Sulphur-crested Cockatoo parrot

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Cacatua galerita Scientific name definitions

  • LC Least Concern
  • Names (17)
  • Subspecies (4)


45–55 cm; 815–975 g. White 

© Lindsay HanschQueanbeyan, New South Wales, Australia 25 Dec 2011Macaulay Library ML 204369411eBird S64978592

cockatoo with yellow ear-coverts  and 14 cm long, erectile bright yellow crest 

© Rémi BigonneauYarra Ranges, Victoria, Australia 28 Sep 2010Macaulay Library ML 205883691eBird S65182121

; underside of wings and tail  washed yellow; bill 

© Tomasz DorońNoord-Brabant, Netherlands 25 Jun 2009

black; feet dark grey; periophthalmic skin white; eye dark brown in male, red-brown in female. Juvenile like adult but eye pale brown. Race fitzroyi has little yellow on ear-coverts and periophthalmic skin is pale blue; triton 

© Carmelo López AbadPapua Barat, Papua, Indonesia Macaulay Library ML 205222781

smaller than fitzroyi, with broader crest feathers; eleonora similar to triton, but bill smaller.

Systematics History

Editor’s Note: This article requires further editing work to merge existing content into the appropriate Subspecies sections. Please bear with us while this update takes place.Closely related to C. ophthalmica and C. sulphurea. Additional described races include macrolophus (from W Papuan Is), kwalamkwalam (Huon Peninsula, in NE New Guinea) and trobriandi (islands off SE New Guinea), all now included within tritonaruensis is a junior synonym of eleonoraqueenslandica (from NE Queensland) and rosinae (from Kangaroo I, South Australia) are considered inseparable from nominate. Four subspecies currently recognized.


Introduced (triton) to E Moluccas (Seram Laut), Palau Is (CW Pacific) and (possibly this subspecies) Taiwan; also (eleonora) to Kai Is and (nominate race) to SW Australia and New Zealand.


Cacatua galerita triton Scientific name definitions

C. g. triton


W Papuan Is, New Guinea and surrounding islands.


Cacatua galerita eleonora Scientific name definitions


Aru Is.


Cacatua galerita fitzroyi Scientific name definitions

C. g. fitzroyi


N Australia from Fitzroy R (N Western Australia) E to Gulf of Carpentaria.


Cacatua galerita galerita Scientific name definitions

C. g. galerita


E and SE Australia from Cape York S in coastal and subcoastal regions to SE South Australia (including Kangaroo I) and Tasmania.


Editor’s Note: Additional distribution information for this taxon can be found in the ‘Subspecies’ article above. In the future we will develop a range-wide distribution article.


In New Guinea, occurs in lowland forest, up to 1400 m. In Australia, inhabits forest  , woodland and cultivated cropland.


Strong flier, often foraging several kilometres from traditional roost or nest.

Diet and Foraging

Wide range of seeds  fruits  and buds gathered from the ground 

© Ian K BarkerNorthern Grampians, Victoria, Australia 14 Mar 2012Macaulay Library ML 205600881eBird S65118539

and in trees 

© Lindsay HanschAustralian Capital Territory, Australia 22 May 2011Macaulay Library ML 204367471eBird S64978455

. Species considered a pest of cultivated crops, digging up recently sown seeds, eating ripening heads and grain fed to stock; long-renowned for flocks of foraging birds responding to alarm given by a sentinel individual (see Family Text ); also damages stored hay and grain, opening sacks and plastic-covered bales, and will sometimes also chew the wooden window frames of houses. Nominate race often feeds in large flocks of several hundred birds; the other races seldom seen in groups of more than 20.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior

Commonest call, both in flight and when perched, is a very harsh grating note with a slightly upslurred (somewhat variable) terminus, “rreh-ah”. When perched, vocabulary more diverse, with most notes having similar tonal quality to flight call, combined with nasal squeals and squawks.


Season Aug–Jan in S Australia, May–Sept in N Australia; few records from New Guinea. Nest is bed of woodchips in a tree-hollow. Pairs  tend to be territorial during breeding season and to nest far apart. Clutch 2–3 eggs, size (in captivity) 43·2 mm × 31·1 mm (race fitzroyi) (1); incubation 25–27 days, by both adults; chick has sparse yellow down; nestlings remain in hollow for 9–12 weeks, where they are fed by both parents. Fledglings remain with parents for several months, foraging together in a locally nomadic flock.

Conservation Status

Conservation status on BirdlifeLC Least Concern

Not globally threatened. CITES II. Status stable in Australia and unlikely to change, so long as overseas trade in native birds is proscribed; populations in and around New Guinea reduced with recent clearing of forests, but not currently reckoned to be endangered. Birds released from captivity can rapidly multiply and establish populations outside their normal distribution, as has happened in Western Australia. Very popular as aviary birds but very wary and not easy to trap.

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