This spectacular-looking parrot can be found in Australia and New Guinea. There are 18 species of cockatoo found in the Australia/Asia region. White plumage consisting of feathers that are hard and glossy with powder-down mixed through them, and a black beak characterize the physical appearance of the bird, which receives its name from the tuft of yellow feathers on its head. The cockatoo has two toes that point forward and two that point backward. It is Australia’s best-known bird and is transported the world over as a pet that can be taught to mimic humans.
The cockatoo lives in most types of open wooded country along rivers and waterways. In the southern part of Australia, cockatoos live in large flocks except during the breeding season. In northern Australia, they are in pairs or small groups throughout the year. Each group has a favorite roosting place, preferring a dead, isolated tree.
The only difference between the male and female of the species is eye color. The female has reddish-brown to deep red eyes and the male has brown eyes. Like other parrots, the upper bill of the cockatoo is attached to the skull by a flexible joint, coming to a sharp point and fitting over the lower bill. It has powerful tongue and jaw muscles.
Cockatoos spend their mornings searching the ground for seeds, nuts, berries, fruits, flowers, corn, and small insects. There is usually one bird standing guard which warns of approaching danger with a loud screech. By noon, the birds fly into the trees to seek the shade and keep busy by stripping the bark and leaves off of the trees they are in. In the cool of the afternoon, they again drop to the ground to feed before heading to roost at dusk.
The nest of the cockatoo is found in a hole in a tree or the high part of a riverside cliff. The female lays two eggs on a pile of wood dust at the bottom of the hole. Incubation is mainly the female’s duty and lasts 30 days. Both parents care for the young.
This bird is protected in nearly all of the Australian states, however, farmers can get a permit to shoot them when they destroy crops.
Psittaciformes • Cacatuidae • Cacatua galerita
Length: 20 inches (50 cm)
Life Span: usually 50 years
Special Design Feature: This is one of the best-known birds of Australia. The cockatoo makes a wonderful pet and they can be taught to mimic human language.
Did You Know? The oldest-recorded age of any bird was the 80 years of a sulfur-crested cockatoo that died at the London Zoo in 1982.