Australian white sulphur crested cockatoos

Native Australian Birds – The White Cockatoo

The White Cockatoo (Cacatua alba), otherwise known as the umbrella cockatoo, is a medium-sized all-white cockatoo endemic to the equatorial rainforest on Indonesia’s islands & Australasia.

When startled, it extends a large & striking head crest with a curved shape (similar to an umbrella, hence the alternative name). The wings & tail have a pastel yellow or lemon colour, which is opened when they fly.

It is similar to other white Cockatoo varieties such as yellow-crested Cockatoo, sulphur-crested Cockatoo, & salmon-crested Cockatoo, all of which have yellowish, orange, or pinkish crest feathers rather than white.

Cockatoos are a species of large, enduring, long-lived, & very noisy parrots with moveable crests. Australia is home to fourteen species, with others also located in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the Solomon Islands, & the Philippines.

Cockatoo Facts & Information

  • Cockatoos have a chosen “footedness” similar to human handedness. Unlike humanoids, most are left-footed.
  • In captivity, cockatoos have a lifespan comparable to humans.
  • The word ”cockatoo” has its roots in Malay & means’ vice” or ”grip” because of their incredibly powerful beak.
  • Australia’s most common & most extensive Cockatoo is the Galah.

White Cockatoo Call

White Cockatoos

Four of the Australian varieties are predominantly white, including the very well-known & magnificent Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. These loud birds feed on berries, seeds, nuts, & roots. They’re fairly at home in urban areas & the bush.

White Cockatoos are one of the 23 varieties of parrots that belong to the bird species Cacatuidae. This family of birds has around 45 different sub-species. They are a member of the order of Psittaciformes or parrots.

Eleven varieties of cockatoos are indigenous only to Australia. Seven species of cockatoos can be located in the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, & the Solomon Islands.

Most live in trees in forested regions. Many have languished due to the loss of their landscape & food sources. When this occurs, they often travel to agricultural areas where they are regarded as pests by farmers. Many cockatoos are now deemed an endangered species.

Australian white sulphur crested cockatoos

White Cockatoo Appearance

Cockatoos are distinguished for the feathered crest on their head. They can raise or flatten this crest & will often raise it when agitated, excited, or aroused.

They are usually white or gray though a few varieties are black. On their tail or crest, they sometimes have a small patch of yellow or red. They do not have the brilliant plumage of other parrots.

Most cockatoos are large. They range from 30 to 61 centimetres in dimension & weigh up to 1.2 kilograms. The distinction is the cockatiel, which is a smaller sub-species. A cockatiel is rarely longer than 30 centimetres & weighs around 85 grams.

The Cockatoo’s bills are bowed & very powerful. They keep their bills sharp by rubbing the mandibles together when relaxing. They also chew on wood to hone their beaks. Though this is fine in the wild, they sometimes nibble on buildings, patio furniture, wires, & satellite dishes, thus becoming annoyances to homeowners in urban areas.

Cockatoos use their large, agile tongues to split open seeds.

When their feathers’ tips deteriorate, it creates a fine, white powder, and they use this to groom themselves. This is why when cockatoos shake or wobble themselves, you’ll see a mist of fine particles. They also take oil from their back & spread it on their wings. Along with grooming themselves, they will also groom other parrots in their flock.

Their molting is a slow process leading anywhere from six months to two years, depending on the varieties.

Australian white sulphur crested cockatoos

When sleeping, the Cockatoo will ordinarily turn its head round & place it under its feathers.

Males & females usually look alike, so it’s often hard to identify the sex of a pet cockatoo. In a few varieties, the eye colour is varied. The female has a red or pink iris, while the male iris is invariably dark brown or black.

The Cockatoo has a zygodactyly type claw. This means the outer two toes are regressive or backward, & the inner two toes face ahead.

Cockatoo Behavior

Cockatoos are social birds & normally live in flocks. Flocks may be as small as 100 birds when food is abundant but often tend to thousands in times of drought.

They begin their food hunt each morning after the sun has heated their nest & sometimes travel great lengths in their search for food & water.

The call of the Cockatoo can be harsh & notably loud. They use their voice to communicate a threat to other birds, show moods of fear or anger, & recognise each other. When they feel threatened, they will sometimes hiss.

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White Cockatoo Diet

Pet cockatoos eat a broad & diverse diet that includes seeds, vegetables, fruit, insects, & flowers.

Most varieties feed in trees, but a few, such as the galahs & corellas, are ground feeders.
In captivity, they are often fed pellets intended to meet many of their dietary requirements, but different foods are still suggested for at least 40% of their diet. Many of these pellets are created for particular species of Cockatoos.

Australian white sulphur crested cockatoos

Cockatoo Life Span

A cockatoo experiences an average life span of 50 to 70 years. This can, of course, be altered by diet & the environment. Some cockatoos are understood to have lived significantly longer, & they frequently outlive their owners.

Cockatoo Breeding

Cockatoos are monogamous breeders that mate for life. They pair up in flocks, frequently up to a year before breeding.

Females are usually 3 to 7 years old before they reproduce for the first time. Males are even older.

They reproduce in nests or cavities in trees, as do other parakeets. They cannot make these holes themselves. They often have to compete for these nests with other members of the same flock.

The Cockatoo picks a nest only slightly bigger than its own body. They line the nest with sticks & leaves.

Eggs are one to 2 to 4 centimetres in size. They are oval & usually white. There is no requirement for a camouflage colour since the eggs are hidden in nests in trees. Some varieties lay just one egg, & others have clutch sizes of two to eight eggs. Incubation lasts from 20 to 29 days.

After eggs are hatched, nesting for juvenile birds can last from 5 to 11 weeks. Immature birds stay with their parents for up to one year.


Big birds such as falcons & eagles are sometimes a menace to cockatoos.
In the nest, eggs are sometimes consumed by lizards who scale the trees and enter the hollows wherever the eggs are laid. Watch a videos/” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>video of a cockatoo defending its nest from a goanna.

Pythons & rats are also a threat to the eggs. Too much rainfall can also be a threat to the newborn if the nest is flooded. Humans, catching the cockatoos to sell, have also been predators.

Cockatoos As Pets

Cockatoos make common pets. The cockatiel, the tiniest pet cockatoo, is one of the most prevalent is a favourite to pet owners due to its size and friendliness.

It is vital to remember that these are exotic creatures instead of dogs or cats that are fully tamed. Exotic pets are not always welcomed in flats or apartments, particularly ones as noisy as a cockatoo.

A young white cockatoo may be friendly & enjoy being held or patted, but this often changes as the bird grows older.

Australian white sulphur crested cockatoos

As with any pet, particular requirements are needed before you should bring the pet home. Too many pet owners realize that a pet Cockatoo was not the best pet choice for their family.

The bird is then ignored, mistreated, moved on to another family who is also not prepared, or most detrimental of all, freed into the wild. Make sure you do your due diligence before buying any pet.

A few things to consider before you buy a white cockatoo

Budget: Do you have the funds necessary to buy the bird, pay for a good-sized cage, feed the cockatoo quality food, stock toys to keep the bird entertained, & take the bird to an avian vet continuously? Unlike some birds, they do not do great on a diet of mere birdseed. You’ll need to spend time & funds to provide them with a healthy diet for their species.

Time: Do you have the time to spend training, picking up after, & enjoying the bird? Cockatoos are social birds, & they require attention. Can you deal with bird droppings & damage to your furniture?

Future changes: Do you anticipate moving or adding a child to your house in the future? Many birds end up as rescues because a child was born, & the new parents no longer have the chance to dedicate themselves to a bird. Cockatoos can live for over fifty years, so they are not a short term responsibility.

Space: Not only do these birds need a large cage, but they need to have some time outside their enclosure in a safe environment. Usually, numerous hours a day.

Noise: A young white cockatoo may be very quiet, but they may start to screech – aloud as they grow older. You’ll need to be adjusted for your bird to make extremely loud sounds.

Allergies: If somebody in your family is allergic to feathers then a cockatoo (or any bird) is not a good option for a pet. Cockatoos have a fine, white powder mist on their feathers that some individuals are allergic to.

Other pets: A dog or a cat may not take warmly to a bird living in their house & may try to harm the bird. A maturer child may beg for a bird, but are they mature enough? Also, your child will probably be leaving for university or their apartment in a few years. Will you be willing to take care of the bird if they can’t take it with them? Always keep in understanding that cockatoos possess a long life span.

Children: Small children shouldn’t be allowed around a cockatoo. It can be dangerous to the child & the Cockatoo.

Australian white sulphur crested cockatoos

To buy a bird, you’ll probably want to visit a specialty store that deals with exotic birds and can explain their needs to you. Another option is breeders. Visit the breeder and see the environment where the birds are kept.

A knowledgeable breeder can go a long way in helping you set up a safe environment for your bird. Keep in mind, though, that they are trying to sell you a bird and therefore might not always be entirely truthful about the care and investment needed. Bird rescues are another place to locate cockatoos to adopt.

Some people think they should buy two cockatoos and keep them together.

More Australian Cockatoo Facts

Are white cockatoos native to Australia?

The sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) is a relatively large white cockatoo found in wooded habitats in Australia, New Guinea, and some of the islands Indonesia. They can be locally very numerous, leading to them sometimes being considered pests.

Are white cockatoos good pets?

An umbrella cockatoo demands attention and needs an owner who can set boundaries. The umbrella cockatoo, also known as the white Cockatoo or the great white-crested Cockatoo, is well-known in bird circles as one of the most affectionate and affable companion birds widely available on the market today.

How many white cockatoos are left in the world?

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of White cockatoos is 43,000-183,000 individuals. However, this species’ numbers are decreasing today, and it is classified as endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List.

What does a white cockatoo eat?

What does my Cockatoo naturally eat? Depending on the species, Cockatoos will eat an assortment of seeds, fruits, nuts, berries, blossoms, roots, and vegetation such as leaf buds. Some cockatoos even eat insects and their larva. They are known to raid farmers’ crops, destroy sprouts, mature crops, and bagged grain.

Australian white sulphur crested cockatoos

How smart is a cockatoo?

Cockatoos are recognizable by the showy crests and curved bills. These incredibly social birds have endearing personalities and extraordinary speaking abilities. As a part of their extreme intelligence is their ability to imitate a wide variety of sounds and speech.

How long does a white cockatoo live for?

40 – 60 years In captivity
White cockatoo/Lifespan
The maximal lifespan of the white Cockatoo is poorly documented. A few zoos report that they live 40–60 years in captivity. Unconfirmed reports suggest it can live longer. Lifespan in the wild is unknown but believed to be as much as ten years less.

What is a cockatoos favorite food?

What is cockatoos’ favorite food? Cockatoos will love to munch on seeds and nuts but remember they should only account for only a portion of their diet. They also love sweet fruits such as bananas, strawberries, and apples (with the core taken out), which should be 10% of their diets.

Other species of Australian Cockatoo include the black, pink, and Gang Gang Cockatoos.

Further Reading

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