Major Mitchell's Cockatoo
Leadbeater's cockatoo, Pink cockatoo
This cockatoo, often called a Pink cockatoo because of its pale pink color, is named for Major Sir Thomas Mitchell, an explorer and surveyor of Southeast Australia in the 1800s. It has soft white and salmon-pink feathers and a large, bright yellow and red crest, and is generally regarded as the most beautiful amongst the cockatoos. Its underwings are orange-pink and the flight feathers are white. Males have dark brown eyes, and females pink or red eyes.
The Major Mitchell’s cockatoo is native to Australia and occurs across the semi-arid and arid inland, from the south-west of Queensland down to the north-west of Victoria, throughout most of South Australia, up into the south-west part of the Northern Territory and over to the country’s west coast from Shark Bay until about Jurien. It is regularly found in New South Wales as far east as Bourke and Griffith, and further east it is found sporadically. It inhabits arid to semiarid areas with nearby water sources. It lives in scrublands, savannas and wooded grasslands, but needs forested areas for its nesting habitat.
Habits and lifestyle
A Major Mitchell’s cockatoo breeding pair tends to have a territory of around two kilometers and will prevent other pair from breeding in its area. Aside from in the breeding season, these birds keep in contact with other pairs and non-breeding birds in groups and at night will occupy communal roosts. Flocks can number 10 to 50. They often can be seen in the company of other cockatoo species such as galahs and little corellas. Major Mitchell’s cockatoos are diurnal birds. During the day they can be found down on the ground or up in trees, where they often forage for seeds. They are weak fliers, and have a characteristic slow, labored flight at a low altitude. They will often fly for a short distance and rest before continuing their flight. They are a mainly sedentary species, but will carry out local migrations seeking food.
flock, company, pandemonium
Diet and nutrition
The Major Mitchell’s cockatoo eats mainly the seeds of native and exotic melons, and seeds from several pine species. It also eats waste cereal grain, the seeds of several weed species and insect larvae from branches.
Major Mitchell’s cockatoos are monogamous, forming life-long pair bonds. In the mating season, the males attract female birds by strutting along branches while bobbing their heads up and down with raised crests. The mating season is between August and October. Male and female both build their nest by gathering pebbles and bits of wood. The same nest can be used year after year. Mating pairs are very territorial, needing to nest at one kilometer or more from other pairs. The female lays two to five eggs at the rate of one egg every 2 to 3 days. The incubation period is 23 to 30 days, the young remaining in the nest for a period of six to eight weeks prior to fledging. The fledglings continue to be fed, mostly by the male, for 8 more weeks. The young and their parents form small, family groups, staying together for a period of time after the young have reached independence. Juveniles are sexually mature at 3 to 4 years old.
The Major Mitchell’s cockatoo is under threat by the clearing of woodland, which results in loss of trees, which contain nesting cavities. Illegal trapping for trade is another main threat to this species. Humans illegally collect eggs, chicks, or adults because of their high market value in the pet industry.
According to the IUCN Red List, the global population size of The Major Mitchell’s cockatoo has not been quantified, but it is believed to be large as the species is described as common in at least parts of its range. The nominate subspecies, one of two recognized subspecies, is thought to number around 50,000 individuals. The Major Mitchell’s cockatoo is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.
Major Mitchell’s cockatoos eat the fruit and seeds of numerous native plants and probably act as a significant seed disperser within Australian ecosystems.
Fun facts for kids
- The Latin name of Major Mitchell’s cockatoos is in honor of Benjamin Leadbeater, the British naturalist
- A Major Mitchell’s cockatoo eats while on the ground by slowly walking or in a watchful pose with its beautiful crest partially erect. It will stop regularly in an upright posture. It also feeds in trees, and will shelter among foliage from the heat.
- The Major Mitchell’s cockatoo can extract seeds from hard nuts, due to its strong beak. It also extracts the larvae of insects from branches of Acacias and Eucalyptus.
- The Major Mitchell’s cockatoo makes a repeated quavering “creek-ery-cree” while flying. Its alarm call is the same noise, rapidly repeated, which results in a continuous screech.
- The Major Mitchell’s cockatoo generally keeps its crest flat, but during a display, or when excited or alarmed, it raises its conspicuous crest to either attract a female or threaten a rival.
- Cockatoos will powder down their feathers in order to keep them silky and shiny.
- These cockatoos may not like a noisy environment but they are themselves the noisiest of the parrots. Their screams are audible up to a mile away.