Sulphur-crested cockatoo

Cacatua galerita

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are one of Australia’s most popular and iconic birds and have like most parrot species, demonstrated high levels of intelligence, which is most obvious in the ways they’ve adapted to live with humans.

They may be found in a wide variety of timbered habitats, often near water. The birds do not migrate and usually stay around the same area year-round.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos have adapted well to living on farms and in cities.  They are widespread throughout north, east and south-east Australia and since the 1950s have colonised Sydney and other urban areas. Today large flocks are at home in the very centre of Sydney where they capitalise on the ‘good eating’ on offer in suburban parks and gardens. Sulphur-crested Cockatoo’s natural diet consists of berries, seeds, nuts and roots.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are usually in large groups when feeding. One or more members of the group will watch for danger from a nearby perch. When not feeding, birds will bite off smaller branches and leaves from trees, however these items are not eaten. This activity may help to keep the bill trimmed and from growing too large.

They tend to stay in the same area year round and have a lifespan of 20 – 40 years in the wild, they are known to live up to eighty years of age in captivity.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos breeding season is August to January in the south; May to September in the north. They rely on large hollows to build their nest in the hollow branches of dead or living gum trees, usually high up above watercourses, nests have also been found in cliff holes.

The nest hollow is prepared by both sexes, both also incubate the 1-3 eggs and care for the chicks that spend 65 days before emerging from the nest hollow.  The chicks remain with the parents all year round and family groups will stay together indefinitely.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos have crests which may be raised or lowered at will. The crest is used to communicate with fellow members of their species, or as a form of defense to frighten away other species that approach too closely, making the bird appear larger when the crest is suddenly and unexpectedly raised.

Some interesting facts


NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment

Australian Museum

Australian Geographic