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12

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

(Cacatua galerita)
Alternate name(s): "White Cockatoo"
Aboriginal name(s): "gehr" [western bundjalung]; "gayambula" [ngadjon]; "kaneky", "mooyi", "kogga-longo", "arunta", "korina", "kudrungoo", "moorai", "nannawarra", "tingari"

Size: 45-50 cm
Weight: 0.6-1.0 kg

Similar
species

Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Sulphur-crested Cockatoo at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Race "galerita"

Not the photos you want? Or are you after even better quality? Have a look here .

ADULT

MALE

Frontal view of a male Sulphur-crested Cockatoo leaning sideways; note the dark iris
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2012]

Close-up near-frontal view of a male Sulphur-crested Cockatoo looking sideways
[Mt. Kaputar NP, NSW, September 2019]

Near-lateral portrait of a male Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2020]

Close-up near-lateral view of a male Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
[Mt. Kaputar NP, NSW, September 2019]

Close-up near-lateral view of a male Sulphur-crested Cockatoo displaying its crest
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2017]

Close-up near-lateral view of a male Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
[Eulah Creek, NSW, July 2010]

Close-up lateral portrait of a male Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2021]

Lateral view of a male Sulphur-crested Cockatoo displaying its crest
[Eulah Creek, NSW, June 2011]

Close-up near-dorsal view of a male Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
[Mt. Kaputar NP, NSW, September 2019]

Near-lateral view of a male Sulphur-crested Cockatoo in flight, just after takeoff from a tree top
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, September 2006]

FEMALE

Frontal view of a female Sulphur-crested Cockatoo; note the red-brown iris
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2012]

PAIR

Close-up near-frontal views of a pair of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, male on the right
(photos courtesy of J. Boettcher, FNQ Nature Tours)
[Lake Tinaroo, Atherton Tablelands, QLD, September 2021]

Sex unknown

Close-up dorsal view of a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
[Eulah Creek, NSW, July 2011]

Sulphur-yellow feather from the crest of a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2016]

Sulphur-yellow feather from the crest of a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2016]

Full flaps, landing gear out - frontal/ventral view of a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo ready for landing (photo courtesy of R. Druce)

Lateral/ventral view of a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo doing its usual thing, screaming its head off, in this case in-flight (probably telling everyone that there was a thunderstorm coming)
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2010]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Close-up lateral view of a juvenile male Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2022]

PBFD - Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease

A significant number of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos have a disease that leads to two observable effects - loss of feathers and beak deformations. Below a few examples observed by us in the wild.

Dorsal view of "Baldy", not a Sulphur-crested, but a Bald-headed Cockatoo
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2008]

And the winner in the "Dirtiest Cocky of all times" competition is...
[Eulah Creek, NSW, July 2011]

... but there is strong competition
[Eulah Creek, NSW, October 2011]

This Sulphur-crested Cockatoo is similarly dirty compared to the others shown above, but note also the deformity of its bill, where part of the upper mandible is missing, while the lower mandible is much longer than normal
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2011]

Frontal view of a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo in what looks like an advanced stage of PBFD
[Eulah Creek, NSW, July 2012]

Lateral view of a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo in what looks like an advanced stage of PBFD
[Eulah Creek, NSW, July 2012]

Race "fitzroyi"

ADULT

MALE

Near-frontal view of a male Sulphur-crested Cockatoo feeding on pandanus fruit (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Palmerston Golf Course, Palmerston, NT, July 2020]

Lateral view of a male Sulphur-crested Cockatoo feeding on pandanus fruit (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Palmerston Golf Course, Palmerston, NT, July 2020]

Lateral view of a male Sulphur-crested Cockatoo feeding on pandanus fruit (photo courtesy of P. Brown)
[Darwin, NT, May 2018]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Jun - Dec Eggs: 2 Incubation period: 28 - 30 days Fledging age: 56 days

The breeding season depends significantly on geographical latitude. Cockatoos are sociable creatures which often nest in loose colonies, also in conjunction with other species.

Nest

"bungobittah", "lar", "malunna", "jindi" [bundjalung] = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Tree hollow Material: Woodchips Height above ground: 5 - 30 m

Dorsal view of a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo climbing out of its nest hollow
[Yarrie Lake, near Wee Waa, NSW, October 2011]

Near-lateral view of a female Sulphur-crested Cockatoo sitting in the opening of its nest hollow in a River Red Gum
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2015]

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo at the entrance of its nest hollow; this pair had to put up with new neighbours, a pair of Whistling Kites who have decided to make their home "upstairs"
[Pilliga Lagoon, near Pilliga, NSW, November 2019]

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "mirk", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena", "pum-pum" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 48 x 34 mm Colour: White Shape: Tapered oval

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Communal Mobility: Dispersive/sedentary Elementary unit: Flock

In environments such as inland NSW, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos usually stay close to waterways, even if these have dried up. When flying across drier parts of the land, it is normally on their way from one source of food or water to the next.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are often seen by us together with Little Corellas and/or Galahs in flocks of up to hundreds, especially where there is plenty of food (e.g. near olive groves or grain storage facilities).

They are quite destructive, often nibbling on or chopping off the young shoots, or even finger-thick branches, of trees just for fun. They are also playful, often performing acrobatics.

Some TLC the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo way... Such behaviour is part of a bonding ritual
[Eulah Creek, NSW, July 2010]

"Ave destructivus" - close-up lateral view of a male(?) Sulphur-crested Cockatoo that has been pruning one of the photographer's eucalypts again...
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2019]

What can I destroy now? Maybe this 18-mm high-flow hose?
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2011]

Nope, this is not an albino flying fox... note how the strength of just one toe is sufficient to hold the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo's weight
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2011]

A cross toe hold will also do: Sulphur-crested Cockatoo playing silly buggers
[Eulah Creek, NSW, May 2021]

... and here is another Sulphur-crested Cockatoo playing silly buggers
[Eulah Creek, NSW, June 2011]

Stand-off at the bird feeder: Male Sulphur-crested Cockatoo vs. Rainbow Lorikeet (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, June 2013]

Another stand-off between two male Sulphur-crested Cockatoos (photo courtesy of A. Ross-Taylor)
[Highland Park, Gold Coast, QLD, May 2014]

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are a noisy lot to start with, but occasionally the volume they produce can increase a notch or two yet. When they are at their noisiest best, there is usually a good reason. In the case shown below, the racket was about a Lace Monitor.

Lateral view of a female Sulphur-crested Cockatoo warning everybody of the presence of a goanna (ear plugs recommended)
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2014]

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos do not shy away from hustling large and powerful predators, such as e.g. a Peregrine Falcon.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo trying to intimidate a Peregrine Falcon
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2021]

An example of peaceful (although not always quiet) co-habitation - a flock of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos, together with Little Corellas
[Near Boggabri, NSW, February 2006]

Food, Diet

Adults: Seeds Dependents: Regurgitated seeds Water intake: Daily

Like basically all cockatoos, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are seed-eaters, where seeds include those in cones and nut-like fruit, for example those of Acacia salicina and White Cedar trees. They also take grass seeds, seeds from introduced trees and shrubs (and commercial crops).

Additional information

There is a separate page about a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo feeding on Acacia salicina seeds.

Here an example of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos stripping a wattle tree/shrub to feed on its seed pods.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos often feed in large numbers, regularly also together with other species, such as e.g. Little Corellas; they feed on our grassland only in wintertime, always about an hour before sunset, when starting their way out of a neighbouring olive grove back to their roosts
[Eulah Creek, NSW, July 2011]

Closer look at Sulphur-crested Cockatoos feeding on another day
[Eulah Creek, NSW, July 2011]

Male Sulphur-crested Cockatoo feasting on fruit (photo courtesy of M. Windeyer)
[Gilgandra, NSW, March 2013]

Near-frontal view of a male Sulphur-crested Cockatoo feeding on fruit (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Palmerston Golf Course, Palmerston, NT, July 2020]

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo taking grit, possibly enriched with minerals from the sea? (photo courtesy of C. Pears)
[The Gap, Watsons Bay, NSW, September 2022]

Near-frontal view of a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo cracking a jacaranda seed pod

Close-up frontal view of a male Sulphur-crested Cockatoo munching on a cone of a male Cypress Pine
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2019]

Close-up lateral portrait of a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo munching on a cone of a male White Cypress Pine, Callitris glaucophylla
[Eulah Creek, NSW, April 2022]

Frontal view of a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo chewing on an oleander seed pod; since nobody has keeled over yet in the garden, it appears that Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are not affected by the toxins
[Eulah Creek, NSW, June 2011]

Near-frontal view of a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo on a lawn in wintertime; for once it is not causing any damage, but doing something good by feeding on clover
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2011]

Male Sulphur-crested Cockatoo feeding on more stringy plant material (photo courtesy of M. Eaton)
[Anstead Reserve, Anstead, QLD, March 2017]

Lateral view of a male Sulphur-crested Cockatoo picking up food from a somewhat neglected lawn
[20 km South of Narrabri, NSW, October 2006]

Lateral view of a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo feeding on seeds of an introduced tree species in a rural garden
[Eulah Creek, NSW, August 2011]

Frontal view of a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo drinking from an ornamental pond
[Eulah Creek, NSW, June 2011]

Near-frontal view of a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo taking a good mouthful
[Eulah Creek, NSW, July 2011]

Call(s)/Song

For this species we have recorded the following call(s)/song. The interpretation of their meaning is our own; comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.

scrcock_20180921_2.m4a galerita
(NW NSW)
Contact calls © MD
scrcock_20180921.m4a galerita
(NW NSW)
Contact calls (in-flight) © MD
scrcock_20140128.mp3 galerita
(NW NSW)
Contact calls (in-flight) © MD
scrcock_art_20131109_2.mp3 galerita
(SE QLD)
Alarm calls © ART
scrcock_20140127.mp3 galerita
(NW NSW)
Alarm calls (Brown Goshawk) © MD
scrcock_art_20131212_3.mp3 galerita
(SE QLD)
Unsettled © ART
scrcock_20140115.mp3 galerita
(NW NSW)
Curious/ suspicious © MD
scrcock_20140311_2.mp3 galerita
(NW NSW)
Arrival © MD
scrcock_20191014.m4a galerita
(NW NSW)
Arrival/warning © MD
scrcock_20140509.mp3 galerita
(NW NSW)
Departure © MD
scrcock_20220402.m4a galerita
(NW NSW)
Begging juvenile, adult answering and feeding © MD
scrcock_20210122.m4a galerita
(NW NSW)
Begging juvenile & being fed © MD
scrcock_20180427.m4a galerita
(NW NSW)
? (in-flight) © MD
 
scrcock_pb_20180110.m4a fitzroyi
(Darwin, NT)
Contact call © PB
scrcock_20140818.m4a fitzroyi
(Top End, NT)
Departure © MD
scrcock_20140816_2.mp3 fitzroyi
(Darwin, NT)
Departure © MD
scrcock_20140816.m4a fitzroyi
(Darwin, NT)
? © MD
Click here for more recordings

We have also recorded Sulphur-crested Cockatoo wing beats.

scrcock_20191127.m4a galerita
(NW NSW)
Perch to perch © MD

More Sulphur-crested Cockatoo sound recordings are available at xeno-canto.org .

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

Would you like to contribute photos or sound recordings to this site?
If interested, please CLICK HERE. Credits to contributors are given HERE.