All Cockatoo Species

In general terms, cockatoos are a homogenous group. Although species differ in appearance, we instantly recognise them all as belonging to the same family of birds. The ecology of different species is also broadly similar – they use tree hollows for nesting and birds come together to feed on the ground or in the canopy on seeds. Within these broad parameters, however, there are significant differences in appearance and ecology between and even within species. The following ‘species snapshots’ briefly outline the ecology of each cockatoo species and, where relevant, subspecies, including their distribution, habitat preferences, principal foods and favoured nest sites.


Palm Cockatoo Species

The Palm Cockatoo is a large grey-black cockatoo, distinguished from other black cockatoos by the absence of a coloured panel in its tail. It has long, narrow crest feathers that are individually distinct when raised and that fall foppishly along the head when relaxed. Its most distinctive physical features are its bare red facial skin, which deepens in colour during display, and the long curved beak which is one of the largest in the parrot order. Palm Cockatoos are famous for their drumming display – males use a branch, nut or clenched foot to beat on the edge of their nest hollow.

Drumsticks may be specially fashioned for the purpose, a rare example of tool use in birds. Three subspecies are recognised: the Cape York Cockatoo occurs on the Aru Islands, southern New Guinea and Cape York in Australia, the Goliath Cockatoo occurs in western and central New Guinea, while the Northern Palm Cockatoo occurs in northern New Guinea.

In Australia, Palm Cockatoos are found on Cape York north of Lakefield National Park. They depend on closed forests, and cannot be found far from rainforest or riparian gallery forests. They prefer mosaics of closed forest and woodland. Palm Cockatoos are regularly encountered in the east coast rainforest block centred on the Iron and McIlwraith Ranges and the savanna woodlands to the west. Birds feed on the seeds and fruit of palms, Nonda, quandongs, pandanus and terminalias. They nest in savanna woodland, usually in senescent Darwin Stringybarks but also in bloodwoods. The Cape York population is threatened by the loss of nesting habitat caused by the encroachment of rainforest upon adjoining woodlands, and by the burning of nest trees.

Palm Cockatoos are widely distributed throughout the lowlands and foothills of New Guinea, and occur on a number of islands off the New Guinea coast. Andrew Mack and Debra Wright note that Palm Cockatoos are common and resident in lower montane habitat at Crater Mountain, southern Papua New Guinea. Birds at this location have been observed to eat soil, possibly to counteract the effects of toxic compounds ingested with their food. At one lowland site, Palm Cockatoos were found to forage intensively on the seeds of the common canopy tree, Terminalia impediens.

It has been suggested that its fleshy fruit may have evolved to deter predation by Palm Cockatoos and encourage consumption and dispersal by Cassowaries. Paul Igag recorded Palm Cockatoos nesting in Pometia pinnata at Crater Mountain. Large areas of habitat remain throughout New Guinea, though rainforest destruction has led to the decline of populations in some areas. 

Red-tailed Cockatoo Species

The Red-tailed Cockatoo is a large black cockatoo with a prominent red (males) or orange-red (females) tail panel. Eucalypt forests and woodlands are the preferred habitats, although adjoining grasslands, low shrublands and sheoak woodlands may be important to some populations. Inland populations are closely associated with river floodplains. The Red-tailed Cockatoo is unique among cockatoos for the wide divergence in foraging ecology between subspecies. Southern populations are canopy foragers, while inland populations spend the bulk of their time feeding on the ground. Northern populations are largely arboreal, but will come to the ground to feed. The size and shape of the bill varies between subspecies, reflecting adaptations to different diets.

The Jarrah-Marri forests of south-west Western Australia are home to the Forest Red-tailed Cockatoo. This subspecies breeds throughout its range, invariably nesting in hollows in large old Marri trees. Marri seed is the principal food, though Jarrah seed is also of great importance. The seed of other eucalypts, such as Western Australian Blackbutt and Bullich, is eaten when available. Detailed observations by Tony Kirkby around Perth have shown that different groups specialise in different foods for a few months before switching to an alternate food. At any one time you may have a group feeding on the fruits of the introduced White Cedar, another feeding on the seed of Western Sheoak and a third feeding on Marri seed. The different groups may come together in the evening to roost. They appear to favour open localities for roosting, selecting isolated clumps of Marri trees or sites adjacent to tracks or granite outcrops. The range of the Forest Red-tailed Cockatoo appears to be contracting westward into higher-rainfall areas, perhaps in response to climate change.

The Inland Red-tailed Cockatoo occurs as isolated populations across the centre of the continent. The most easterly is found along the Darling River between Wilcannia and Walgett. Birds nest and roost in redgums lining the river, foraging across the black soil floodplain on the seeds of storksbill and Cat-head. Large flocks are occasionally observed feeding on plantings of White Cedar in Bourke. A second population occupies similar habitat in the channel country of south-west Queensland, while a third is restricted to the major watercourses draining the rocky ranges of central Australia. In Western Australia, a population of Inland Red-tailed Cockatoos straddles the boundary between the south-west eucalypt woodlands and the Mulga Zone. This population is expanding its range into the northern wheatbelt, birds nesting in old Salmon Gums and feeding on the weed Double-gee.

The Northern Red-tailed Cockatoo is common across the Kimberley and Top End. Eucalyptus and bloodwood seed are important foods, though terminalias, wattles, grevilleas and Wild Passionfruit have all been recorded in the diet. Northern and Banks’s Red-tailed Cockatoo subspecies overlap in the lowlands south of the Gulf of Carpentaria. To the east of the Gulf country, the central Queensland uplands form the core part of the range of Banks’s Red-tailed Cockatoo. The population extends north into Cape York and south along the Great Dividing Range and Queensland coast. Bloodwoods, such as the Pink Bloodwood, are likely to feature in the diet. Banks’s Red-tailed Cockatoo formerly occurred in far northern coastal New South Wales, but there have been no recent documented sightings. Ella Pratt reported that these birds fed on a variety of rainforest fruits. The unexplained decline of this species suggests that it depended on the now largely cleared mosaic of subtropical rainforest and wet and dry sclerophyll forests of the far north coast.

The south-west corner of Victoria, extending into South Australia, is home to the South-eastern Red-tailed Cockatoo. The seeds of Desert Stringybark and Brown Stringybark dominate the diet. Birds eat Buloke seed in the north of their range when available. They nest in large old eucalypts, usually in dead River Redgums retained in grazing paddocks.

While the subspecies has largely maintained its range, fewer than 1000 wild birds are thought to remain. The subspecies is threatened by the clearing and degradation of foraging habitat, and the clearing and collapse of isolated paddock trees that represent critical nesting habitat.


Glossy Black Cockatoo Species

Despite its name, the plumage of the Glossy Black  Cockatoo is dull brown-black.
Males have a prominent red tail panel, and that of females is yellow to orange-red. Females have yellow blotches on the head, in some cases so extensive that the entire head is yellow. Glossy Black Cockatoos feed almost exclusively upon the seeds inside the hard woody cones of sheoaks. Their large bulbous bill is specifically adapted for processing these cones and seeds. Three subspecies are recognised, differentiated on the basis of bill size. The best way to locate birds is to listen for the sound of sheoak cones being crunched, when you are walking through suitable habitat. Feeding birds are very approachable.

The Kangaroo Island subspecies is now restricted to Kangaroo Island, the loss of Drooping Sheoak woodland from the Fleurieu Peninsula and Mt Lofty Ranges leading to extinction on the mainland. Stands of Drooping Sheoak, found predominantly in the north of Kangaroo Island, are critical foraging habitat. Allocasuarina muelleriana is occasionally utilised. Nests are located in large eucalypts, usually live Sugar Gums, often close to watercourses. The population on Kangaroo Island numbers around 300 birds and is threatened by habitat loss, predation by Brushtail Possums and competition for nest sites with Little Corellas and Galahs. Recovery actions have seen the population expand in recent years. Recent unconfirmed sightings of Glossy Black Cockatoos on the Fleurieu Peninsula suggest that birds may be visiting the mainland.

The range of the eastern subspecies runs from southern Queensland, through coastal and central New South Wales and into eastern Victoria.
Glossy Black Cockatoos are relatively abundant in areas with extensive areas of suitable habitat. The coast and hinterland, with large areas of dry forest and woodland that support extensive stands of sheoaks, are strongholds for the species. Black Sheoak and Forest Oak are important foods, with birds also recorded feeding on Allocasuarina distyla in the Blue Mountains and at Jervis Bay. In northern New South Wales, Glossy Cockatoos have been reported nesting in tall blackbutts that occupied small clearings close to fresh water. Nests were said to be surrounded by low sheoak forest. On the New South Wales south coast, they are known to nest in Spotted Gum, Hard-leaved Scribbly Gum and Red Bloodwood.

Inland populations of the eastern subspecies feed on a wide range of sheoaks, including Allocasuarina diminuta, A. gymnanthera and Drooping Sheoak. Buloke may be fed on in years when it fruits heavily. Belah is also utilised and may be a critical food source for some inland populations.

Reports of inland birds feeding on White Cypress Pine and Black Cypress Pine are still unconfirmed. In central New South Wales ironbark forests, most nests are located in dead Narrow-leaved Ironbarks or Blakely’s Redgums within a few hundred metres of ephemeral streams. Clearing has resulted in the decline and fragmentation of inland populations. A small isolated population occupies the hills and rocky ranges between Griffith and Narrandera in the Riverina. Significant areas of habitat remain on the western edge of the New England Tablelands, the Pilliga Forests and in central New South Wales. Global warming poses a significant threat to the long-term future of inland populations. The northern subspecies is restricted to central east Queensland. It has the smallest bill of the three subspecies. Its diet is said to comprise Black Sheoak and Forest Oak. Its northern limit was thought to be the Mackay district, with birds nesting in woodland adjoining rainforest at Eungella National Park. However, Stephen Garnett and colleagues recently located Glossy Black Cockatoos 300 km further north, to the west of Paluma. A pair nested there in tall open forest dominated by Rose Gum with a Forest Oak understorey. They successfully fledged their nestling from a large vertical hollow situated in a tall, burnt-out dead tree.

Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo Species

Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo is a large black cockatoo with white tail panels and white ear-patches. It is also known as the Short-billed Cockatoo or Shortbilled White-tailed Cockatoo. It is distributed throughout south-west Western Australia, principally the semi-arid woodlands but also the wetter southern forests. Denis Saunders led a 30-year CSIRO study into the ecology of Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo in the northern wheatbelt. This forms the basis for our current understanding of the species’ ecology, supplemented by work by wildlife authorities and volunteer groups.

Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos depend on woodland for nesting, and on adjoining heathland for food. Today much of the foraging habitat has been cleared and birds are increasingly dependent on pasture weeds such as storksbill and Wild Parsnip. Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos have also been observed feeding on mature canola crops. In the drier inland parts of their range, harsh summer conditions force birds to move toward the coast after breeding. At these times, large flocks feed in the exotic pine plantations around Perth.

Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos are also recorded in the Jarrah-Marri forests, though in lower numbers than Baudin’s Cockatoo. I have observed a large mixed flock of Carnaby’s and Baudin’s Cockatoos feeding on storksbill in open paddocks outside Nannup. Marri can be an important food for Carnaby’s in the northern parts of its range, but within the southern forests birds rely heavily upon Jarrah.

The total population has declined by 50% due to habitat clearing, and the species has become extinct in some areas. The remaining birds struggle to find enough food to reproduce successfully, and have to compete for nesting hollows with other cockatoos and some duck species. The expansion of Perth has resulted in the loss of important areas of winter habitat, and proposals to clear pine plantations that ring the city need to be managed carefully if Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos are not to be negatively affected.

Baudin’s Cockatoo Species

Baudin’s Cockatoo looks similar to Carnaby’s Cockatoo, but has a longer bill. It is also known as the Long-billed Cockatoo or Long-billed Whitetailed Cockatoo. The contact calls of Baudin’s and Carnaby’s Cockatoo also differ, the short ‘witcha-witcha’ and ‘bunyip-bunyip’ of the former contrasting with the longer ‘weeeloo-weeelo’ of the latter. It is confined to the eucalypt forests of south-west Western Australia.

The breeding range of Baudin’s Cockatoo was once thought to be restricted to the Karri forests. We now know that breeding also occurs in the southern Jarrah-Marri forests, with isolated records of birds nesting as far north as Perth. Nests have been located in large old Karri and Marri trees. Post-breeding, birds disperse to the north, west to the coast, and possibly inland. During the non-breeding season, birds can be regularly observed in the outlying suburbs of Perth. While the Baudin’s diet is dominated by Marri seed, they take a variety of other foods. Nectar from eucalypts and proteaceous shrubs is important, and I have spent enjoyable spring mornings observing flocks of Baudin’s feeding on flowering bottlebrush south of Perth. Grubs sourced from grass trees are a favourite, as is hakea seed.

A third of the habitat once occupied by Baudin’s Cockatoo has been cleared for agriculture. Much of the habitat that remains has been logged in the past or is currently subject to logging, leading to declining numbers of nest and food trees. Increasing aridity on the eastern edge of its range is thought to be responsible for a westward shift in distribution. Illegal shooting by orchardists threatens populations in some areas. Overall, numbers have declined significantly since European settlement.


Gang-gang Cockatoo Species

The Gang-gang Cockatoo is a small grey cockatoo with a wispy curled crest. Its name is derived from the Greek for ‘beautiful head’, referring to the scarlet head and crest of adult males. Gang-gang Cockatoos rarely look their best in captivity, as stress and boredom cause feather-plucking.

Wild birds are very striking. One winter evening I watched 15 birds on the Canberra campus of the Australian National University. They made a colourful spectacle on the bare branches of a deciduous tree, before dropping onto a roof to drink from the gutter.

This species is found in the mountain forests of Victoria and southern New South Wales and adjoining lowland areas. Eucalypt and acacia seeds are important native foods. On the New South Wales Southern Tablelands and Victorian coastal plains, numbers increase over winter when resident birds are supplemented by birds from higher altitudes. At this time, Ganggang Cockatoos are frequently recorded in towns where they forage in parks and gardens for exotic foods such as hawthorn berries. Birds feed on sawfly larvae, and bite galls in half to extract insect larvae. The breeding ecology of wild birds is unknown. In recent years there has been a substantial decline in the abundance and range of this species. It is considered vulnerable to extinction in New South Wales, with an isolated population of 20–40 pairs in the northern metropolitan area of Sydney listed as endangered.

Clearing, logging and altered fire regimes are all implicated in the decline, with disease a possible contributing factor.


Galah Cockatoo Cockatoo Species

There are few parts of Australia you can visit without encountering the Galah – a small pink and grey cockatoo with a pale crest. Australians do not often notice its beauty, but overseas it is known as the Rose-breasted Cockatoo and is a sought-after pet or aviary bird. There are northern, western and eastern subspecies, though these intergrade across broad fronts.

Much of our understanding of their ecology comes from a detailed 1970s study by Ian Rowley in the wheatbelt of Western Australia.

Galahs tend to feed on foods that are readily collected and in abundant supply. In cropping regions, their diet is dominated by cereal crops and weeds such as storksbill and Capeweed. Birds in the pastoral zone have a more varied diet. Ian Rowley found that Galahs in the Western Australia Mulga Zone fed on seeds from 16 different plant families – wattle, chenopod and grass seed were important. The diet of Galahs in southern Queensland is dominated by native grass seed, including Button grass, Flinders grass and Mitchell grass. In towns, Galahs feed on sporting fields and golf courses. Birds will also feed in the tree canopy, and in inland New South Wales the mature cones of White Cypress Pine and Buloke are heavily fed on. Galahs prefer mature eucalypts for nesting, though they will use other trees with suitable hollows.

Formerly, Galahs were widely distributed across Australia’s arid and semi-arid interior, occupying the available range of grassland, shrubland and woodland habitats. In the arid zone, they were restricted to tree-lined watercourses and adjoining habitats; they didn’t live in the waterless western deserts. Tropical and temperate grassy woodlands that ringed the interior were also suitable habitat. Galahs were most probably absent from the closed woodlands and forests in the east and south-west of the continent.

Clearing for agriculture has increased available habitat and ensured an abundant food supply, and the provision of stock water-points has opened up previously inaccessible country. As a consequence, the Galah has expanded its range and population sizes have increased.


Pink Cockatoo Species

The Pink Cockatoo is a small pale-pink and white cockatoo with a distinctive narrow, forward-curving crest that has broad red bands enclosing a narrow yellow band. Major Mitchell is a common alternative name. Neville Cayley, in his book on Australian parrots, considered the Pink Cockatoo to be the most beautiful of all the cockatoos. Pink Cockatoos occur at low densities throughout the arid and semi-arid woodlands and shrublands of Australia. Two subspecies are usually recognised, one distributed through the inland of south-eastern Australia and the other through central Australia, South Australia and south-west Western Australia.

The south-east subspecies, or Leadbeater’s Cockatoo, extends from southern Queensland, through New South Wales into north-west Victoria and South Australia. It can be found in mulga and chenopod shrublands in the north, semi-arid woodlands dominated by Bimbil Box and White Cypress Pine in the centre, and mallee woodlands in the south-west.

Populations in the east and southern parts of the range have declined due to clearing for wheat production. Extensive fires in the mallee in recent decades have reduced the extent of breeding habitat – long-unburnt mallee is more likely to contain trees large enough for suitably sized nesting hollows.

The western subspecies, or Desert Cockatoo, typifies the bird’s hardy nature. It is found throughout central Australia, including the Tanami Desert north-west of Alice Springs. It also occurs in the arid western deserts where rocky ranges and bands of denser shrubland and woodland provide suitable habitat. Unlike other inland cockatoos, the Pink Cockatoo does not escape drought conditions by moving elsewhere. Rather it endures the dry times, small groups of birds harvesting a wide range of foods from large territories. The survival knowledge of older flock members may be especially important.

Ian Rowley and Graeme Chapman, studying the western subspecies in the northern wheatbelt of Western Australia, found that Pink Cockatoos fed predominantly on wheat, Double-gee and Pie-melon. A wide variety of native foods were also recorded in their diet, including hakeas, grevilleas, wattles, emu bushes, cypress pines and grubs. Food resources were shared out between breeding pairs, with nests regularly spaced throughout woodland remnants. These native foods appeared essential for population health – when the land changed from bushland to wheat paddocks, Pink Cockatoos retreated from the region. This population was also thought to suffer greatly from illegal trapping for the bird trade.


Long-billed Corella Cockatoo Species

The Long-billed Corella is a medium-sized white cockatoo. Its elongated upper mandible and scarlet throat help distinguish it from other whiteplumaged cockatoos. Before European settlement, the Long-billed Corella was largely restricted to the Western Plains of Victoria (extending into south-eastern South Australia) and the Riverine Plains of central Victoria and southern New South Wales. Native grasslands within its natural range provided extensive foraging areas, birds feeding on tuberous herbs. Large, old River Redgums that lined the watercourses and were scattered across the grassy plains of Victoria provided ample opportunities for roosting and nesting.

Populations of Long-billed Corellas declined and their range contracted following European settlement, due to the loss and degradation of grassland habitat. Competition with rabbits for grain at key times of the year and indiscriminate poisoning are thought to have maintained populations at low levels for the first half of the 20th century. However, rabbit control and the expansion of cropping since the 1950s allowed the population to recover. Today the species has recolonised much of its former range throughout Victoria, and is expanding into southern New South Wales. Its present diet consists almost entirely of introduced species. Ian Temby and William Emison found the main foods to be Onion Grass corms, cereal grains, sunflower seeds and thistle seeds.


Western Corella Cockatoo Species

The semi-arid woodlands of south-west Western Australia are home to the Western Corella, a medium-sized white cockatoo with a large area of blue-coloured bare skin around the eye and an elongated bill. Two subspecies are recognised. The northern subspecies, Butler’s Corella, is widespread throughout the northern wheatbelt. The southern subspecies, Muir’s Corella, is restricted to the extreme south-west in the area around Lake Muir. Butler’s Corella was studied intensively by Graeme Smith and others in the 1970s and early 1980s, one of a number of cockatoo studies undertaken by the CSIRO’s Division of Wildlife and Ecology.

The underground parts of native herbs were important natural foods for the Western Corella, but today its diet is dominated by cereal grains, Onion Grass and Double-gee. Western Corellas are dependent on mature eucalypts, usually Wandoo or Salmon Gum, for nesting. The impact of land clearing has been mixed. The species was heavily persecuted following settlement, causing numbers to decline and its range to contract.

With the continued expansion of agriculture, however, Butler’s Corella has recovered and is reoccupying former parts of its range and expanding into new areas. Muir’s Corella has not fared so well and has been reduced to a small isolated population that is vulnerable to persecution. It is threatened by the conversion of cropland, a source of food and remnant trees for roosting and nesting, into horticultural farms and tree plantations.


Little Corella Cockatoo Species

The Little Corella is a medium-sized white cockatoo with a large area of bluecoloured bare skin around the eye. It is similar in appearance to the Longbilled Corella and Western Corella, but can be distinguished by its smaller size, shorter bill and lack of red on the throat. Little Corellas are present throughout much of the arid and semi-arid zone, but only become common where tree-lined watercourses provide good nesting and roosting habitat.

Bob Beeton, studying birds in the east Kimberley, recorded a flock of 32 000 birds during a period of natural food shortage. Four mainland subspecies are recognised; a fifth is found in the Trans-fly area of southern New Guinea.

The Pilbara Corella occurs in coastal and adjoining inland areas of central Western Australia. It occurs at low densities in the Mulga Zone, but is common throughout the Pilbara region where it forages in grassland habitats and drinks from semi-permanent pools in the beds of ephemeral streams. Little Corellas that frequent towns and homesteads feed mostly on grain, elsewhere their diet is dominated by native grasses and a mix of native and exotic weeds. The Pilbara Corella is separated from the northern subspecies by the Great Sandy Desert.

The Northern Corella is restricted to north-west Western Australia and the Northern Territory. It is widespread and abundant throughout the Kimberly. In the south-west, individuals consume mostly native herb and grass seed, though cultivated sorghum is important. In the eastern lowlands, they exploit seasonally available and patchily distributed grasses.

When native foods are scarce, large flocks form and exploit grain crops.
Boabs are their preferred nest tree in the eastern Kimberleys. In the Top End, Little Corellas are associated with coastal lowlands in the north and cropping lands further south – most of the Arnhem Land and Sturt Plateaus are poor habitat. Little Corellas are associated with major drainage systems along the south-western shore of the Gulf of Carpentaria, lowlands south of the Gulf and western Cape York. Birds from the last two localities belong to the Cape York subspecies.
The Inland Corella is found in central and eastern inland Australia.

Little Corellas are widespread and abundant in the north-eastern inland where clay soils support extensive Mitchell grass plains that provide abundant food resources for granivorous birds. Similarly, grasslands and chenopod shrubland in the south-east inland represent ideal habitat. Semiarid woodlands generally constitute unsuitable habitat. The Inland Corella is slowly expanding its range east and south. It can be encountered along the slopes and plains west of the Great Dividing Range and populations exist along the Murrumbidgee and Murray Rivers. Feral populations have established themselves in Tasmania and in mainland coastal areas.

Tanimbar Corella/Goffin’s Cockatoo Species

The Tanimbar Corella, or Goffin’s Cockatoo, occurs on the Tanimbar group of islands, about 300 km south of Seram and part of an island arc that runs south from Seram then west toward Timor. The species has been introduced to the Kai Islands in the same island arc, lying between Seram and the Tanimbar group. This small white cockatoo occurs on the islands of Yamdena and Larat in the Tanimbar group. Surveys undertaken by BirdLife International in 1993 showed it to be common on the main island of Yamdena, where it was found in all habitats but most frequently in agricultural land. The lowland vegetation that covers Yamdena remains largely intact. Little is known about the diet of this species, though it eats maize crops during the harvest period.


Solomon Corella/Ducorp’s Cockatoo Species

The Solomon Corella, or Ducorp’s Cockatoo, is a small white cockatoo endemic to the Solomon Archipelago, which comprises several large and many small islands. The western islands of Bougainville and Buka are part of Papua New Guinea, while the remainder are part of the Solomon Islands. The Solomon Corella is widely distributed throughout the islands, though absent from the easterly San Cristobal group. It prefers lowland environments, but can be found at higher elevations. Little is known about its diet, though birds are known to raid gardens for fruit and root crops. It has been reported nesting in large trees, including strangler figs.

Red-vented Cockatoo Species

Philippine Cockatoo (Red-vented Cockatoo) Species

The Philippine Cockatoo is a small white corella-type cockatoo. Its red undertail coverts are responsible for its alternative name of Red-vented Cockatoo. The species is endemic to the Philippines, where it is dependent on mangrove and extreme lowland forest habitats. Formerly distributed throughout the Philippine archipelago, habitat loss and trapping has caused a contraction in range and a reduction in numbers. Its present stronghold is the Palawan archipelago and possibly the Sulu archipelago.
The species is considered to be critically endangered.
Tall emergent trees, often close to water, are favoured for nesting.

Frank Lamberts identified the timber species Dipterocarpus grandiflorus and Instia bijunga as important nest trees in the north of Palawan. On Rasa Island in the Palawan archipelago, Garuga floribunda and the mangrove Sonneratia alba are used for nesting. Small offshore islands may be used as roost sites, and coconut palms are often used as roost trees. Birds feed on the fruit of mangroves and forest trees, and visit rice paddies and maize fields prior to harvest. On Rasa Island, birds fed the seeds of cultivated Horseradish Trees to their nestlings when fruit was unavailable.


Yellow-crested Cockatoo Species

The Yellow-crested Cockatoo is a medium-sized white cockatoo with distinctive yellow forward-curving crest and yellow ear-patch. It resembles the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, to which it is closely related. The Yellowcrested Cockatoo is the most widely distributed of the island cockatoos.

Although populations have decreased dramatically in the last few decades, the species has largely maintained its distribution. This reflects its capacity to persist in a range of lowland habitat types, including agricultural lands where it feeds on a wide variety of cultivated foods. Four subspecies are recognised, distinguishable on the basis of size and colouration.

The Sulawesi Cockatoo was once common on Sulawesi, though patchily distributed. Trapping has caused numbers to decline sharply.

Small numbers of birds survive in the centre and south of the island, with perhaps 100 birds remaining in Rawa Aopa Watumohai National Park on the south-east peninsula, in flocks of 10–20 birds. Birds also live on offshore islands and islands in the Flores Sea. Most lowland habitats are utilised, including agricultural land where maize and a wide variety of cultivated fruits are fed on. Birds have been reported nesting in Metrosideros petiolata, a common tree species, and there is a record of birds nesting in burrows on a cliff.

Abbott’s Cockatoo is endemic to the Masalembo Islands, situated in the Java Sea south of Borneo. All the terrestrial vegetation communities have been cleared for agriculture. Of the original vegetation, only the mangroves remain. Formerly found on Masalembo and Masakambing, Abbott’s Cockatoo is now restricted to Masakambing. Surveys in 1999 found this 500 ha island was inhabited by five individuals, including a pair with young. BirdLife International lists coconuts, mangroves, palms, native fruit, maize and beans as food items. Kapok, coconuts and mangroves have been used for nesting.
Two Yellow-crested Cockatoo subspecies are found in Nusa Tenggara.

Numbers have declined dramatically in recent years, largely as a result of trapping. Habitat loss may also be a factor. The Timor Cockatoo is found throughout the northern islands and on Timor. It only survives in significant numbers in Komodo National Park, on the western islands of Pantar and Alor, and perhaps Timor Leste. The Citron-crested Cockatoo is endemic to the southern island of Sumba. Throughout Nusa Tenggara, birds can be found in a variety of lowland habitats, including agricultural lands where they find a variety of cultivated foods. Lowland forest provides important breeding and roosting resources. Stuart Marsden and Martin Jones found that birds on Sumba nested in large old deciduous trees, especially Tetrameles nudiflora. However, in an area where logging had removed most of the potential nest trees, two nests were found in the root systems of large epiphytes.


Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Species

The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo is a large white cockatoo with yellow crest and pale yellow ear-patch. The crest remains conspicuous even when relaxed, jutting out from the back of the head. The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo lives in the tropical north and temperate south-east of Australia, and throughout lowland New Guinea. It is generally absent from arid and semi-arid regions. It does not naturally occur in south-west Western Australia, though aviary releases over the last 50 years have resulted in the establishment of feral populations. The species has a broad diet and can be found in a wide range of habitats, from farmland to rainforest. Sulphurcrested Cockatoos readily feed on crops and pastures, and populations have increased since European settlement. The species is common and is one of the most recognised cockatoo species in Australia.


Blue-eyed Cockatoo Species

A medium-sized cockatoo with deep blue skin around the eye and long broad crest feathers. Its yellow crest feathers only become apparent when raised, otherwise they are overlain by white feathers. The Blueeyed Cockatoo is restricted to the island of New Britain off the northeast coast of New Guinea. The vegetation is dominated by lowland rainforest, with small areas of montane rainforest at higher elevations.
Blue-eyed Cockatoos occupy both lowland and montane habitats.

Much of the north coast of New Britain has been cleared for agriculture, mostly oil palm and coconut plantations. The extensive areas of remaining lowland forest are subject to logging. Stuart Marsden and associates found Blue-eyed Cockatoos in most forest habitats, though undisturbed primary forest was preferred. They observed the species feeding on the fruits and flowers of a variety of plants. They recorded birds nesting in large trees from 10 different species, most of which were situated in primary forest.

Umbrella Cockatoo Species

The Umbrella Cockatoo is a medium-sized white cockatoo with a characteristic fan-shaped crest, from which it gains its name. It is also known as the White Cockatoo. The Umbrella Cockatoo is restricted to the North Moluccas, being found on the central islands of Halmahera, Bacan, Ternate, Tidore, Kasiruta and Mandiole. It is naturally absent from the northern island of Morotai and the southern islands of Obi and Bisa. Overall, the species is considered common, though in some areas trapping may have significantly reduced the size of populations. Birds are found in a range of habitats, with primary forest preferred. Birds have been recorded at altitudes of 900 m, but generally stay below 500 m. Frank Lamberts noted that birds preferred flat or gently sloping terrain in lowland areas. Birds reportedly nest in large forest trees and tree fruit appears to be the main food, though insects and cultivated maize are also eaten.


Salmon-crested Cockatoo Species

The Salmon-crested Cockatoo is a medium-sized pinkish-white cockatoo with long, broad salmon-pink crest feathers. It is widely known as the Moluccan Cockatoo. The Salmon-crested Cockatoo is restricted to the South Moluccas. It occurs on Seram and the smaller adjacent islands of Ambon, Haruku and Saparua. It is relatively common on parts of Seram, with most records coming from Manusela National Park and areas to the east. A small population survives on Ambon, but there are no recent records from Haruku or Saparua. Birds are found up to 900 m, but prefer undisturbed lowland forest. Little information is available on diet, though fruit is likely to be important and insects are taken. Margaret Kinnaird and co-workers found that cockatoo abundance was associated with the presence of potential nest trees (Octomeles sumatranus) and food resources (strangling figs). Trapping for the bird trade has caused populations to decline, with timber extraction also contributing.


Cockatiel Species

This small parrot-like cockatoo has a long yellow and grey crest, and a distinctive orange ear-patch. Its long tail, pointed wings and flashing white shoulders give it a distinctive appearance in flight. It is a popular cage bird and breeds freely in captivity. The generic name nymphicus is derived from the Greek for ‘nymph-like’, while the specific name hollandicus is a reference to New Holland, the former name for Australia.

The Cockatiel is widespread throughout inland Australia, favouring open habitats. After the Galah, it is the most widespread of the mainland cockatoos. The species is often described as nomadic, though resident populations exist in many areas. Seasonal north–south movements may occur, though marked fluctuations in the number of birds in southern Australia reflect movements in and out of the interior. Cockatiels are occasional spring visitors to the northern Western Australian wheatbelt and have bred there during drought periods. At these times, birds nest in small hollows in Salmon Gum or Gimlet and young are fed on grass seed, wheat and storksbill. During the 2002/03 drought there was an influx of Cockatiels into the Dubbo region and Cockatiels regularly fed on seeding wattles in my garden.

Major population centres are associated with extensive areas of grassland habitat. In the north-east inland, Mitchell grass plains provide abundant food resources. Stan Sindel visited the region after good rains, and saw flocks of Cockatiels repeatedly disturbed from the side of the road where they were feeding on half-ripe seed. These plains are overlooked by rocky plateaus and scarps that support important nesting habitat in the form of acacia and eucalypt woodlands. Cockatiels are also abundant on the northern floodplains of inland New South Wales where Daryl Jones found that in grain-growing areas their diet was dominated by sorghum, sunflower and wheat, supplemented by exotic grass seed.

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