Classification Order Psittaciformes, Family Cacatuidae Scientific Name Cacatua Alba Other Common Names White Cockatoo
Species Description The Umbrella Cockatoo is 48 cm (19 in) long,
and weight are about 400 grams for small females and up to 800 grams
for big males. The male Umbrella cockatoo usually has a broader head
and a bigger beak than the female. During their puberty the female
Umbrella cockatoo can begin to develop a more reddish iris than the
The feathers of the Umbrella Cockatoo are mostly white. However,
both upper and lower surfaces of the inner half of the trailing edge
of the large wing feathers are a yellow color. The yellow color is
most notable on the underside of the wings because the yellow
portion of the upper surface of the feather is covered by the white
of the feather immediately medial (nearer to the body) and above.
Similarly, areas of larger tail feathers that are covered by other
tail feathers, and the innermost covered areas of the larger crest
feathers, are yellow. Short white feathers grow from and closely
cover the upper legs.
The Umbrella Cockatoo nests in tree
cavities. The eggs are white and there are usually two in a clutch.
The incubation period is about 28 days and both the female and male
incubate the eggs. The larger chick becomes dominant over the
smaller chick and takes more of the food. The chicks leave the nest
about 84 days after hatching.
Habitat Endemic to tropical rainforest on islands of
Distribution Endemic to the islands of Halmahera, Bacan,
Ternate, Tidore, Kasiruta and Mandiole in North Maluku, Indonesia.
Captivity Umbrella Cockatoos are kept as pets because
they can be very affectionate, bond closely with people and are
valued for their beauty. They can imitate basic human speech, but
are not considered the most able speakers among parrots. They are
often used in live animal acts in zoos and amusement parks, because
they are naturally acrobatic and easily trained, because of their
highly social nature, and high level of intelligence. For this
reason, they are amongst the most demanding parrots to keep. A happy
Umbrella Cockatoo requires a great deal of daily attention from its
caregiver, as well as plenty of toys and other enrichment, as is
typical of large cockatoos.
Cockatoos require time,
devotion and understanding from their caregivers. Raising a cockatoo
requires a substantial commitment. They are loud, require a very
large cage and gym, and it can also become costly to provide them
with chewable toys.
Summary Fairly noisy cockatoo with pleasant character;
especially noisy when excited, but also during early morning and
late afternoon; initially shy; wild-caught birds often extremely
nervous; will then often only leave nestbox to feed; however young
birds quickly become confiding; very hard chewers; regular supply of
wood necessary; rotten wood and planks quickly chewed; colony system
only possible in very large flight; trouble-free and not susceptible
when acclimatised. Like other parrots, they have short tarsi but
strong claws, and walk with a slow waddle, often using their strong
bill as a third limb when climbing branches. They generally have
long narrow wings used in rapid flight, with speeds of 70 km/h being
recorded for some species. The black cockatoos, however, along with
the Major Mitchell's Cockatoo, have shorted more rounded wings and a
more leisurely flight.
The cockatoos have large bills which are kept sharp by rasping the
two mandibles together when resting. The huge bills are complemented
by large muscular tongues which help manipulate seeds inside the
bills so that they can be de-husked before eating. During the
de-husking the lower mandible applies the pressure, the tongue holds
the seed in place and the upper mandible acts as an anvil.
The plumage of the cockatoos is less brightly colored than that of
the other parrots, with species generally being either black, grey
or white. Many species have smaller areas of color on their plumage,
often yellow, pink and red, and usually on the crest or tail. A few
species, like the Galah, have larger areas of color. In addition to
their plumage many species have brightly colored bare areas around
the eye and face, with the Palm Cockatoo having a large red patch of
bare skin across the face. A few species exhibit sexual dimorphism
in the plumage, with this being most pronounced in the Gang-gang
Cockatoo and the Cockateil. Sexual differences in plumage are more
common in the black cockatoos, but many cockatoos vary slightly in
overall size and weight, with the males being on average larger. The
iris color is often brown in adult females and differs from the
black irises often seen in adult males, but this may not be totally
reliable to identify the gender of a cockatoo.
Behavior: Cockatoos are diurnal, requiring daylight
to find their food. They are not early risers, instead waiting until
the sun has warmed their roosting sites before feeding. The 21
species are generally highly social and will roost, forage and
travel together, often in large flocks. All species require roosting
sites that are sometimes located near drinking sites, but many
species may travel great distances between the roosting sites and
Cockatoos have several characteristic
methods of bathing; they may hang upside down or fly about in the
rain, or flutter in wet leaves in the canopy.
Calls and Communication: The vocalisations of cockatoos are
loud and harsh. They serve a number of functions, including allowing
individuals to recognize one another, warning others of predators,
indicating individual moods, maintaining the cohesion of a flock and
as warnings when defending nests. The use of calls and number of
specific calls varies by species, some like the Short-billed Black
Cockatoo have as many as 15 different calls, whereas others like the
Major Mitchell's Cockatoo have far fewer. Some species, like the
Gang-gang Cockatoo are comparatively quiet, but do have softer
growling calls when feeding. In addition to vocalisations, the Palm
Cockatoos communicate over large distances by drumming a dead branch
with a stick. Cockatoo species also make a characteristic hissing
sound when threatened.
Diet and Feeding: The cockatoos are versatile feeders and
consume a range of food items. Seeds form a large part of the diet
of all species; these are opened with their large and powerful
bills. Cockatoos may feed either individually or in flocks that
range in size from small to quite immense. The Galahs, corellas and
some of the black cockatoos feed primarily on the ground, others
feed mostly in trees. The ground feeding species tend to feed in
flocks, which can wither feed in tight, squabbling groups where
seeds are concentrated, or in more dispersed lines where the seeds
are less concentrated and more widely distributed.
While some cockatoos are generalists taking a wide range of seeds,
others are specialists. The Glossy Black Cockatoo specializes in the
cones of Allocasuarina, often a single species, which it holds in
its food and shreds with its powerful bill before removing the seeds
with its tongue. Some species take large numbers of insects,
particularly when breeding. The large bill is used in order to
extract grubs and larvae from rotting wood. The amount of time
cockatoos have to spend foraging varies with the season. During
times of plenty, they may only need to feed for a few hours in the
day, in the morning and evening, and spend the rest of the day
loafing, but during the winter most of the day may be spent
foraging. During hard times the cockatoos also display versatility
in their diet, travelling widely in order to find food, feeding on
more green plant material and in some species using their large
bills to dig up corms.
Breeding: Cockatoos are monogamous breeders, with pair bonds
that can last many years. They may also display site fidelity,
returning to the same nesting sites in consecutive years. Courtship
is generally simple, particularly for established pairs, with the
black cockatoos alone engaging in courtship feeding. Established
pairs do engage in allopreening, but all forms of courtship drop off
after incubation begins, possibly due to the strength of the
pair-bond. Like most parrots the cockatoos are cavity nesters,
nesting in holes in trees. In many places these holes are scarce and
the source of competition, both with other members of the same
species and with other species and types of animal. This competition
is particularly intense amongst larger species.
nesting hollows are lined with sticks, wood chips and branches with
leaves. The eggs of cockatoos are oval and initially white, although
they become discoloured over the course of incubation. They range in
size from 55*40 mm in the Palm Cockatoo to 26*18 mm in the
Cockateil. Clutch size varies amongst the family, with the Palm
Cockatoo and some other larger cockatoos laying only a single egg,
and the smaller species laying anywhere between two to eight eggs.
Amongst the cockatoos incubation and brooding responsibilities may
either be undertaken by the female alone in the case of the black
cockatoos or shared amongst the sexes as happens in the other
species. In the case of the black cockatoos the female is
provisioned by the male several times a day.
Aviculture: Cockatoos are very popular as pets, not only for
their appearance but also for their intelligence and engaging
personalities. Well-socialized cockatoos are often affectionate not
only to their owner but to strangers as well. In spite of their
attractiveness as pets there are drawbacks; they are potentially
destructive, with the larger cockatoos in particular prone to
destructive behavior. Cockatoos may show aggression during the
breeding season; cockatoos are capable of very strong and painful
They also require attention, although experts warn against
"spoiling" young birds with too much attention as it make make the
bird dependent on the owner, leading to problems later in life.
Another drawback as a pet is the fact that most cockatoo species are
very loud birds, though they naturally only vocalize for short
periods of time twice a day. They can be expensive pets, with a cost
which typically ranges from $500-$2000 for the more commonly
available species. In addition to the actual cost, cockatoos require
a very large cage for their size.
Cockatoos also require an out of cage gym or perch and a steady
supply of toys, branches, cardboard boxes, or other chewable items,
which prevents future self destructive behavior such as feather
plucking. Cockatoos are capable of living up to 30-70 years
depending upon species (around 20 years for the smaller Cockateils)
and as such they require a long term commitment from their owners.
Their longevity is also considered a positive trait as it reduces
instances of the loss of a pet.
Cockatoos are popular for
use in trained bird shows, and they can also be trained as pets.
Cockatoos are generally less food motivated than other birds; some
birds may be more motivated by a reward of petting or praise than of
food. Cockatoos can often be trained to accept a parrot harness,
enabling their owners to take them outdoors. Cockatoos have been
used in animal-assisted therapy, generally in nursing homes.
In general, the smaller cockatoo species such as Galahs and Goffin's
Cockatoos are considered to be much easier to keep as pets than
large cockatoos such as Moluccans. In Australia, where Galah
cockatoos are extremely abundant and inexpensive, they are often
considered to be good first birds. The smallest species of cockatoo,
the Cockatiel is a non-destructive and less demanding alternative
making them extremely popular as pets, and among the species most
often recommended to new bird owners.