Five Indonesian Cockatoos Their Biology and Captive Management



T he impressive cockatoos ( Cacatuidae) are highly active by nature and able to learn many tricks quickly. They are talkative as well, although they are not geniuses as talkers and cannot be compared with Amazon parrots or African Greys. Because they also are tamed easily, they are distinguished stock in zoos, as well as pets in the fancier's home. For the aviculturist cockatoos are interesting species, and various races are being bred in Europe and this country. These cockatoos are well adapted to climate and feeding conditions, are disease-resistant, and, in addition, are cage- or even handtame. However, the opportunities to produce such a young bird are still rather limited at this moment.

Most imported cockatoos are (or were) captured from the nest and hand-reared by natives in the birds' natural South Pacific habitats. By the time they arrive (or arrived) in the United States, such cockatoos usually are (were) hand-tame and accustomed to eating foods available to captive birds. Among the most popular varieties are the Sulphur-crested cockatoo ( Cacatua galerita) and the Salmoncrested or Moluccan Cockatoo ( Cacatua moluccensis).

Its scientific name, Cacatua, is of Malayan origin, meaning "old father" ("kaka" = father; "tua" = old or wise). This name is apt because cockatoos can live 60 to 80 years or more, and often remain with the same human family for many generations.

All or most cockatoos have many characteristics in common. Consider the following:

• All cockatoo species are endemic


to Australia and/ or the Southeast Asia island groups north of it;

• All species have a crest that can be erected at will when the bird is alarmed or disturbed;

• All species emit a peculiar hissing sound when threatened or alarmed;

• All scratch their heads from under the wing;

• All are gregarious and are generally found in flocks, some of them numbering in the hundreds;

• All engage in mutual preening;

• Most species bathe either by flying in the rain or by fluttering through wet leaves in tree tops (at least one species bathes by hanging upside down, thereby permitting the rain to penetrate to the skin);

• Most species secrete a powder from a gland near the spine that is used in preening and grooming (powder-down feathers).

During 1982, 1984, 1993/94 I was involved in field studies regarding cockatoos. I hope that this presentation shows the beginner the way to the proper keeping of cockatoos, and offers the experienced cockatoo owner and aviculturist new and useful suggestions.


The Species Menu

Daily Seed Mixture:

Barley 5%

Buckwheat 5% Malaleuca seed Bottlebrush bush) 5% Canary Grass seed 10% Millet 10%

Corn 15%

Oats 5%

Eucalyptus seed 5% Paddy 10% Sorghum 5%


Sunflower 15% Wheat 10%

As an extra, give birds corn on the cob (2%), banksia (2%) and pine (2%). Note, however, that not all species will accept them. Apple and/or orange, as well as greens, are also good.

In a separate dish, provide a choice of the following nuts (15-20 grams per bird): Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Grated Coconut, Macadamia Nuts, Peanuts, Pine Nuts, Walnuts.

Also, in a separate dish: a commercial pellet (Harrison's; Kaytee's Exact; G/V's Avian Pride, etc.).