Cacatua sulphurea .............................................................. By Gideon Scheepers
The Sulphur Crested Cockatoo from Australia and the nearby Papuan and New Guinea Islands are very beautiful cockatoos with the distinctive yellow crest. Ask anybody what a cockatoo is and they tell you it's the parrot with the yellow crest. There are 4 sub species in the genus and they are Cacatua galerita galerita, Cacatua galerita fitzroyi, Cacatua galerita triton, and the Cacatua galerita eleonora. Male and female can be told apart by the eye colour, which is black in the male and brown in the hen.
Greater Suphur Crested Cockatoo
Cacatua galerita galerita
This is the nominate race and also the largest of the white cockatoos, being 50 cm long and weighing 820-970 g. The periorbital skin around the eye is white, the beak is black and the legs and feet are light grey. The rounded crest is a rich lemon yellow.
Medium Suphur Crested Cockatoos
Cacatua galerita fitzroyi
It is a little smaller, the crest feathers are longer, the periorbital skin is light blue and they are from the northern part of Australia and large offshore islands.
Cacatua galerita triton
It differs only slightly from the nominate race in so far as the periorbital skin is blue and not white and the crest is broader
Medium Sulphur Crested
Cacatua galerita eleonora
It has a smaller bill and narrower crest than the Triton and is slightly smaller, periorbital skin is white.
Housing in Aviculture
We keep our pairs in suspended aviaries. They have been producing for the last couple of years with no problems. Sulphur Crests also love to shower in the rain, often hanging upside down with wings spread in a thundershower. I supply them with a nest box in the front and one at the rear of the aviary so that they may choose. I have a gate in the front, as well as the feeding hatch for food and water, and two sturdy non-poisonous branches, one at the rear and one towards the front at different height so that they can fly up towards the back perch. Sulphur Crested as well as other parrots will always choose the highest perch on which to roost at night, so the back one is placed higher and is under shelter so that they will roost there at night. I also provide them with old pieces of wood on the floor of the suspended aviary so that they destroy that instead of the perches.
They are not generally as noisy as other cockatoos, they do however tend to call at .My pairs do attack the aviary wire, as well as the woodwork, nests, perches etc.
Breeding in Aviculture
Sulphur Crests are great breeders and probably the easiest cockatoo to breed. Laying on average between 1 and 2 eggs. We take babies away at 10 days old if it is the first clutch of the season and all other clutches are left with the parents for 4 weeks before being taken for handrearing.
Nestboxes for all cockatoos should be made of thick wooden planks or nesting logs which will also be destroyed in time. We use boxes 30cmx30cmx50cm deep either vertical or slanted, some with side entrances and others with top entrances, let them decide. They also need sturdy perches for successful mating, no wonky ones as this can result in unfertilized eggs and a waste of a breeding season.
I supply my Cockatoos fresh eucalyptus leaves and branches before and during the breeding season. They are usually sexually mature at 3 years old. The younger they are the more the chances of problems occurring are, as the are inexperienced, so you could end up with, infertile or broken eggs, or they may not incubate or feed properly.
In the wild these parrots pair off in breeding season and choose anesting site, there may be more than one nest in a tree, but the pair will defend it. When they have chosen the nest the hen then proceeds to lay the clutch 1-2 eggs and incubation starts, lasting for 28 days, male and female share the incubation. The chicks weigh about 10 g upon hatching, they are covered in a sparse pinkish down, this is lost in the next few days , they remain naked until about 3 weeks when the pin feathers emerge. The chicks fledge at around 10-12 weeks at a weight of around 335 g.
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