Cockatoos

117687720.jpg
Photo © Kerrie Kerr / Getty Images.

Cockatoos (Cacatuidae) are a group of parrots that include cockatiels, cockatoos and corellas. There are a total of 21 species in the cockatoo family, most of which inhabit Australia, the Philippines, several eastern Indonesian islands. Cockatoos are notable for their elaborate crest plumage. They have curved bills and are not as colorful as many other parrot groups (cockatoos have plumage that is primarily white, grey or black with smaller patches of color such as pink, yellow or red on the crest, breast or tail).

Cockatoos are gregarious birds that feed in large flocks. They eat seeds, fruit, flowers and tubers as well as the occasional insect.

Cockatoos are medium to large sized parrots. They have a crest of elaborate feathers on their head that they can fan open or closed for display purposes. Like other parrots, cockatoos have zygodactyl feet and a broad, curved beak. Their legs are short but they have strong claws. Cockatoos have broad wings. Some species of cockatoos have patches of skin where no feathers grow, such as bare patches around the eyes and on the face.

Cockatoos have a slow molting cycle. In some species, they replace their flight feathers one by one, taking as long as two years to grow an entirely new set. Other species of cockatoos molt more quickly, taking six months or less.

Cockatoos have a raspy, loud call. They use their call to alert others of approaching predators or to ward off threats.

Cockatoos are popular as pets and the most popular species is the cockatiel. White cockatoos are also kept as pets. Capture of birds from the wild is illegal but remains an active problem and has impacted wild populations of many cockatoos.

Cockatoos are active during the day (diurnal). They form large roosting groups at night and forage in large flocks.

Where food sources are most plentiful, flocks of several thousand birds might form. Where food sources are less abundant, cockatoos form smaller feeding flocks. Cockatoos roost in locations that are close to water sources.

Cockatoos preen frequently to maintain their feathers and remove dirt and re-align feathers. They have a preen oil gland located on their lower back and distribute it over their body by rubbing their head on the preen gland and then over other feathers.

Cockatoos form monogamous pair bonds. Those bonds often last many years. Pairs often form before the birds reach sexual maturity, which occurs at between three and seven years of age. Cockatoos nest in holes in trees (like most other parrots). They do not construct the holes themselves, but select existing holes and fill them with nesting material such as branches, sticks, bark, wood chips and leaves. Some cockatoos return to the same site repeatedly to nest (this is referred to as site fidelity).

Females lay oval white eggs (the eggs often become colored during incubation). Incubation is in some species performed only by the female, while in other species both parents share in the responsibilities of sitting on the eggs.

Incubation times vary among species but is generally between 20 and 30 days. The time it takes young birds to fledge also varies among species.

Cockatoos have a number of predators in the wild including falcons, owls and eagles. Additionally, lizards and snakes feed on the eggs of cockatoos.

Cockatoos are found in Australia, the Philippines, New Guinea and some islands in Indonesia.

Of the 21 species of cockatoos, 11 are endemic to Australia, 7 inhabit islands in the Philippines and Indonesiaand 3 occur in New Guinea and Australia.

Cockatoos live in a wide range of different habitats. These include woodlands, rainforests, alpine forests, scrublands, and mangrove forests.