Yellow-crested Cockatoo

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Is the Yellow-crested Cockatoo right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Lesser Sulfur-crested Cockatoo; Lesser Sulfur-crested Cockatoo; Timor Cockatoo; Abbott's Cockatoo (C. s. abbotti); Citron Cockatoo (C.s. citrinocristata); Dwarf Sulfur-crested Cockatoo

Scientific name: Cacatua sulphurea

The basics:
The critically endangered Yellow-crested Cockatoo is a bird for experts who can comply with all rules regarding endangered species and who will always put the good of the species ahead of financial or personal inconvenience. They do breed in captivity, and if you have the opportunity to own a domestic-bred Yellow-crested Cockatoo, it is your responsibility to get the proper training to manage this intelligent, somewhat temperamental bird. No matter how cuddly the baby, these small 'toos are not stuffed teddy bears, and you will need to bring your best parrot behavior skills to keep them happy and healthy.

Alas, the Yellow-crested Cockatoo is a victim of its own charm, intelligence, and beauty. There are at least four subspecies that live in various islands in East Timor and the Indonesian islands of Sulawesi and nearby islands, the Lesser Sunda Islands, and a few others. A 2010 census estimates the population at less than 3,000, so their situation is extremely dire. The cause of the population crash is put squarely at the door of uncontrolled and illegal trapping for pets. If you decide to breed your pet, it's important to consult with a good expert to make sure you match subspecies to subspecies, to avoid creating a mismatch that has to be removed from the very limited remaining gene pool.

A further warning: Cockatoos are powder down birds, and you should not obtain a Lesser Sulfur-crested Cockatoo if anyone in the home suffers from allergies or asthma. Most of them are capable of extremely loud contact calls, or early morning “wake-up calls,” and it is also strongly recommended against choosing any large cockatoo if you live in an apartment or have nearby neighbors.

An attractive white cockatoo with a colorful crest, the Lesser Sulfur-crested Cockatoo is smaller than the more abundant Greater Sulfur-crested. Most subspecies feature a yellow crest, but the Citron subspecies has an orange crest.

308 - 380 grams (11 - 13.4 oz.)

Average size:
33 centimeters (13 in.)

65+ years

Behavior / temperament:
The Yellow-crested Cockatoo may be a smaller model, but it has the same intelligence, personality, and temperament as the other white cockatoo species. Cockatoos are probably more often given up for rescue or rehoming than any other bird. A big problem is that these cuddly birds love to be hugged, petted, and attached to you by the hour when they are babies, and unfortunately they continue to expect this intensive cuddling when they are older. Get training before you get the bird, and continue the training after you get the bird. An objective behaviorist can tell you how much cuddling is appropriate and when you're letting yourself be manipulated.

One tip: At the first hint of any trouble with feather plucking, see an avian vet for the proper tests. Don't assume that your Lesser Sulfur-crested Cockatoo is neurotic. There are some serious feather issues that can affect cockatoos, and you need to have the bird examined and treated for any underlying physical disease before you assume that the plucking is a psychological problem.

There are many behavioral problems that can occur with the Lesser Sulfur-crested Cockatoo, including incessant screaming, feather-plucking, and angry, territorial biting. Don't just read a parrot book or two, and call the job done. Get hands-on lessons from a good trainer or behaviorist who can work with you. And keep abreast of the regulations and paperwork required to hold an endangered species. Be willing to spend money on your precious pet, and make all decisions with the good of the species foremost in your mind.

The Yellow-crested Cockatoo loves to chew. Provide a powder-coated metal cage of at least 36” wide by 24” deep by 36” high with no more than 1” bar spacing. Please keep the cage well-supplied with disposable toys that can be chewed to destruction. Have sturdy manzanita perches in areas where you don't want to have to change the perches frequently, but also supply plenty of natural, bird-safe wood perches from unsprayed trees that your pet can chew to its heart's content.

Many cockatoos, even small ones like the Lesser Sulphur-crested, take a great delight in figuring out how to open their own cage doors, so they are only humoring you by staying inside unless you use padlocks to secure the doors and windows. You have been warned.

Teach your Lesser Sulphur-crested Cockatoo to step on an arm or hand-held perch on command, so that you can easily bring the bird to a play gym. Have more toys and chew items in the play space. It may sound a little counter-intuitive, but a highly intelligent cockatoo does not always understand what a toy is for, until you demonstrate by playing with the toy yourself. The more intelligent the pet, the more it learns from being taught, rather than just going by instinct.

If you have an older, aggressive male, it is particularly important to keep the play gym and cage at waist height. A bird perched at shoulder or head height may hop aboard your shoulder before you give permission. This behavior seems cute when your pet is younger, but it's best to teach him to hop on your arm, not your shoulder – and, preferably, after you give the request. You must manage this bird with kindness and respect, and the best way to fix a problem is to prevent it from developing in the first place.

Domestic-bred Yellow-crested Cockatoo are known to become obese, so you need to provide a varied diet that isn't too high in fat, carbs, or simple sugars. You may offer some small seed mix – 10% or less of the diet - but limit access to higher fat larger seeds such as sunflower. The core of the diet should be a good cockatoo pellet or a high quality commercial or homemade “soak and cook” mix that contains well-cooked beans, grains, and vegetables, as well as well-sprouted seed. Learn how to make a chopped salad containing lots of vegetables and greens, as well as some fruit.

If you suspect that your Lesser Sulfur-crested Cockatoo is a little too hyper and getting too much sugar, then you can hold back the fruit for trick training, foraging games, or to offer by hand as part of a bonding exercise. Nuts and sunflower seed should be restricted to use for trick training or foraging exercise if the bird is overweight. It is best to consult with an avian vet, from the very beginning, to get an expert's opinion of your pet's proper weight.

Never feed avocado or chocolate to any cockatoo. These foods are toxic to all parrots.

Written by Elaine Radford


sweet heart lover, adorable thing, great mimicking ability, excellent talkers, terrific entertainers


extreme chewers, bird hormones, sexualized, feather plucking, hormonal aggression


heavy metal toxicity, therapy animals, nursing home

Yellow-crested Cockatoo Health Tip

Yellow-crested Cockatoo

From EricPickard May 9 2015 12:59PM


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