IAATE Resource Center: Companion Parrot

Cacatua galerita

CLASS: AVESSulphur-crested Cockatoo
FAMILY: Cacatuidae
GENUS: Cacatua
SPECIES: C. galerita

Common Name(s): Greater Sulphur-crested Cockatoo


Greater Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are the largest of the Sulphur-crested group. They have white bodies and a yellow crest; the underside of their wings and tail is also yellow. They also have a dark gray-black, hooked beak. They have a naked periophthalmic eye ring. Males and females differ only in that females’ eyes are red-brown compared to dark brown in males. Juveniles resemble adults.


These cockatoos weigh about 700-950 grams. They are approximately 50 centimeters long.


Greater Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are found in Australia, from Tasmania through Victoria and New South Wales to the northern tip of Queensland. They are also found in the northern part of the Northern Territory and into the Kimberly area of Western Australia. Populations have been established near Perth and in New Zealand.

They habitat dense forests and are often seen in areas habituated by humans.


Since these birds eat seeds, they are often found in cropland. They are often viewed as pests because of their habit of digging up newly sown seed and raiding ripening crops. They also damage haystacks and attack bagged grain. On the other hand they also eat the seeds of many weed pests.

These noisy, conspicuous parrots are usually found in pairs or small family parties during the breeding season, and at other times in flocks, sometimes comprising hundreds of individuals. Each flock has its own roosting ground and this is rarely deserted even though long flights to and from feeding areas may become necessary. At sunrise the birds leave roosting grounds in favor of feeding grounds where they remain during the day. Feeding occurs in groups, with one bird watching for danger on a nearby perch.  During the hottest parts of the day they shelter in trees and return the roosting ground at dusk.

Their characteristic flight comprises a series of rapid, shallow wingbeats interspersed with gliding. When traveling to and from feeding grounds they fly at considerable height, gliding down to the trees in wide, sweeping circles.

Their call is a harsh, raucous screech. Their alarm call consists of a series of abrupt, guttural screeches.
Contact calls while feeding include the occasional sharp squawk or a shrill whistle.


Courtship display in Sulpur-crested cockatoos is simple and brief. The male struts along a branch with crest raised, bobbing his head and swishing his tail in a figure-eight motion. Mutual preening and touching of bills follows. These birds reach sexual maturity within five to six years. They nest in hollow limbs or a hole in a tree, generally high up. Nests have also been found in holes in cliffs and on top of haystacks. Clutch sizes range from two to six eggs. Both parents participate in the 30-day incubation period. The young vacate the nest 6-9 weeks after hatching.


The diet of these birds includes seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, roots, and some insects.


Greater Sulphur-crested Cockatoos can live upwards of 60 years.


This parrot species is very popular in the pet trade. The number of greater Sulphur-crested Cockatoo globally is unknown. CITES lists them in their Appendix II, meaning these cockatoos are not currently threatened with extinction but may unless exotic pet trade is controlled. The United States Wild Bird Act prohibits the commercial import of any bird listed by CITES.


Forshaw, Joseph. M. Parrots of the World

The Australian Museum:

CITES: http://www.cites.org/eng/app/index.shtml

Please feel free to contact us using the contact form. We are happy to answer any questions you may have.



The International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators

is an organization for individuals who are active in the field of avian training and who are involved in environmental education programs.

IAATE was founded to foster communication, professionalism and cooperation among those individuals who serve Avian Science through training, public display, research, husbandry, conservation, and education.



Follow the flock...
Visit our Facebook page