Skip to main content



Cockatoos are species of birds in the family Cacatuidae, in the order Psittaciformes, which also contains the typical parrots (family Psittacidae).

Parrots and cockatoos all have powerful, curved bills, short legs, and strong, dexterous feet with two toes pointing forward and two backward. These birds also have specialized feathers known as powder down, which disintegrates into a powder that is used for dressing the feathers during preening. Parrots and cockatoos are colorful, intelligent birds. They mostly eat fruits and seeds .

Cockatoos are relatively simply colored birds, with a crest on the top of the head that can be erected at will. Species in this family mostly occur in Australia , New Guinea, and nearby islands, with species occurring as far north as the Philippines. Cockatoos usually nest in holes in trees. They feed on a wide range of fruits and seeds, as well as flowers, roots, rhizomes, palm shoots, and beetle and moth larvae.

The best-known species is the sulfur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita), which occurs widely in eastern Australia and New Guinea. This large bird has a pure-white body, with a yellow-colored crest, and a black beak and feet. The galah (Cacatua roseicapilla) has a rosy breast and face, and a gray back and wings. This species occurs widely in woodlands, savannas, grasslands , and parks throughout most of Australia. The pink cockatoo (Cacatua leadbeateri) has white wings, a salmon-colored belly and head, and occurs in woodlands of western and central Australia. The little corella (C. sanguinea) is a smaller species, with a white body, dark eye-patch, and yellow under the wings. This species occurs widely in Australia and southern New Guinea.

The palm cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus) is a large, dark-grey bird, with orange-pink facial skin, and a long and erectile, black crest. This cockatoo occurs in tropical rainforests and eucalyptus woodlands of northeastern Australia and New Guinea. The red-tailed black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus magnificus) is a sooty black bird with red streaks on the tail, occurring in woodlands of northern Australia, and in scattered places elsewhere on that continent .

Cockatoos are kept as entertaining, sometimes "talk ing" pets. The sulfur-crested cockatoo is the species most commonly kept in this way. Some species of cockatoos are hunted as food by aboriginal peoples in Australia and New Guinea. Most species of cockatoos are endangered, particularly those that are endemic to Pacific islands.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Cockatoos." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . 21 Oct. 2018 <>.

"Cockatoos." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . (October 21, 2018).

"Cockatoos." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Retrieved October 21, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.