

As my old father used to tell me "Son you finish up with the Government you deserve" Unfortunately the older I get the more I am coming to understand the meaning of that statement. I am not liking the look of the Government we have at the moment and what is even worse I shudder to think of what the alternative Government would do to our beautiful country!


teresa8go profile image

teresa8go 5 years ago from Michigan, USA

Another great hub agvulpes. Can you tell me what the natural predator/s of the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo is/was? And have they become such a big problem because their natural predator/s have been nearly wiped out or is it just that they have taken advantage of the all the food in the farmlands and breed more and /or have larger clutches of eggs because of all the extra food? I know Australia has a problem with mice as well but, it's different sort of problem in that mice are not native to Australia and thus they have no natural predators to keep their population down.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

Thanks teresa8go and another great comment from you :)

From the research that I have done the only predators that I can find mentioned for the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo are the Kite (a large falcon type bird) which I have never seen around my neck of the woods. The only other predator that is mentioned are Snakes no mention of the type of snake. Personally I would discount both these predators as a minimal risk as the Sulphur Crested Cockatoos are so intelligent that they have cultivated a Watch Guard system so that when the flock is eating on the ground one or two stand guard and give warnings when danger is present! I have not heard about the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo having larger clutches of eggs, I believe they are becoming more predominant because of their high intelligence level. However I could stand corrected as I am not and expert on the topic:)

Mice on the other hand are a whole other problem as a matter of fact I am trying to catch one in my office, I see it every night and it is so cute I cannot bring myself to hurt it :)


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 5 years ago from Lancashire north west England

Hi Fantastic hub with great photographs . It has been a pleasure being introduced to these beautiful birds through your eyes. Thank you for sharing.


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 5 years ago from Australia Author

Hi I do appreciate you dropping by and leaving such a generous comment :-)

As you say these birds are beautiful and I do so enjoy photographing all birds. For me they are natures gift to us and they should be cared for better as we humans 'progress' and destroy their habitat.

D.A.L. I am glad that you got pleasure from reading about the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo. :-)


ando 4 years ago

Does anyone know if a sulphur crested cockatoo can eat its way into a coconut and get to the meat. I have a photo of one eating its way through the outer husk. It is discarding the husk and seems intent on getting through to the hard inner husk and into the meat. Can they do this?


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 4 years ago from Australia Author

I have not doubt in my mind that the sulphur crested cockatoo has a beak powerful enough to pull a coconut apart.

I have seen them destroy pine cones and break branches with their beaks to get to the juicy bits!


Londonlady profile image

Londonlady 3 years ago

They're beautiful! :) If you can't already tell from my profile picture, I have an affinity for birds so reading anything to do with birds just makes my day. Lovely creatures and this is a great hub! Voted up and awesome!


agvulpes profile image

agvulpes 3 years ago from Australia Author

Thanks Londonlady, yes that bird in your profile picture certainly shows an infinity with birds! Can you let us know what family the bird belongs to ?

These Sulphur Crested Cockatoo have just started to return to our area as the summer sun is producing more feed and with the galahs a sure worth watching :)

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    Major Mitchell Cockatoo

    An example of a Major Mitchell Cockatoo
    An example of a Major Mitchell Cockatoo

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