Salmon-crested cockatoo (Cacatua moluccensis)

Also known as: Moluccan cockatoo
Spanish: Cacatúa de las Molucas
GenusCacatua (1)
SizeLength: 50 cm (2)
Weight850 g (2)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1), and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

The salmon-crested cockatoo is quite possibly one of the most strikingly beautiful species in the parrot family, a beauty that has sadly cost many their freedom through capture for the pet trade, and may potentially cost the species its existence (4). Named for its exceptionally long, backward-curving salmon-pink crest, this large cockatoo possesses a stunning white plumage, often tinged with soft pink throughout, while the underside of the wings and tail glow with yellow-orange (2) (5). Bare bluish-white skin encircles the eye, the bill is greyish-black and the legs and feet are grey (2) (5). Females are slightly larger than males and have a dark brown iris, whereas the male’s eyes are black (2) (4).

The salmon-crested cockatoo is endemic to the southern Moluccan Islands of Indonesia, where it is currently known chiefly from Seram and possibly at one locality on Ambon, although historical records also exist from the adjacent islands of Haruku and Separua (5) (6).

Largely resident in lowland rainforest below 1,000 meters above sea level (2) (5).

Like other cockatoos, the salmon-crested cockatoo is a sociable species, which can be found in flocks of up to 16 birds during the non-breeding season, although it is thought that flocks may have been much larger before numbers became so depleted (4). The exact breeding season in the wild is unknown, but nesting activity has been observed in May, July and August, (6), when birds are usually seen singly or in pairs (4). Nests are constructed in large trees, with one found in a tree-trunk hole 25 meters above the ground (4) (6). Clutch size in captivity is one to three, usually two, eggs, which are incubated by both parents for 28 to 29 days, and young fledge at around three months (2) (4).

The diet consists of seeds, nuts, fruits, berries, insects and larvae, and these birds are known as pests in grain and coconut plantations, attacking young coconuts, chewing through the outer layers to get to the milk and soft pulp within (4).

Its exquisite beauty has made the salmon-crested cockatoo a much sought after cage-bird, with extensive and unsustainable trapping for the pet trade causing its population to rapidly plummet (5). By the 1980s, the bird was being exported in its thousands, with an estimated 74,509 individuals exported from Indonesia between 1981 and 1990 (5), stemmed only slightly in 1987 by the Indonesian Direction Directorate General of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation banning exports from Seram (4). Despite this ban, birds were still found in the bird markets in both Ambon and Jakarta in 1990, and still, the illegal trade continues (4). The population decline can also be attributed to large-scale forest loss, degradation and fragmentation as a result of logging operations, settlement and hydroelectric projects (4) (5). Historically at least, the salmon-crested cockatoo has also been persecuted as a crop pest on coconut plantations (5).

The salmon-crested cockatoo was placed on CITES Appendix II in 1981, the European Union banned its importation in 1988, and in 1989 it was upgraded to Appendix I of CITES, helping to curtail trade at the international level (6). The species occurs in Manusela National Park on Seram, although the level of protection actually afforded to the bird and its habitat is unclear, and logging continues in some areas within the boundaries. A programme aimed at raising local awareness of the plight of this endemic bird has recently been launched, and attempts have been made to link the species’ preservation with the promotion of ecotourism (5). Between zoos and private collectors, there are estimated to be over 10,000 of these stunning birds in captivity. Ironically, the species’ popularity as a cage-bird, which has contributed so dramatically to its decline in the wild, may now one day prove critical to the survival of the species (4).

For more information on the salmon-crested cockatoo see:

Authenticated (24/09/07) by Dr Stuart J. Marsden, Applied Ecology Group, Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences, Manchester Metropolitan University.

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2007)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1997) Handbook of the Birds of the World – Sandgrouse To Cuckoos. Vol. 4. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. CITES (September, 2007)
  4. David Byres Home Page (September, 2007)
  5. BirdLife International (September, 2007)
  6. BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.