Cockatoo

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Sulfur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita)

Cockatoos are a gregarious and intelligent type of parrot. There are many different species and, while most people would identify them as white with a yellow or pink crest, they actually come in a wide variety of colors, such as the palm cockatoo which is all grey except for its ruddy cheeks. Cockatoos are a popular pet due to their extravagant looks but they are clingy and quite temperamental and often prove to be too much for inexperienced owners so the birds are often given up to shelters.


Content List

1. Scientific & Common Names

2. Characteristics

a. Breeding

b. Behavior

3. History

4. Present Status

5. References


Scientific & Common Names

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Aves

Order - Psittaciformes

Superfamily - Cacatuoidea

Family - Cacatuidae

Common Names – Cockatoo (each species has a different common name), cockatiel


Characteristics

The dozens of species of cockatoo are native to Australia, Indonesia, Philippines, and New Guinea where they can be found in a wide variety of environments. They tend to be larger than other parrots except for cockatiels, who are much smaller. They are social and live in groups of anywhere from a hundred to a few thousand, although the larger groups are generally only formed during times when food is difficult to come by, such as a drought.


Breeding

They breed once a year over a four month period from December through March. The males initially must endeavor to attract a female, but they will then bond and often mate for life. They nest in tree cavities that they find that are only slightly larger than the bird itself and they are attentive parents and will often care for the young for up to a year.


Behavior

While cockatoos are very vocal, their crest is also an important form of communication for them. They will lower it until it is barely visible when they are calm or at rest, but they will raise it as a display of frustration, fear, excitement, or even territoriality. They are seed eaters and use their powerful beak to break the tough shells, but the beak is also used as a weapon or to explore interesting objects. They will also eat fruits and insects and have an unfortunate fondness for farmed corn.


History

Cockatoos diverged from other parrots around 40 million years ago and they began to diversify around 25-30 million years ago, along with major changes to the environment of Australia itself.


Present status

They are considered a pest by corn farmers but the major threats come from loss of habitat and pressure from collection for the pet trade. The salmon crested, Cacatua moluccensis, and the Blue Eyed, Cacatua ophthalmica, are listed as vulnerable. The White cockatoo, Cacatua alba, and the Short Billed Black, Zanda latirostris, are considered endangered. The Philippine, Cacatua haematuropygia, and Yellow Crested, Cacatua sulphurea, are critically endangered.


References

International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN)

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

Manual of Parrot Behavior by Andrew Luescher

Cockatoos in Aviculture by Rosemary Low

The Essential Cockatoo by Laurie Baker, Stuart Borden

The evolutionary history of cockatoos (Aves: Psittaciformes: Cacatuidae). White NE, Phillips MJ, Gilbert MT, Alfaro-Núñez A, Willerslev E, Mawson PR, Spencer PB, Bunce M.