Cacatua sulphurea - Yellow-crested Cockatoo

Left: Yellow-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua sulphurea)
Right: Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita eleonora)

Yellow-crested Cockatoo Cacatua sulphurea (Gmelin, JF, 1788) is very popular in aviculture; however trapping of wild birds for trading has resulted in this species is now Critically endangered; the IUCN Red List upgraded this status in 2000 and it is still declining. Deforestation and pesticides adds to the threat towards these beautiful birds.

Notice: Yellow-crested Cockatoo is listed on CITES Appendix I and EU Annex A!

Four subspecies are recognized; they inhabits different islands in Indonesia.

They are not as noisy as other cockatoos and are generally quit but can scream very loud when agitated. As pets cockatoos require a lot of attention, otherwise they may develop mental issues e.g. start picking their feathers or scream very load to attract attention. Young birds can become very tame and confident pets. They are very curious and love to chew and examine things with their strong beak.

Cockatoos require a strong cage or aviary due to their strong beak; if you are planning to build your own aviary make sure to use metal frames, not wood. Also provide several bird-safe branches and chew toys.

Expected lifespan is about 40 years in captivity with proper care and diet.

Notice: Cockatoos are susceptible to Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD) – be careful when buying a new bird; watch closely for signs of PBFD not only on your bird but also the other birds as it is highly contagious! Also make sure to maintain a quarantine before introducing the new bird to the other birds in your home or aviary.



Medium sized cockatoo with a bright yellow crest; usually the crest is laying flat on the head but it is erected, when the bird is agitated or excited. Bright yellow ear coverts. The underside of tail and wings are yellow. The eye-ring is bluish-white. Black bill and grey feet. Yellow base of feathers on the head and underparts.

The sexes have similar plumage but in adult birds the male has dark brown or  black eyes; the female has reddish-brown eyes.

Juveniles of nominate form has pale grey eyes; juveniles of the other subspecies have the same eye color as the adults.

Four subspecies are recognized; the color of the crest varies from pale yellow on the subspecies C. s. parvula to a more orange-yellow on C. s. citrinocristata. Also the patch on the cheeks varies – it is usually same color as the crest.

Size: about 32-36 cm

Yellow-crested Cockatoo can easily be confused with the more common Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita), but the Yellow-crested Cockatoo is smaller and also has a smaller crest, that does not curve as much as on the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo.


Six subspecies are recognized:

  • Cacatua sulphurea sulphurea (Gmelin, JF, 1788) : Nominate form, see desciption above.
  • Cacatua sulphurea abbotti (Oberholser, 1917) : Similar to C. s. sulphurea but the ear coverts are paler and less yellow on the base of head feathers and underparts.
  • Cacatua sulphurea citrinocristata (Fraser, 1844) : It is the smallest subspecies. It is similar to C. s. sulphurea but smaller and with a golden orange crest and orange-yellow ear coverts.
  • Cacatua sulphurea djampeana (Hartert, EJO, 1897) :
  • Cacatua sulphurea occidentalis (Hartert, EJO, 1898) :
  • Cacatua sulphurea parvula (Bonaparte, 1850) : Similar to C.s. abotti but smaller in size.


Native to Sulawesi and Lesser Sundas Islands but have also been introduced other places e.g. Hong-Kong, where they can often be seen in woods and public parks.

It is found in both wooded and cultivated areas.

The Yellow-crested Cockatoo was previously common throughout Nusa Tenggara (from Bali to Timor), on Sulawesi and nearby islands, and the Masalembu Islands in the Java Sea. However it is now extinct on several islands and close to extinction on most others! The largest population seem to be on Sumba but this population has also rapidly declined. It is estimated that less than 3.000 individuals are remaining.

  • Cacatua sulphurea sulphurea (Gmelin, JF, 1788) : Native to Sulawesi and nearby islands
  • Cacatua sulphurea abbotti (Oberholser, 1917) : Native to Masalembu Besar Island in the Java Sea.
  • Cacatua sulphurea citrinocristata (Fraser, 1844) : Native to Sumba Island in the Lesser Sundas.
  • Cacatua sulphurea djampeana (Hartert, EJO, 1897) : Habitat ranges from Tanahjampea to Kalaotoa and Madu (Flores Sea islands off southern Sulawesi)
  • Cacatua sulphurea occidentalis (Hartert, EJO, 1898) : Habitat ranges from Nusa Penida (south-east of Bali) and Lombok to Alor (western central Lesser Sundas).
  • Cacatua sulphurea parvula (Bonaparte, 1850) : Ranges from Sumbawa to Timor in the Lesser Sundas.


Wild birds feed on seeds, fruit, berries, flowers, buds and nuts. They will also feed on crops such as maize, which can cause conflict with local farmers.

Cockatoos are prone to weight gain – provide a healthy low fat diet based on high quality pellets (e.g. ZuPreem), a moderate amount of bird-safe fruits and vegetables and a small amount of high quality seeds and nuts – avoid peanuts as they may be infected with fungus!


Yellow-crested Cockatoo nests in tree cavities. They are relatively easy to breed in captivity but it is important to find a suitable couple; if they do not bond well it may result in the bites biting each other.

The clutch usually contains two white eggs that are incubated by both parents for about 28 days. The chicks leave the nest about 75 days after hatching. Sometimes the male may become violent and attack the chicks after they leave the nest so make sure to keep a close eye on the birds and remove the chicks from the aviary if there are any signs of aggression.



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


  • Danish: Lille Gultoppet Kakadu
  • English: Yellow-crested Cockatoo, Lesser Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
  • French: Cacatoès soufré, Petit Cacatoès à huppe jaune
  • German: Gelbwangenkakadu, Orangehaubenkakadu
  • Portuguese: Cacatua-de-crista-amarela
  • Spanish: Cacatúa de Moño Naranja, Cacatúa Sulfúrea
  • Scientific: Cacatua sulphurea

IUCN Red List

BirdLife International 2018. Cacatua sulphurea. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22684777A131874695.
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Cacatua sulphurea parvula