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Yellow Crested Cockatoo

Cacatua sulphurea

  1. Not Evaluated
  2. Data Deficient
  3. Least Concern
  4. Near Threatened
  5. Vulnerable
  6. Endangered
  7. Critically Endangered
  8. Extinct in the Wild
  9. Extinct

About Us

Experience Woburn Safari Park’s free flying bird demonstration, see these magnificent parrots soaring and swooping in the Birds in Action Amphitheatre. Learn about these intelligent birds, how they adapt and survive in the wild.

Indonesia and Sulawesi. Islands in the Flores Sea, Nusa Tenggara and Masalembu islands.
Woodland, farmland, coconut palms and forest edges.
Length 30-32.5 cm
300-350 grams
Up to 60 years
Seen as a crop-pest, and consequently persecuted.

Social structure

As the population of the Lesser Sulphur Crested Cockatoo has decreased, little is known of their complex interactions. These birds no longer flock in their large numbers as they once did. They form long term social bonds and are generally monogamous (pairing for life). They can be seen family groups and will gather in flocks to feed.


Yellow Crested Cockatoo will feed in trees and on the ground. Food items include seeds, crops such as maize, fruit, berries, buds, flowers and nuts (including coconuts).

Physical features

Yellow Crested Cockatoos are a smaller cockatoo. The plumage is overall white, but the ear coverts, under wings, under tail and the expressive crest are yellow. The bill (beak) is black and the legs grey. As adults the male’s iris will remain a dark brown to black colour whilst the female’s iris will take on a reddish colour. Their eye ring is a pale blueish colour. To be certain of the gender of adult birds, a blood test or DNA test could be taken if you wanted to be certain.

Breeding behaviour

Breeding activity can vary depending on the region, climate and food availability. On Buton Island breeding takes place in September and October, although in Nusa Tenggara breeding occurs in April and May. Courtship involves head bobbing, erect crests and mutual preening. Up to 2-3 eggs are laid in a tree hollow and incubation lasts about 28 days with both parents taking part. The young fledge in around 10 weeks and are dependent on parents for a further 2 months or so.


Cockatoos communicate in many ways and serve a number of functions. Cockatoos crests can be raised or lowered at will and are used to communicate with fellow members of their species, allowing individuals to recognise one another and indicating moods. The crest is also used as a form of defence to frighten away other species that approach too closely, making the bird appear larger when the crest is suddenly raised. They also communicate with loud squawking and screaming. 

Threats and conservation

Based on recent surveys within various parts of the species’ range, the estimated global population of the Yellow Crested Cockatoo stands at fewer than 7,000. CITES lists them in their Appendix I, meaning these birds are critically endangered. In the past 40 years it has suffered massive population declines, estimated at more than 80%.

Parrots at risk in the wild face a wide range of pressures, the main source of threat arise from habitat loss, large-scale logging and conversion of forest to agriculture. The use of pesticides is a further potential threat and the species was regarded as a crop-pest, and consequently persecuted. The internal and international pet trade has also led to their decline. These birds have high level of intelligence, potential for tameness, bright plumage and the ability to mimic human voices, all leading to the parrot’s popularity as cage birds.

The World Parrot Trust (WPT) joined the on-going efforts of the Indonesian Parrot Project (IPP) and Konservasi Kakatua Indonesia (KKI), building upon multi-year collaborative efforts to study and conserve the Yellow Crested Cockatoo. These efforts include:

  • Field research: Conducting bird counts to survey current wild populations, available foodstuffs and use of habitat and assessing causes of poor reproductive success.
  • Community involvement/education: Implementing conservation and awareness for school children and adults in several islands. Educating and changing attitudes in favour of protecting the cockatoos and away from viewing them as a resource to harvest.
  • Conservation: Maximizing the species reproductive potential through maintenance of wild nests to avoid losses due to nest flooding and decay. Build local capacity by training local researchers and project participants.
  • Reduce illegal wild bird trade: Recruiting local conservation officers, law enforcement officials and village leaders to collaborate with us in efforts to emphasize the problems inherent in non-sustainable trapping and the critical need to suppress it.

The Yellow Crested Cockatoo and its subspecies require on-going aid. Through collaboration and partnership building from local people and organisations such as WPT, IPP and KKI goals will be achieved and future populations are safeguarded.     

Fun facts

Cockatoos do not have preening or oil gland, but they do produce a fine powder that is the result of the breakdown of special downy feathers. The powder helps to protect their feathers and keep them clean.

There are four accepted subspecies of the Yellow Crested Cockatoo:

  • C. s. sulphurea
  • C. s. parvula
  • C. s. abbotti
  • C. s. citrinocristata