Yellow-crested cockatoo (Cacatua sulphurea)

Also known as: Lesser sulphur-crested cockatoo
GenusCacatua (1)
SizeLength: 33 cm (2)
Weight350 g (2)

The yellow-crested cockatoo is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3)

The yellow-crested cockatoo is generally white in colour with, as the English name suggests, a crest of yellow feathers on the head that curves forwards. The undersides of the wings and tail are also yellow, the bill is black, and the feet are grey. The sexes differ in eye colour; in females they are reddish-brown but males have black eyes. In both sexes the skin around the eye is bluish. Juveniles are similar in appearance to adults but have a grey iris, and chicks have patchy yellow down. Four subspecies exist; C. s. sulphurea, C. s. abbotti, C. s. parvula, and C. s. citrinocristata (2).

The yellow-crested cockatoo is found in the central archipelagos of Indonesia and on East Timor. This species was widespread and common in the 19th Century but by the 1980s had undergone a rapid decline and was vanishing from most areas of its former range (4).

Inhabits woodland and cultivated areas from sea-level up to about 1200 metres (2).

This species has a broad diet including seeds, berries, fruit, nuts and flowers. It has been observed raiding crops of maize and rice, and may also take green plant material (4). This bird tends to roost and feed in groups (2). All cockatoos develop very strong pair bonds, and the yellow-crested cockatoo is no exception. Precise details of breeding are not known for this species, the nest is usually built in a tree-hollow, and up to three eggs can be laid. Nests have also been made in burrows in cliff faces (4). In captivity both parents feed the chick, which hatches after about 27 days of incubation (2).

The main factor responsible for the precipitous decline of all of the races of the yellow-crested cockatoo has been unsustainable over-exploitation for the pet trade. Habitat loss has also played a part in the decline (4).

The yellow-crested cockatoo is now fully protected by Indonesian law, and international trade is restricted by CITES. It occurs within a number of protected areas and a species Recovery Plan was initiated in 1998. This programme continues today and is making progress in five key areas, namely: controlling trade, conserving key habitats, removing the market demand for wild birds by establishing captive breeding facilities, research into ecology and population dynamics, and awareness campaigns (4).

For more information on the yellow-crested cockatoo see:

Thank you to Yves de Soye (11/7/02), Director, Loro Parque Fundacion, for revising the text.

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2008)
  2. Hoyo, J.D., Elliot, A. and Sargatal, J. (1997) Handbook of the birds of the world. Volume 4, Sandgrouse to cuckoos. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. CITES (October, 2002)
  4. Birdlife International. (2001) Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. Cambridge, UK.