Cacatua alba - White Cockatoo

White Cockatoo – Cacatua alba (Statius Müller, PL, 1776) –  is a large white cockatoo with a white crest. When excited it raises the crest to a large semicircular shape similar to an umbrella; for this reason it is also known as Umbrella Cockatoo. It was first discovered in 1776 by the german zoologist Philipp Ludwig Statius Müller.

Like most Cockatoos they require a lot of attention and stimulus, otherwise they may become mentally disturbed and e.g. start picking their feathers or become screamers. If kept alone as a domestic bird without a mate, they often attach themselves to their owner and perceive them as their mate. They are very social and love to play and cuddle with everybody in the family. Young birds are easy to tame (especially hand reared birds) and even older birds can be tamed with a little patience.

Their huge beak may seem threatening to people not used to handle these big beautiful parrots, but they are actually very careful and gentle. On the other hand, they can easily break the bars in their cage if the cage is made of too thin metal bars!

They are very intelligent and can also learn to imitate words and short sentences.

They can be very noisy and are not recommended as a pet if you live in an apartment. If you are planning to breed White Cockatoos in an outdoor aviary consider if your neighbors will appreciate the potential noise…

It is listed on CITES Appendix II and EU Annex B.


The entire body is pure white with pale yellow under the wings and tail. The crest is also white – this is the only white cockatoo, where the crest is only white. The crest is much wider compared to other cockatoos; when raised it not only raises up but also extends to the sides making the bird look much larger and threatening. It has naked white skin around the eye. Dark grey beak and claws. The chest is big and round – not as slim as other cockatoos.

The sexes are very similar but the color of the eye is different: The male eye color is black or dark brown – the female’s dark reddish brown. Also the male typically has a wider head and stronger beak than the female. 

The young birds are similar to the adults, but the irises are more grey and the beak is more whitish.

Size: 40 – 46 cm.
Weight: from 400 gram (small female) to 800 gram (large male).

In captivity the lifespan can be over 40 years with good care and diet. Wild birds only have a lifespan of up to 30 years.

When the crest is relaxed the White Cockatoo look very similar to the closely related Salmon-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua moluccensis); both species are about the same size and both have a white plumage, but the White Cockatoo is sleeker and with a pure white plumage – the Salmon-crested Cockatoo have a white plumage suffused with pink. 




Northern Moluccas in Indonesia: Bacan, Halmahera, Ternate, Tidore and adjacent islands, where they live in lowland and hill forests up to 600 m.

They are usually seen in pairs but may roost together in flocks with up to 50 birds at night.


Wild birds feed fruit, berries, nuts, seeds, roots and some insects. They may also feed on corn and can as such be a pest for agriculture in some areas.


Wild birds nests in large trees with cavities.

Seems to breed well in aviculture – some have even reported of successful breeding of birds, that have been kept as pets for several years. 

White Cockatoo are not sensitive to low temperatures and can be kept in an outdoor aviary all year long but must have access to a warm room if it gets too cold or windy. They should have a large and very strong aviary; their powerful beak can easily destroy ordinary wire mesh used for smaller parrots or parakeets.

Make sure they have access to plenty of soft wood for building the nest, otherwise they may choose to chew on the nesting box instead!

Avoid disturbing the birds when breeding, otherwise they may neglect the kids or even attack them.

Typically 2-3 eggs are incubated by both parents for approximately 28 days. The chicks stay in the nests for 2-3 months. The young birds become sexually mature after 6 years.

Notice: Sometimes the parents will only take care of the first healthy chick and ignore the other(s) so watch carefully; I recommend having a small camera installed in the nesting box so you can keep a close eye on the birds without disturbing them. 



  • Order: Psittaciformes
  • Family: Cacatuidae
  • Genus: Cacatua


  • Danish: Hvidtoppet Kakadu
  • English: White Cockatoo, Umbrella Cockatoo, White-crested Cockatoo, Great White Cockatoo
  • French: Cacatoès blanc, Grand Cacatoès blanc
  • German: Weißhaubenkakadu
  • Portuguese: Catatua-branca
  • Spanish: Cacatúa Alba, Cacatúa Blanca
  • Scientific: Cacatua alba

IUCN Red List

BirdLife International 2018. Cacatua ducorpsii. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22684823A130100557.
Downloaded on 9 July 2021

The White Cockatoo is a large parrot and when agitated it will raise the crest and also most of the body plumage to make it seem even bigger and more threatening.