Yellow Crested Cockatoo


Cacatua sulphurea

Order: Psittaciformes

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • Housing requirements are dependent on the bird’s history and rearing as well as flight capabilities.

Diet Requirements

  • Cockatoos are herbivorous
  • A veterinary recommended pellet should make up the base of the cockatoos diet
  • Fruit and vegetables should be offered daily. Vegetables can be cooked or raw.
  • Avocado is deadly to parrots. DO NOT FEED AVOCADO.
  • Seeds and nuts can be offered as training treats. Nuts in the shell can assist with beak maintenance and dexterity.

Veterinary Concerns

  • As with many birds, asper can be a concern.
  • As with many birds, west nile virus can be a concern.
  • Feather plucking appears more commonly in cockatoos than in many other bird species. If feather plucking is observed rule out underlying physiological illness prior to assuming behavioral motivations.

Notes on Enrichment & Training

  • Cockatoos are very social and very intelligent. Ideally they are housed with other cockatoos for constant social enrichment. Other species can be companions for cockatoos, but they appear to present the most natural behavior when housed with other cockatoos of the same species.
  • Parrots should be trained to voluntarily participate in most aspects of daily care and maintenance. Voluntary step ups, flights, nail trims, physical exams, restraint, kenneling, weighing, and many more are successfully trained regularly with parrots.
  • Flight training for outdoors has inherent risk (fly off can lead to death if bird is not recovered). Only advanced trainers, or those working closely with training consultants, should attempt outdoor flight training.
  • Enrichment opportunities should include all desired natural behaviors such as opportunities for visual and auditory stimulation (television/movies and music), physical manipulation of the environment including opportunities for chewing and using feet actively, and opportunities for foraging throughout the day. Puzzle feeders can be successfully trained to provide foraging opportunities.


Colony or Breeding Management

Individual Identification

Programmatic Information


  • Small parrots can be easily trained to enter a vari kennel with a perch added.
  • Carry kennel with two hands, rather then the handle, to avoid accidental swinging and/or accidentally knocking the kennel into doorways or other items.

Temperature Guidelines

  • Zoo Atlanta presents cockatoos between 55-90 F for no more than a 30 minute duration and 50-95 for no more than a 5 minute duration (show routines). If 95 or over they may stay outdoors for longer if enjoying a bath. Exhibit access is offered between 45-105 with constant access to climate controlled indoor area.


  • Yellow Crested cockatoos can fit into a small (100) size vari kennel with a perch installed.
  • Parrots can be easily trained to enter a kennel voluntarily

Tips on Presentation

Touching Techniques

  • Parrots should be trained to voluntarily step onto the hand or a portable perch.
  • Public touching is not recommended as touch from unknown persons can be stressful.

Tips on Handling

  • Parrots can be trained to remain on the hand or a perch for presentation.

Potential Messaging

  • There is some evidence that suggests the take home message of conservation is better retained when parrots are presented on a perch rather than in the hand. Guests tend to remember the individual bird rather than the conservation message when parrots are presented on a hand or mimic human sounds without contextual explanation.
  • Yellow crested cockatoos are critically endangered.
  • Responsible pet ownership can be discussed when presenting parrot species.

Acquisition Information

  • Contact the parrot TAG for information on anyone who might be breeding yellow crested cockatoos.
  • Parrot rescues are a source of parrots for programming. Adult birds can be trained for presentations indoors and may or may not be suitable for outdoor flight training.

Comments from the Rating System

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

This 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, which is still ongoing, 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 was reported to be declining by perhaps 500 birds annually, with just 10% of the island still forested in 34 fragments (Walker et al. 2005), and extrapolations across remaining forest cover from numbers in six IBAs suggesting just 563 birds in 2012 (Burung Indonesia in prep.). Other significant populations are on Komodo (c.500 individuals, but potentially now fewer), Sulawesi and Buton (combined remaining population of perhaps 200 individuals but almost extirpated from Buton by 2009 [Anon. 2012, Waugh 2013]), Sumbawa (107 birds in a recent census [Anon. 2013], although the population may be smaller [C. Trainor in litt. 2016]), Tanajampea (only 14 birds were located in a targeted survey in 2015 and there are likely to be fewer than 100 individuals [Bashari and Arndt 2016, H. Bashari in litt. 2016]), Moyo, Timor-Leste (Trainor et al. undated), Alor (a loose flock comprising c. 18 birds was observed in 2009), West Timor (potential sighting of 60 individuals in 2013 [per C. Trainor in litt. 2016]), Flores, Rinca (with a sighting of 69 counted in West Flores with the birds arriving from Rinca [Aziz 2014]) and Pantar (one or two cage birds captured on Pantar [F. Verbelen in litt. 2012]). Tiny populations of just a few individuals also exist in the Tukangbesi Islands, on Oroho Island (a satellite of Wangi Wangi Island) and on Lintea Selatan (a satellite of Tomea Island) (D. Kelly in litt. 2009), on Roti island (near Timor) (Johnstone and Jepson 1996, Trainor 2005, F. Verbelen in litt. 2012), and Kadatua Island west of Buton (Anon. 2012).

The Komodo population alone (where poaching is more covert) declined by an estimated 60% between 2000-2005 (Imansyah et al. 2005). Its current status on several small islands is unclear, but surveys of Masakambing in the Masalembu Islands in 2008 found only ten individuals remaining of race abbotti(Anon 2008, Metz et al. 2009, Nandika et al. 2009), with only eight recorded in 2009 (Nandika et al. 2009), but increasing slightly to 11 in 2010 and 13 in 2011 (Anon. 2012). Local information suggests that the species was extirpated from Masalembu Island in 1987, owing largely to the trapping and killing of birds that accompanied the exploration of the archipelago in the late 1980s (Nandika et al. 2009). A feral population of several hundred birds exists in Hong Kong, outside of the species’s natural range. It is likely extirpated from Lombok (F. Verbelen in litt. 2012).

Physical Description

  • 33-35 cm. 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. Similar spp. Sulphur-crested Cockatoo C. galerita is much larger and has white skin around eye. Voice Loud and very raucous. Often gives single harsh screech but also sweeter whistles and squeaky notes.

Life Cycle

Yellow-crested cockatoos are monogamous birds, and pairs stay together for life. On Sumba Island, mating occurs from September to May. These birds nest in tree cavities. Their eggs are white and usually 2 are laid. Incubation is shared by the male and the female, for about 28 days, the chicks leaving their nest after about 75 days.


  • A cockatoo that is resting or will soon go to sleep, will put his feathers a little bit up (it will look fluffy) and will move the feathers around to bill to cover part of the underside of the bill (see picture). Often it will stand on one foot. It can keep its eyes open or a bit closed. This body language shows that the cockatoo is calm and is resting. Cockatoos can also sleep like this.
  • A cockatoo that is very sick will also puff up its feathers and site like this for most of the day with his eyes half closed or closed. This is a very bad sign.
  • When a cockatoo is active and excited, for example when it is playing or showing off, it will show this with its body language. It will put this crest feathers up and move a lot. Generally it will be very active and make excited noises. This can be seen as an happy confident cockatoo. The feathers on the side of the head are not erect, only the crest.
  • When a cockatoo is both scared and aggressive, it will try to chase the source of this emotion away using its body language. For example when a cockatoo that is not used to cats sees a cat, it will show this behavior. It will puff up all its feathers to look really big, it will open its bill and face the opponent making loud hissing noises. Instead of running it will try to face the treat with aggression with the goal of scaring it away.
  • When a cockatoo is really scared, for example by seeing a bird-of-prey cycling in the air above it, it will generally show fear by putting all its feathers very close to its body, standing very erect and attentive and sometimes shout an alarm scream. It can also try to flee by flying away or hiding behind a trusted human.
  • When a cockatoo is aggressive towards a particular person, it will look at him very directly, walk towards him in a straight line and open its bill to bite him. Following every move of someone is also a sign of aggression towards that person. When the cockatoo keeps his feathers very tight towards its body it is likely to attack the person, if the cockatoo keeps his feathers fluffed up it is trying to intimidate the person and is less likely to attack.

Threats and Conservation Status

  • Itsprecipitous decline is almost entirely attributable to unsustainable exploitation for internal and international trade. Illegal trapping continues in many areas including Rawa Aopa Watumohai National Park, Buton and Kadatua Islands (Anon. 2012), but has reportedly been reduced significantly on Sumba (D. Mulyawati in litt. 2012). 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; and it may also be hunted for fun (H. Bashari in litt. 2016). A shift from cultivation of corn, papaya and other foodstuffs to rice on Sumba may consequently have reduced food availability for the species (Nandika and Agustina 2012). High rainfall years appear to limit productivity considerably, resulting in very low recruitment. Conversely, rainfall on Komodo has been low in recent years leading to limited availability of water sources. Juvenile Komodo Dragons Varanus komodensis pose a threat to nestlings on Komodo (Nandika and Agustina 2012). Competition for cavity nest sites with other parrots and owls in large trees (those targeted by logging activities) leads to low productivity (Walker et al. 2005). On the smaller islands of Roti, Alor and Pantar, enforcement of hunting and trading regulations is low (F. Verbelen in litt. 2012).
  • CITES Appendix I (2005). A cooperative recovery plan has been developed and adopted, and an update was prepared in 2012 (D. Mulyawati in litt. 2012). This species has become a national priority in Indonesia for increasing its population by the Ministy of Forestry and Environment (H. Bashari in litt. 2016). Populations occur in several protected areas, the most important being Rawa Aopa Watumohai (55 individuals in 2011 [Waugh 2013]) and Caraente National Parks (on Sulawesi) which supports up to 100 individuals (Nandika 2006), Suaka Margasatwa Nature Reserve on Pulau Moyo, Komodo National Park and two national parks on Sumba: Manupeu-Tanadaru and Laiwangi-Wanggameti. The declared Nini Konis Santana National Park in Timor holds an estimated 100 birds (Trainor et al. undated). In Rawa Aopa Watumohai nests have been protected from predators by removing overhanging vegetation and fitting plastic collars around the trunks of nesting trees (Waugh 2013). Moratoria on international trade are in place, although it is likely that a large proportion of the trade is domestic. Several cockatoo subpopulations have increased on Sumba between 1992 and 2002, due to conservation efforts (including local education, eco-tourism and law enforcement), although densities remained below those typical of other cockatoo species (Cahill et al. 2006). Capture for trade has apparently decreased dramatically on Sumba thanks to a variety of awareness-raising activities and community protection measures (D. Mulyawati in litt. 2012). 

  • Following surveys in 2008 and 2009, the Indonesian Parrot Project and Konservasi Kakatua Indonesia have initiated meetings with community leaders and villagers on Masakambing and Masalembu, as well as the local military and police, to raise awareness and garner support for the species’s conservation (Metz et al. 2009). A conservation-awareness-pride programme has also begun to engage both adults and school children of the Masalembu Archipelago (Metz et al. 2009, Nandika et al. 2009) and in south-east Sulawesi (Anon. 2012). A ‘village regulation’ was drafted to make it illegal to trap, own or transport the species, and to initiate measures to reduce habitat destruction and employ a former village head to monitor and protect nests and study the species (Nandika et al. 2009). Similar community-based regulations have been put in place by the Moronone community in Rawa Aopa Watumohai NP, where four village members have been hired as Forest Wardens (Anon. 2012). The wardens protect the species against poachers and carry out monitoring activities (Waugh 2013). The species’s pest status may be tackled by the planting of crops to compensate for losses and to act as a ‘sacrifice crop’, for instance sunflower fields are used to attract the species away from other crops (Waugh 2013). Mangrove restoration is also being used to increase available nesting habitat (Waugh 2013). A repeated census of the abbotti population is planned, along with studies into its life history and ecology (Metz et al. 2009).Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
  • Conduct further surveys (including Roti but also further surveys on Alor and Pantar) to identify the most appropriate areas for conservation action and to periodically monitor key populations by repeating surveys conducted 8-10 years ago. Provide support for relevant protected areas and conservation initiatives within its range and protect nest trees where possible. Strengthen protection of the Poronumbu Forest, Sumba, by declaring it a Nature Reserve (Nandika and Agustina 2012). Strengthen control, law enforcement and monitoring of trade and establish greater management of captive populations. Improve law enforcement in designated protected areas and other key areas for trade including ports, markets, etc. Promote widespread community-based conservation initiatives. For instance on Pasoso Island, Central Sulawesi, work to protect the species should involve engaging with the five families that live on the island and introduce community engagement programmes for children and adults on several of the other islands where the species is found (Nandika and Agustina 2012). Recommendations made specifically for the protection of the species in Komodo National Park were to conduct annual monitoring, maintain regular patrols, raise awareness in local communities and study human activities and impacts within the park (Imansyah et al. 2005, Benstead 2006). Conduct ecological research to clarify options for its management and conservation. Additional targets should be to study the abundance and distribution of nest holes and water sources. Providing artificial water sources near nest locations, i.e water ponds, is essential for the species on Komodo Island and protecting nests from juvenile Komodo Dragons on Komodo may also be necessary (Nandika and Agustina 2012).

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