Cacatua leadbeateriMajor Mitchell's cockatoo(Also: pink cockatoo)

Geographic Range

Cacatua leadbeateri is endemic to Australia and inhabits interior central and southwest areas. The subspecies C. l. leadbeateri can be found in eastern Australia, whereas the subspecies C. l. mollis is found in central and western Australia. ("Major Mitchell's Cockatoo", 2009; Forshaw and Knight, 2010; ; ; Rowley, 1991; del Hoyo, et al., 1997)


Cacatua leadbeateri lives in arid to semiarid regions with nearby water sources. These birds inhabit scrublands, wooded grasslands, and savannas but rely on forested areas for nesting habitat. They require tall, hollow trees to nest in. They prefer areas with Callitris, Allocasuarina, and Eucalyptus plants for foraging and will roam nomadically to find adequate food resources. Cacatua leadbeateri inhabits inland Australia, but is never far from a water source. ("Major Mitchell's Cockatoo", 2009; ; Forshaw and Knight, 2010; ; ; del Hoyo, et al., 1997)

Physical Description

Cacatua leadbeateri is a small to medium size bird weighing 300 to 450 grams. They range from 35 to 40 centimeters long with a wing span of roughly 81 centimeters. Cacatua leadbeateri is a distinctively colored species, and is often referred to as the "pink cockatoos". These birds have a white back, tail, and wings. Its breast, head, and stomach can vary in color from pale salmon to robust pink. The underside of the wings and base of the tail is similar in color to their breast and stomach, but often richer and deeper in color. Just before the crest is a white patch of plumage with a red frontal band above the bill. Cacatua leadbeateri is most known for its prominent crest. The crest is banded red-yellow-red with white tips. The crest’s bands can help to distinguish the two subspecies. Subspecies C. l. leadbeateri has a more prominent yellow band while subspecies C. l. mollis has little to no yellow in the crest. Their feet are gray. Cacatua leadbeateri has a very strong bill which is off-white or pale beige in color and decurved at the very tip. Its eyes range from dark brown in males to a lighter reddish brown in females.

Females are very similar to males in plumage, except that their plumage is duller with a white upper belly. Their crest may have a slightly larger yellow band than males. The females are also slightly smaller. Juveniles resemble females but with even paler plumage, light brown eyes, and duller frontal band. ("Major Mitchell's Cockatoo", 2009; ; Forshaw and Knight, 2010; ; ; del Hoyo, et al., 1997)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • male larger
  • male more colorful
  • Range mass
    300 to 450 g
    10.57 to 15.86 oz
  • Range length
    35 to 40 cm
    13.78 to 15.75 in
  • Average wingspan
    81 cm
    31.89 in


Cacatua leadbeateri is a monogamous species and forms life-long pair bonds. Courtship consists of visual displays where the male struts while bobbing his head, swaying, and lifting his wings for the female. The female raises her crest and bows in response, and the two softly chatter to each other. If the female accepts him they proceed to allopreen and occasionally feed each other. (; ; del Hoyo, et al., 1997)

The breeding season for Cacatua leadbeateri typically begins in August and lasts through December, but some northern populations can begin breeding as early as May. Cacatua leadbeateri is a cavity nesting species, and selects a hollow 3 to 20 m above ground, preferably in a eucalyptus tree near water. This species is unable to excavate new cavities and relies on natural hollows or those constructed by other species. Both male and female construct the nest by gathering bits of wood and pebbles. The same nest is often used year after year. Pairs are very territorial and must nest at least one kilometer from other breeding pairs. Two to five eggs are laid at an interval of one every 2 to 3 days. Incubation lasts 23 to 30 days and the young remain in the nest for six to eight weeks before they fledge. Parents, mostly the male, continue to feed fledgelings for 8 additional weeks. Juveniles join their parents to form small, family groups that remain together for some time after the young reach independence. Juveniles reach sexual maturity at 3 to 4 years of age. (; ; del Hoyo, et al., 1997)

  • Breeding interval
    Cacatua leadbeateri breeds once a year.
  • Breeding season
    The breeding season occurs from August to December, but can begin as early as May in northern populations.
  • Range eggs per season
    2 to 5
  • Range time to hatching
    23 to 30 days
  • Average time to hatching
    26 days
  • Range fledging age
    6 to 8 weeks
  • Average fledging age
    8 weeks
  • Average time to independence
    8 weeks
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    3 to 4 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    3 to 4 years

Cacatua leadbeateri is very territorial during the breeding season, and likely expends significant energy defending its large territory of 30 square kilometers. Both the male and female participate in gathering nesting materials. After eggs are laid, both parents take turns incubating the clutch, with the male generally brooding during the day and the female at night. Chicks are born altricial, without feathers and with eyes closed, and require significant parental care. Parents tend to the chicks while in the nest for six to eight weeks until they fledge. They will continue to be fed by the parents, primarily by the male, for another 8 weeks when they reach independence. Juveniles often remain with the parents to form family groups. (; ; del Hoyo, et al., 1997)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • male parental care
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • post-independence association with parents


Cacatua leadbeateri is a long-lived species. They live to be 50 to 60 years old in the wild. The oldest known bird of this species is an individual named "Cookie" who lives at the Brookfield Zoo and as of June 2010 was 77 years old. ("Cookie Cockatoo Celebrates 77th Birthday", 2011)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    77 (high) years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    50 to 60 years


Breeding pairs are very territorial, and will not nest closer than 1 km to another nesting pair. During the non-breeding season pairs often interact with many other pairs creating flocks of 10 to 50 birds. They can often be seen with other cockatoo species including galahs (Cacatua roseicapilla) and little corellas (Cacatua sanguinea). Cacatua leadbeateri is a diurnal species. During the day these birds can be found on the ground or in trees often foraging for seeds. They are weak fliers, and are characterized by slow, labored, low altitude flight. This species will often fly short distances and rest before taking flight again. They are mainly a sedentary species, and will perform local migrations in search of food resources. (; ; del Hoyo, et al., 1997)

  • Average territory size
    30 km^2

Home Range

Nesting Cacatua leadbeateri defends a territory of 30 square km.

Communication and Perception

Cacatua leadbeateri has a characteristic “creek-ery-cree” call that can be heard at incredible distances. As in most cockatoos, the frequency of the call acts as a mood indicator with more frequent call characterizing stress. It uses a soft contact call, with a frequency of one call per minute, when foraging and even softer calls when it is about to feed its young. Their crest is also used to visually attract a mate, ward off opposing males, and communicate alarm or distress to nearby birds. As part of the mating rituals, males will visually display to females with head bobbing, body swaying and wing raising. Mated pairs use allopreening to reinforce their lifelong bond. Like all birds, Cacatua leadbeateri perceives its environment through visual, tactile, auditory and chemical stimuli. (; Forshaw and Knight, 2010; del Hoyo, et al., 1997)

Food Habits

Cacatua leadbeateri feeds on seeds, nuts, grains, fruits and tubers. They often select habitats that feature trees of the genus Callitris, Allocasuarina, Acacia and Eucalyptus to forage on. They forage both in the trees and on the ground. Their large bills aid in cracking open thick-shelled nuts and seeds, as well is breaking open tree branches to access insect larvae. These cockatoos may turn to agricultural grains when native food resources are in short supply. (; ; ; del Hoyo, et al., 1997)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • roots and tubers
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit


Local species of falcons and eagles are predators to Cacatua leadbeateri. Red foxes and cats also prey upon this species. (Forshaw, 1978)

  • Known Predators
    • Falcons
    • Eagles
    • Red foxes (Canis vulpes)
    • Cats (Felis catus)

Ecosystem Roles

Cacatua leadbeateri consume fruit and seeds of many native plants and likely serve as an important seed disperser for Australian ecosystems. (del Hoyo, et al., 1997)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Cacatua leadbeateri is a beautiful and charismatic species and likely brings ecotourism to areas it inhabits. They are also a popular captive pet.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are little negative effects of Cacatua leadbeateri on humans, but when food resources are scarce birds may feed on agricultural crops. (Forshaw, 1978)

Conservation Status

Cacatua leadbeateri populations have been declining in recent years due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Much of its forest habitat has been cleared for farms and agricultural fields. These birds nest in tree hollows, but are unable to excavate cavities themselves and thus rely on natural hollows or those constructed by other species. The harvesting of old-growth forests has drastically decreased the number of natural tree cavities for nesting. The IUCN Red List categorizes this species as of least concern although many local efforts have been made to support the species. Because of this species' high market value in the pet industry, populations are threatened by humans who illegally collect eggs, chicks, or adults. These birds are often hesitant to fly across open, tree-less habitats, thus efforts are underway to create vegetation corridors to increase habitat connectivity. Cacatua leadbeateri occasionally feeds on agricultural crops, and illegal persecution by farmers is common as removing several other, similar species of cockatoo is legal. Local efforts are being made to increase public awareness and understanding of this endemic species. (; "Major Mitchell's Cockatoo", 2009; ; del Hoyo, et al., 1997)


Stephanie Cox (author), Florida State University, Emily DuVal (editor), Florida State University, Rachelle Sterling (editor), Special Projects.



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

World Map


uses sound to communicate


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.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

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.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

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

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.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


union of egg and spermatozoan


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


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


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).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males


Having one mate at a time.


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.


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.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


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


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


uses sight to communicate


2006. Birds of the World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

2011. "Cookie Cockatoo Celebrates 77th Birthday" (On-line). Chicago Zoological Society. Accessed March 02, 2011 at

Bird Life International. 2009. "Major Mitchell's Cockatoo" (On-line). Bird Life International. Accessed March 19, 2010 at

Brown, 1999. Molecular Systematics and Biogeography of the Cockatoos (Psittaciformes:Cacatuidae). The Auk, 116: 141-157.

Forshaw, J. 1978. Parrots of the World. Second Edition. Newton Abbot, Devon, UK: David and Charles Ltd.

Forshaw, J., F. Knight. 2010. Parrots of the World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Rowley, 1991. The Breeding Biology, Food, Social-Organization, Demography and Conservation of the Major Mitchell or Pink Cockatoo, Cacatua leadbeateri, on the Margin of the Western Australian Wheat Belt. Australian Journal of Zoology, 39: 211-261.

del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, J. Sargatal. 1997. Handbook of Birds of the World; Vol. 4 Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.