Yellow-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua sulphurea)

Yellow-crested Cockatoo

[order] PSITTACIFORMES | [family] Cacatuidae | [latin] Cacatua sulphurea | [authority] Gmelin, 1788 | [UK] Yellow-crested Cockatoo | [FR] Cacatoes a huppe jaune | [DE] Gelbwangen-Kakadu | [ES] Cacatua Sulfurea | [NL] Kleine Geelkuifkaketoe | [copyright picture] Birdlife


Monotypic species


Cacatua is a genus of cockatoos found from the Philippines and Wallacea east to the Solomon Islands and south to Australia. They have a primarily white plumage (in some species tinged pinkish or yellow), an expressive crest, and a black (subgenus Cacatua) or pale (subgenus Licmetis) bill. Two major subdivisions can be recognized within Cacatua. One group is characterized by the possession of heavy bills, up curving coloured crests and round wings (alba, galerita, leadbeateri, moluccensis, ophthalmica, sulphurea); within this group leadbeateri and alba have substantially smaller bills than the other species but are alike in the shapes of the crests and wings. The other subdivision has smaller bills, short uncoloured crests and more slender wings (ducorpsi, goffini, haematuropygia, pastinator, roseicapilla, tenuirostris). Large individuals of the larger species (e.g. pastinator) approach and possibly slightly overlap smaller examples of leadbeateri and alba in bill size. Today several species from this genus are considered threatened due to a combination of habitat loss and capture for the wild bird trade, with the Blue-eyed Cockatoo, Moluccan Cockatoo and Umbrella Cockatoo considered Vulnerable, the Red-vented Cockatoo considered Endangered, and the Yellow-crested Cockatoo considered Critically Endangered.

Physical charateristics

Medium-sized, white cockatoo. All-white, but for long, forward-curling yellow crest (more orange in race citrinocristata), yellow ear-coverts and yellow under-surfaces to wings and tail. Black bill, bluish, bare eye-ring and grey feet. Sulphur-crested Cockatoo C. galerita is much larger and has white skin around eye.

Listen to the sound of Yellow-crested Cockatoo

[audio: Cockatoo.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

recorded by Colin Trainor

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 33 cm size max.: 36 cm
incubation min.: 27 days incubation max.: 28 days
fledging min.: 65 days fledging max.: 75 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 3  


Australasia : Sulawesi, Lesser Sundas. The species is endemic to Timor-Leste and Indonesia, where it was formerly common throughout Nusa Tenggara (from Bali to Timor), on Sulawesi and its satellite islands, and the Masalembu Islands (in the Java Sea). It has undergone a dramatic decline, particularly in the last quarter of the 20th century, such that it is now extinct on many islands and close to extinction on most others. Sumba appears to support the largest remaining population, tentatively estimated (in 1992) at c.3,200 birds (but declining, perhaps by 500 birds annually). On Sumba, there has been a statistically significant overall increase in cockatoo density, from around 2 birds per km2 in 1992 to over 4 per km2 in 2002 (around ten years after trade was significantly reduced). Densities at two forest sites had increased considerably, at another the population was stable, but at one small forest patch, a very small population in 1992 had probably decreased.


It inhabits forest (including evergreen, moist deciduous, monsoon and semi-evergreen), forest edge, scrub and agriculture up to 500 m on Sulawesi, and 800 m (sometimes 1,500 m) in Nusa Tenggara. On at least some islands (e.g. Sumba), it appears heavily dependent on closed-canopy primary forest. On others, it survives despite the total clearance of original vegetation, indicating that its habitat requirements are somewhat flexible.


Breeding takes place from September to May on Sumba. It nests in tree cavities with specific requirements, tending use chink in the trunk or branch, or a pre-existing nest-hole made by another species, often in dead, snagged or rotting trees. In captivity clutch size is 2-3 eggs incubated by both parents for about 27 days. YOung fledge after another 10 weeks.

Feeding habits

On Masakabing Island, observations suggest that the species’s favoured foods include male fruits of Artocarpus communis, fruit and flowers of Cocos nucifera (coconut palm), young leaves and flowers of Ceiba petandra, mangroves, and male flowers of Brassus sudaica, with consumption of the fruit, flowers and seeds of at least six other species observed. Nesting has been observed in C. nucifera, A. communis, C. petandra, Tamarindus indica and Avicennia sp.

Video Yellow-crested Cockatoo


copyright: Stefan Behrens


This cockatoo has suffered (and may continue to suffer) an extremely rapid population decline, owing to unsustainable trapping for the cagebird trade. It therefore qualifies as Critically Endangered.
Its precipitous decline is almost entirely attributable to unsustainable exploitation for internal and international trade. Large-scale logging and conversion of forest to agriculture across its range has exacerbated the decline, and the use of pesticides since around 1989 is a further potential threat. At least formerly, the species was regarded as a crop-pest, and consequently persecuted. Cockatoo nests seem to be safe from trappers in they are sufficiently high and a lack of high trees
seems to have played a role in the decline. On Sumba during the 2002 nesting season, few nesting attempts were recorded and productivity was minimal. Breeding activity was negatively correlated with monthly rainfall, which was the heaviest for at least ten years and such poor breeding seasons may hamper population recoveries
Yellow-crested Cockatoo status Critically Endangered



Distribution map

Yellow-crested Cockatoo distribution range map

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