Philippine cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia)

Also known as: red-vented cockatoo
Synonyms: Kakatoe haematuropygia, Psittacus haematuropygius
Spanish: Cacatúa de Cola Sangrante
GenusCacatua (1)
SizeLength: 30 cm (2)
Weight300 g (2)

Classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

The Philippine cockatoo is such a beautiful parrot, with perfect creamy white plumage, it is of little wonder that it is threatened by collection for the pet trade. It has contrasting orangey-red feathers on the underside of the tail, blending into a deep yellow (4), and its crest feathers and cheeks are tinged with varying amounts of pale yellow and rose pink (5). The bill is greyish-white, and males have dark brown irises, while those of the female are brownish-red (4).

Endemic to the Philippines where was once widespread but is now confined to just a few islands (6).

The Philippine cockatoo primarily inhabits lowland, riverine and mangrove forest, but it may also be found in forest edge, secondary growth, visiting corn fields to raid crops, and high in the mountains (4) (5).

The Philippine cockatoo is a noisy bird that makes loud raucous calls; a sound that is almost deafening when several birds are calling simultaneously (5). It is often seen in pairs or in small groups of around eight individuals, but at times up to 30 may congregate to feed (4) (5). The diet consists of seeds, fruits, nuts and berries, and they are known to raid maize and corn crops in nearby farmland (4) (7). The bird’s striking plumage makes it conspicuous to both humans and other predators, but the Philippine cockatoo is capable of acrobatic weaving and darting in an attempt to avoid raptors that prey on them (7).

The Philippine cockatoo breeds from February to June, when one to three eggs are laid in a nest on the limb of a tree (5) (7). The eggs are incubated for around 28 days and the chicks remain in the nest for nine to ten weeks after hatching (2).

Once widespread and fairly common, the Philippine cockatoo has recently undergone a dramatic decline, and is now one of the most threatened birds of the Philippines (7). A combination of trapping for the aviculture trade and widespread deforestation has pushed the Philippine cockatoo towards the edge of extinction, and it is now absent from 98 percent of its former range (2) (7). A 1994 study showed this bird to be present on just eight of the Philippine islands (6). Its remote forest habitat and agile flight are no deterrents for trappers, who know the exact location of many of its nest holes and roosting sites and frequently raid them (7) (8). In addition, the Philippine cockatoo is persecuted for the damage it inflicts on crops (6), and an outbreak of Psittacine beak and feather disease may also be impacting the population (7).

The critically endangered Philippine cockatoo is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) meaning that trade in this species is only permitted in exceptional circumstances (3), and it is also occurs in a number of protected areas (6). In addition, the Philippine Cockatoo Conservation Program, implemented in 1998, is carrying out a number of measures to ensure the cockatoo’s survival. This includes researching the cockatoo’s behaviour, breeding habits and potentially threatening diseases; encouraging poachers and hunters to end their unsustainable activities and become wardens, island rangers and guides instead; and a captive breeding program that serves as a safe-guard against this species’ extinction (8). With such valuable efforts taking place, hopefully the current perilous situation will soon improve for the handsome Philippine cockatoo.

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  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)