Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo Care Sheet

Scientific Facts

Common Name:Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, Greater Sulphur Crested Cockatoo
Scientific Name:Cacatua galerita
Life Span:Up to 80 years
Weight:800 grams
Length:45 to 50 centimeters
Habitat:Tropical and subtropical rainforests
Country of Origin:Australia and other islands in Oceania

Physical Description

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Sulphur-crested cockatoos are primarily white in terms of color. They also have black beaks. The feature that gave them their name is the beautiful crest of feathers, colored in yellow, placed at the top of their heads. Their sulphur yellow crests can be held folded down or erected on their heads. The yellow color is not limited there and can also be found on the underside of their tails and their wings.

They are large birds, reaching about 45 to 50 centimeters, in terms of length. On average, their weight is also measured at 800 grams. Males and females are monomorphic or looking a lot like each other. But if you are seeking to identify them, the female of the species has red-tinted brown eyes, while their counterparts have eyes colored with a darker brown.


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The sulphur-crested cockatoos have four subspecies, each of them occupies a different geographic range, and they have slightly different physical traits. They are known as:

  1. Triton Cockatoo – Cacatua galerita triton – Found in New Guinea and surrounding islands
  2. Eleonora Cockatoo – Cacatua galerita eleonora – Found in a few Indonesian islands
  3. Matthews Cockatoo – Cacatua galerita fitzroyi – Found in Northern Australia
  4. Standard Sulphur Crested Cockatoo – Cacatua galerita galerita – Found in Eastern Australia and the most common domesticated one that is also adopted as a house pet.


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The sulphur-crested cockatoos have been recorded to live for about decades in the wild. The average wild lifespan is about 40 years old, but they have been recorded to live up to 100 years. For sulphur-crested cockatoos in captivity, they live an average of 65 years if they are well taken care of, but they live as long as 120 years.

Conservation Status

Sulphur-crested cockatoos are generally abundant and are very common. At present, their populations are estimated to be more or less 500,000 individuals. But, as a conservation effort, the Wild Bird Conservation Act prohibits the importation of Sulphur Crested cockatoos into the United States. So for the United States, most pet birds are now bred in captivity.

Availability and Natural Habitat

Sulphur-crested cockatoos are originally native to eastern Australia, New Guinea, and New Zealand. Its preferred habitat is mainly tropical and subtropical rainforests. They are also familiar in urban areas that, in fact, some areas in Australia see them as a nuisance.


Compared to other cockatoos, sulphur-crested cockatoos can be much more difficult to handle. They love producing a pretty loud shriek, and they can also do some spontaneous movements that might be surprising or startling for some bird owners. These birds are also very demanding in terms of the time and attention that you spend with them. If you are unable to provide them with the time that they request, these birds can be destructive in their surroundings or self-abusive and self-harming. However, if you feel like you are a devoted and committed owner, the sulphur-crested cockatoo is a rewarding bird to keep, and it also has similar behaviors with other cockatoos.

These birds also have a sense of community, and they often form flocks comprising of around a dozen up to several hundred birds. When they are foraging for food, flocks of sulphur-crested cockatoos divide themselves into smaller groups, then coming back together again at their roost sites for the evenings. Feeding is often done by these birds on the grounds, and in such situations, some of these birds might stay on trees and alert the rest of the flock in case danger, and threats arrive.

During the day, sulphur-crested cockatoos will generally stay sheltered. They resume their feeding on the late afternoons, before drinking in near bodies of water, and returning to roost.


The sulphur-crested cockatoos have a very loud distinctive raucous call and are meant to travel great distances through the forested environment. Large flocks of sulphur-crested cockatoos can create a cacophony that is also deafening. They are really very noisy birds and use their screeching voices to communicate with each other. To express their emotions, these cockatoos also use their crests. They raise and spread their yellow crests whenever they feel excited when they detect danger, or when they start mating.

Exercise and Training

Sulphur-crested cockatoos are also very lively and energetic birds, so owners should be ready with lots of activities. Owners of sulphur-crested cockatoos should allow their pets a minimum of three to four hours of playtime outside the cage. It is also very essential for owners to provide a spacious area for the birds to stretch, climb, and flap their wings. Special perches, swings, and stands can also serve as tools to help them exercise.

Food and Eating Habits

In the wild, sulphur-crested cockatoos enjoy feeding on grains, insects, and seeds that they encounter while they spend time on trees. They are primarily granivores, and they feed both in trees and on the ground. They are also seen to eat on nuts, fruits, insect larvae, newly planted, and ripening crops. These birds also have a high rate of obesity, so high-fat foods must be fed sparingly.

When in captivity, these birds need to have a varied diet that is comprised of a seed mix, high-quality pellets, fresh fruits, and fresh vegetables. Managing a balanced diet is very important for these birds because they can easily be malnourished or overweight.


Like other cockatoos, sulphur-crested ones are also monogamous birds. Their courtship is signified by bobbing their heads, raising their crests, and moving their heads in circles shaped like the figure of the number 8. They also tend to utter soft chattering noises to get the attention of their potential mate. Before the mating begins, the sulphur-crested cockatoos usually preen towards each other’s plumage.

For the subspecies located in northern areas, their breeding begins from May to September. For the subspecies located in the southern areas, their breeding begins during August and lasts until January. Nesting, for these white birds, usually occurs in tree hollows that are located near water. These birds breed once a year, and their clutch produces 2 to 3 eggs.

Then, these eggs hatch after the incubation period of about 27 to 30 days. The fledging of these birds usually occurs after 70 days. Their offspring usually leave the nest after this period of fledging, but they will stay living with their parents for the entire first year of their lives. There are also recorded instances that family units will live together indefinitely. These young sulphur-crested cockatoos will reach reproductive maturity at about the age of 3 or 4 years.

Predatory Threats

Sulphur Crested cockatoos have one single method of detecting and avoiding predators. When they are feeding, they assign sentinel birds to stand on a high perch and serve as a lookout against threats. In case there are actual predators, they unleash their loud and deafening warning call. Their large size also protects them from predation by all but the largest birds of prey.

They are known to be preyed on by many animals, including powerful owls. The goannas are also potential predators of birds on the ground, especially the hatchlings and the fledglings. Some other potential predators are ravens, butcherbirds, and pied currawongs.

Common Health Problems

There are various illnesses that can affect the health of a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo. Here are the most common ones that may be encountered by owners in a home setting.

  1. Ingesting toxic substances and food poisoning – If your sulphur crested cockatoo is free-flying in your home, they might encounter human food that they might not be allowed to eat. Avocados, grapes, peanuts, and certain plants can be poisonous to these birds. Some symptoms of this illness are an abnormal stool, dizziness, nausea, and respiratory diseases. If untreated, this can lead to heart failure, kidney failure, and liver diseases. Aside from food, there are many metals that can be found in a household, which can also lead to toxicity problems, especially if the bird encounters zinc and lead.
  2. Inhaling toxins – Again, a cause of concern for free-flying cockatoos in the house involves inhaling chemical substances. It might be items that you use to clean your house, making the place smell nice or things you use to get rid of pests. It might be as basic as smoke and aerosol sprays. Inhalation of these substances can cause irritation to your pet bird. It can also lead to air sacculitis, inflammation of the air sacs, and pneumonia. This infection can eventually lead to abscesses, feather plucking, and further respiratory diseases.
  3. Nutritional deficiencies – If you are seeing that your sulphur crested cockatoo has not been eating, they might be at risk for nutritional problems. Cockatoos need vitamins and minerals to stay healthy, and sulphur crested cockatoos are in need of vitamin E most especially.
  4. Psittacine beak and feather disease or PBFD – PBFD is caused by a viral infection that brings damage to the cockatoo’s immune system and the cells that produce feathers and beaks. Feathers can be lost and changing color throughout their bodies while the beak becomes fragile and distorted. If a cockatoo gets affected by this disease, they are even more susceptible to acquiring other bacterial, fungal, and viral infections, which can also lead them to death. PBFD is also a contagious disease, so it is important that you do not allow your cockatoo exposed to a bird with this illness or exposing others to your infected bird.
  5. Obesity – In captivity, sulphur crested cockatoos are much more predisposed to obesity. A lack of activity, as well as high-fat diets, can exacerbate this problem even more. An overweight bird may show signs of bone stress, difficulty breathing, and weak joints. Obesity also induces diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, and pancreatic disease. The best way to avoid obesity and other similar problems is to feed sulphur crested cockatoos with a diet that is rich in vegetables and allow them a smaller portion of seed mixes. It is also possible to train cockatoos to exercise regularly to maintain their weight.
  6. Lipomas – often associated with obesity, lipomas are benign fatty tumors that can be found on a bird’s abdomen. These illnesses are not normally fatal, but they can become very painful if they form ulcers or if they grow too large. They can also develop liposarcomas, which are tumors that are invasive and malignant. The best treatment for this problem is surgery and continuous dietary management.
  7. Self-mutilation and feather picking – These conditions may come as a result of underlying health problems and can be caused by boredom, frustration, sexual problems, and stress. This concern can be resolved by visiting the vet for a consultation on the underlying cause.
  8. Bumblefoot – This disease is often noticed because of swollen joints in the toes and the feet of cockatoos. Sometimes, this condition comes with lesions that have discharged. If this condition stays untreated, this might lead to the sulphur crested cockatoo not being able to stand and eventually losing their feet. To prevent this problem, maintain cleanliness in the cockatoo’s living space and provide them with a balanced diet.


Sulphur Crested cockatoos are very friendly and know how to handle them is definitely essential to make sure your pet is healthy and enjoying life. Being able to pet your cockatoo is one of the first steps in being able to handle them.

To begin, you should slowly approach the cage or living area of your Sulphur Crested cockatoo. Speak calmly and slowly to your pet bird and allow your cockatoo to sense, see, or hear you approaching. Make sure that you stray away from making threatening and loud noises. You should keep on repeating the entire process until the bird gets used to a human approaching their cage without attempting to avoid you or retreat within the insides of the cage.

Teach your Sulphur Crested cockatoo to get used to your hand by providing them with treats through the bars of the cage. Regularly provide treats by hand-feeding them to your birds until he comes to your hand on his own and taking the treats willingly. Eventually, you should open the cage and begin offering your cockatoo treats with your hand placed inside the cage, until you see the bird slowly approaching your hand the moment you enter the room.

You should pet your cockatoo by touching along the grain of his feathers instead of ruffling them. Give your cockatoo regular treats for accepting petting and handling so that you’re touching them will be associated as a positive occurrence in their daily life.

Environment and Housing

If you have acquired a Sulphur Crested cockatoo as a pet, you should provide them with a cage that is the largest one that you can find, afford, and fit inside your home. Even a small or young cockatoo requires a larger cage, and a smaller cage is never a good option for these birds. The minimum size you should provide for a Sulphur Crested cockatoo is about 30 to 36 inches deep, 48 inches wide, and about 6 feet high. This is because these birds enjoy climbing up and down and moving around their cage.

Whenever you feel in doubt, a good rule of thumb is getting a cage that is three times the size of the bird’s wingspan. Make sure that the cage has both vertical and horizontal bars, as well as being durable and easy to clean and maintain.

Additionally, you should furnish the Sulphur Crested cockatoo’s habitat with items that will make them enjoy their day and enhance their lives. Aside from ensuring cleanliness inside the living enclosure, provide the cage with two perches that are between ¾ to 1 inch in diameter and at least 9 inches long. Do not place these perches directly about water dishes and food plates, which should be placed on the side of the cage and much easier to be accessed on the outside.

Their food and water dishes must not be made of plastic and must be ceramic. Fill another bowl with water, so that in case your bird wants to bathe, he or she will find an area to get water from. Owners should also provide cockatoo-friendly toys inside the cage, like branches, chew toys, ropes, outdoor trees, swings, and other available toys.

It would also be great to install a playpen for your bird’s playing and exercising needs. Playpens are readily available in specialty bird shops and other pet stores. You can also make your own playpen from ladders, perches, swings, toys, and other similar contraptions.

If you have a room for an aviary, this is what the cockatoos prefer more. A screened patio would be perfect for this or a free-standing one if you can. Screens are much better than glass enclosures for better air circulation. Birdbaths, playpens, and perches are also ideal for providing birds with enrichment opportunities and playing time.

Fun Facts about the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo

  1. Sulphur Crested cockatoos can fly for about 70 kilometers per hour, and they have a wingspan of 103 centimeters.
  2. Sulphur Crested cockatoos have four subspecies that reside in Australia, Papua New Guinea, and other nearby islands.
  3. Sulphur Crested cockatoos can imitate the sounds of humans and other animals.
  4. Sulphur Crested cockatoos can hold their food using one of their feet and break pieces of their food using their other foot.
  5. The male and female Sulphur Crested cockatoos both take part in incubating the eggs.
  6. Sulphur Crested cockatoos enjoy living in communities, which can be comprised of around a dozen birds up to 100 individuals.
  7. Sulphur Crested cockatoos are monogamous, and when they mate, they mate for life.
  8. Like other species of cockatoos, the Sulphur Crested cockatoos lay eggs two to three at a time, with incubation lasting 25 to 27 days.
  9. Sulphur Crested cockatoos are identified through their dark bills and their sulphur yellow crests at the top of their heads.
  10. Sulphur Crested cockatoos do not migrate, even if the seasons change. However, they might have little seasonal location movements.

Where Can You Get a Pet Sulphur Crested Cockatoo?

In order to get a sulphur-crested cockatoo as a pet, you must purchase from a reputable bird breeder. For assuring a healthy acquisition, you should keep doing your homework and spend the best time possible with the bird before you make a final decision. This will allow you to develop a sense of what it would be like if you have the bird in a home setting. If you can, it would be best to get young birds because they are much easier to train and socialize with.

How to Care for Pet Sulphur Crested Cockatoo?

In caring for sulphur-crested cockatoos, it is very important to consider that this large bird requires a large and spacious living area, whether this would be a cage or an aviary. At the very least, the enclosure must have a floor space of 40 inches by 40 inches, and it should also be at least 60 inches in height. If you are considering a better option, it would be a bigger cage. If you are searching for the best, an aviary environment would be the top choice.

Sulphur-crested cockatoos are also very particular in receiving affection compared to other types of parrots. They are very demanding in terms of how much attention they receive, and their behavior on this type of thing can be extreme. Potential owners should think about whether they will be able to commit and address this type of demand. They should also look into being able to constantly provide mental stimulation and physical exercise for the sulphur-crested cockatoos. If these needs are not met, the sulphur-crested cockatoos will be driven to unlikeable behaviors like destructive chewing and feather plucking. In promoting better behaviors for the sulphur crested cockatoos, owners must constantly supply these birds with playtime schedules and plenty of toys.

If you think that you have the skills and the guts to provide this for your pet sulphur-crested cockatoo, these birds are also fine and loving pets that form strong bonds with their owners. These birds crave handling, but owners should balance this by providing them time to learn to become self-sufficient. Balancing this can be a little difficult to do, but for owners who are capable of satisfying these demands, the sulphur-crested cockatoo is an excellent pet that is skilled with different tricks, great speaking skills, and entertaining behaviors.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo cost?

Sulphur Crested Cockatoos are available for 500 dollars to 1,000 dollars.

Do Sulphur Crested Cockatoos make good pets?

The Sulphur Crested Cockatoos are birds that come with high caring requirements, so these are recommended for experienced owners who are up for responsibilities.

How long do Sulphur Crested Cockatoos live?

Sulphur Crested Cockatoos live around 65 years up to 120 years when excellent owners care for them.

Can Sulphur Crested Cockatoos talk?

Sulphur Crested Cockatoos are intelligent creatures that learn how to talk quickly and are skilled with excellently mimicking humans.

Do Sulphur Crested Cockatoos bite?

Sulphur Crested Cockatoos have dangerous tendencies, like all large parrots. Any bird bites can be painful, so this should beware for.

Why are Sulphur Crested Cockatoos expensive?

Sulphur crested cockatoos can be expensive because of their looks, skills, and rarity.

Are Sulphur Crested Cockatoos high maintenance?

Sulphur crested cockatoos are high maintenance birds both for their physical needs and emotional attention requirements. They demand time outside of their cages and attention, or else they would destroy things and hurt themselves.

Why do Sulphur Crested Cockatoos bob their heads?

Sulphur crested cockatoos bob their heads when they are begging for food, calling the attention of their mates, and when they are excited.

Do Sulphur Crested Cockatoos get angry?

Sulphur crested cockatoos get mad when they do not receive what they want, and they love letting their owners know about it.

Do Sulphur Crested Cockatoos bond with one person?

Sulphur crested cockatoos become one-person birds when they do not have other cage friends or mates. They become closely bonded to one person in the home environment they are living in that they might attack others who come near or try to interact with the said person.

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