Cacatua albawhite cockatoo

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Geographic Range

White cockatoos are found in the North Moluccas of the Maluku province of Indonesia. They occur naturally on the islands of Halmahera, Bacan, Ternate, Kasiruta, Tidore, and Mandioli. White cockatoos have been found on the island of Obi and its satellite Bisa, but they are believed to have been introduced to the area as escaped captive populations. ("Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book", 2001; Juniper and Parr, 1998)

Habitat

White cockatoos occupy wooded areas. They are found in forests and open woodland, mangroves, swamps, agricultural areas and are particularly common around the edge of clearings and rivers. They spend most of their time in the tree canopy. It has been suggested that tall secondary vegetation is their preferred habitat. They are found at elevations of 300 to 900 m. (Arndt and Pittman, 2003; "Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book", 2001; Juniper and Parr, 1998)

  • Range elevation
    300 to 900 m
    984.25 to 2952.76 ft
  • Average elevation
    500 m
    1640.42 ft

Physical Description

Cacatua alba is a large white bird with blunt-ended feathers. It has yellowish coloration on the underside of its wings and tail. It is often referred to as the "umbrella cockatoo" because of its broad, backward-bending crest. The crest is fan-shaped when erect. The beak and legs are dark grey. Sexual dimorphism occurs in the eye coloration of C. alba. Both sexes have a pale blue eye-ring, but males have a dark brown iris while females have a reddish iris. Females usually have a smaller head and beak than males.

Cacatua alba weighs 500 to 630 g and is 46 cm long, on average. Its wingspan is 25 to 31 cm. (Arndt and Pittman, 2003; Juniper and Parr, 1998)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • ornamentation
  • Range mass
    500 to 630 g
    17.62 to 22.20 oz
  • Average length
    46 cm
    18.11 in
  • Range wingspan
    25 to 31 cm
    9.84 to 12.20 in

Reproduction

Courtship behavior in C. alba is very impressive. It begins with the male showing off his body by ruffling his feathers, spreading his tail feathers, extending his wings, and erecting his crest. He then bounces about. The female avoids him at first, but eventually permits him to come near her. They then scratch each other around the head and tail. This serves to strengthen the bond between the two birds. After some time, the male mounts the female and they mate through the joining of the cloaca. Adults that have previously mated successfully have a much shorter courtship ritual, and the female often approaches the male.

Mates form a close bond with one another and are monogamous, with pair-bonds lasting throughout their lives. They can slip into a deep depression if removed from their partner. In the absence of a mate, white cockatoos in captivity will bond to a caretaker as if that person were its mate. (Lantermann, et al., 2000)

The breeding season of C. alba is dependent on the weather. They begin breeding when plant growth has reached its peak (usually between December and March). Pairs leave their group and find a nesting spot in a tree. They generally choose nesting holes in only the largest trees, and nest between 5 to 30 meters above ground. They usually lay two eggs, occasionally three. The male and the female share the responsibility of incubating the eggs until they hatch; incubation usually lasts 30 days. Typically, the parents raise only one of the chicks. If the first chick to hatch is healthy, they care for that one. If it is malformed or unhealthy, they raise the second chick. Chicks are born altricial. They learn to fly at three months of age but are still dependent on the parents for another two to three weeks. White cockatoos reach sexual maturity in six years. ("Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book", 2001; Lantermann, et al., 2000)

  • Breeding interval
    White Cockatoos breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs when vegetation growth is at its peak, usually between December and March.
  • Average eggs per season
    2
  • Average eggs per season
    2
    AnAge
  • Average time to hatching
    30 days
  • Average time to hatching
    30 days
    AnAge
  • Average fledging age
    3 months
  • Range time to independence
    3.5 to 4 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    5 to 6 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    5 to 6 years

The male and the female share the responsibility of incubating the eggs. Typically, the parents raise only one of the chicks. If the first chick to hatch is healthy, they care for that one. If it is malformed or unhealthy, they raise the second chick. Cacatua alba chicks are born altrical and are completely dependent upon their parents. Both parents are involved in caring for young, although females play a larger role. Chicks learn to fly at three months of age but are still dependent on the parents for another two to three weeks. Once a chick is able to care for itself, the group of three rejoins the rest of the flock. (Juniper and Parr, 1998; Lantermann, et al., 2000)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • altricial
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

Cacatua alba can live over 40 years in captivity and 30 years in the wild. People have made claims of cockatoos living up to 100 years, though these claims have not been documented. (Arndt and Pittman, 2003; "Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book", 2001)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    26.9 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    30 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    40 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    26.9 years
    AnAge

Behavior

Cacatua alba generally occurs singly, in pairs and small groups, or in flocks of up to fifteen birds. In the afternoon, they gather in groups of up to fifty birds. Although they are social, with the exception of mating pairs, they generally do not form close bonds with one another. As a result, there is no firmly defined order of dominance in the community. They are diurnal and tend to be sedentary, although some may be nomadic and wander in search of food.

White cockatoos are extremely bright and inquisitive birds. They have the ability to use tools, such as using a branch to scratch their backs. Birds in captivity require nearly constant mental stimulation. They are constantly moving, climbing, and doing gymnastics. In captivity, birds with too little mental stimulation often become neurotic, plucking their feathers to the point of baldness.

Captive white cockatoos are known to be very affectionate with their human companions, acting much more like a dog than a bird in this respect. ("Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book", 2001; Juniper and Parr, 1998; Lantermann, et al., 2000)

Home Range

We do not have information on home range for this species at this time.

Communication and Perception

Cacatua alba communicates with its mate through a variety of gestures and noises. They also scratch each other during the mating ritual. They have also been observed using pieces of wood to bang on trees and logs to alert other birds that the territory belongs to them. (Lantermann, et al., 2000)

Food Habits

In the wild, C. alba mainly feeds on fruits of trees. They are often observed feeding on papaya, durian, langsat and rambutan. However, they have been seen eating crickets (order Orthoptera) and skinks (family Scincidae). They also feed on maize growing in fields, sometimes doing considerable damage. ("Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book", 2001)

  • Animal Foods
  • reptiles
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit

Predation

We do not have information on predation for this species at this time.

Ecosystem Roles

Cacatua alba helps to disperse seeds and their nests are probably used as habitat for other animals in the non-breeding season. ("Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book", 2001)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds
  • creates habitat

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

White cockatoos are commonly sold as pets throughout the world; they can cost $1,500 each. They are also popular among Indonesian tourists.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Cacatua alba can cause considerable damage to corn crops. ("Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book", 2001)

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

There are twenty-six bird species that are entirely restricted to the Northern Maluku Endemic Bird Area. Cacatua alba is one of eight threatened birds in this area. The greatest threat to wild white cockatoos is capture for the pet market. It is estimated that 17% of the world's population was removed annually between 1990 and 1993. The United States is by far the largest consumer of wild caught white cockatoos, with 10,143 imports recorded between 1990 and 1999. Fortunately, so far, the populations have been relatively resistant to such large pressures from the trade market. This is probably due to their considerable capacity to reproduce, their ability to adapt to changes in habitat, and their lack of predators and competitive species.

Cacatua alba is also threatened by deforestation and hunting.

Cacatua alba is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN and was placed on CITES Appendix II in 1981. The Indonesian government began issuing quotas on trapping in 1988 after becoming a part of CITES. However, the quotas were poorly enforced. In 1999, no quota was issued, making any capture illegal. The zero quota will remain in effect until a more reliable system for enforcing quotas is established. ("Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book", 2001)

Contributors

Alaine Camfield (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Erin Lane (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Australian

Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
ecotourism

humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

frugivore

an animal that mainly eats fruit

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

introduced

referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.

island endemic

animals that live only on an island or set of islands.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nomadic

generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.

oviparous

reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.

rainforest

rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

riparian

Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

sexual ornamentation

one of the sexes (usually males) has special physical structures used in courting the other sex or fighting the same sex. For example: antlers, elongated tails, special spurs.

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

swamp

a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

visual

uses sight to communicate

References

BirdLife International. 2001. Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International.

UNEP World Conservation Monitering Centre. 2003. "Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora" (On-line). Accessed April 14, 2004 at http://www.cites.org/eng/resources/species.html.

International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. 2002. "IUCN" (On-line). Accessed April 14, 2004 at http://www.redlist.org.

Kaytee. 2004. "Umbrella Cockatoo" (On-line). Kaytee. Accessed April 14, 2004 at http://www.kaytee.com/companion_animals/birds/umbrella_cockatoo/.

Arndt, T., T. Pittman. 2003. "White Cockatoo" (On-line). Lexicon of Parrots.

Juniper, T., M. Parr. 1998. Parrots: A Guide to the Parrots of the World. East Sussex, TN: Pica Press.

Lantermann, W., S. Lantermann, M. Vriends. 2000. Cockatoos: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual. Hong Kong: Barron's.