They form the order Psittaciformes, in addition to the main order Psittacoidea which are known as the true parrots.
Cockatoos can be recognized by their distinctive bills which are crested and concaved. Their feathers are generally less colorful as compared to those of other parrots, primarily white, gray, or black, and mostly with colored features in the crest, cheeks, or tail.
Parrots on the other hand are smaller than Cockatoos on the average; nevertheless, the smallest species of cockatoo, is a small bird known as cockatiel.
The phylogenetic position of the cockatiel remains unsolved, apart from the fact that it is one of the earliest outgrowths of the cockatoo origin. The rest of the species are divided into two main clades.
The large black five cockatoos belonging to the genus Calyptorhynchus form a subdivision while the second and larger subdivision is formed by the genus Cacatua, which includes eleven species of cockatoos with white plumage and four monotypic genera that previously branched, known as Major Mitchell’s pink and white cockatoo, the mainly gray gang-gang cockatoo, the large, black-feathered palm cockatoo and the pink and gray galah.
- Scientific Name: Cacatuidae
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Aves
- Order: Psittaciformes
- Superfamily: Cacatuoidea
- Family: Cacatuidae, G. R. Gray 1840
Distribution and Habitat
Cockatoos have a much closer range than the real parrots and are naturally only found in Australia, Indonesia, some Pacific regions, and the Philippines.
Of the 21 species of parrots, only eleven occur in Australia, in the wild, whereas seven species only exist on the islands of the Philippines, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
There are no species of cockatoo in Borneo, although they are found in nearby Sulawesi, Palawan, or many Pacific islands, although fossil remains from New Caledonia have been proven.
There are three species of cockatoos, which exist in both Australia and New Guinea. Most of these species are common, with the Gala found in most parts of Australia, for example, while other species have small distributions restricted to a small part of the continent for example the Baudin’s black cockatoo in Western Australia or a small group of islands such as the Tanimbar Corella, which is confined to the Tanimbar Islands of Indonesia.
Most cockatoos have been fortuitously introduced into areas outside their native range, like, Singapore, Palau and New Zealand whereas two Australian Corella species have been introduced to parts of the continent where they don’t exist naturally.
Cockatoos live in a wide variety of habitats, starting from forests in sub-alpine regions to mangroves. Nevertheless, there are no species in all kinds of habitats. The most common species such as the Gala and the cockatiel are field specialists that feed on grass seeds. They are often very mobile, high-speed flyers and nomadic.
Flocks of birds migrate over broad areas inland, locating and feeding on seeds and other sources of food. Drought can force herds from waterless areas to migrate on to agricultural areas.
Cockatoos are day workers as such they hunt for food during the day. They always depend on the sun to warm their perching sites before they feed. All the species of cockatoo migrate, socialize, and perch in a noisy and colorful group.
The sizes and number of cockatoos vary, depending on the abundance of food; this is why the number reduces when there is an abundance of food while the number increases speedily during drought, reaching thousands and tens of thousands.
Cockatoos are known for monogamous breeding, as they males’ bond with the females to form Mating partners, this bond sometimes last for several years.
The sexual maturity in cockatoos is usually prolonged in order for the adults to be able to master the skill of breeding and rearing their progeny which compared to other birds, is usually delayed. The progeny stays with their parents for at least a year.
The black cockatoos are usually involved in courtship feeding, but as soon as incubation commences, the courtship comes to an end, probably as a result of the strength of bond.
Feeding and Dieting
Cockatoos are all-round feeders and can also eat a variety of mainly vegetable food. Their main food are seeds or grains, they use their strong bills to break and open these seeds before eating.
Species like Corellas, most black cockatoos and galahs feed on the ground while other perch on trees to feed.
Cockatoos store and digest their food during the time they are resting, this is as a result of their large crops.
Predators and threats
Various species of cockatoo like the galahs, have fallen prey to eagle and the peregrine falcon. Cockatoos like other parrots, can be beset by PBFD, a disease known as Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease.
This a disease of the feather and beak, it causes the feathers to start falling off and the beak to breakdown; thereby resulting in weak immunity in the bird.
Statistics have shown that 14 species of cockatoo have been plagued by this terrible disease and also it is very rampant in corellas and galahs which are crested with Sulphur.