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.
A Major Mitchell’s cockatoo breeding pair tends to have a territory of around two kilometers and will prevent other pairs 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.
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, with the young remaining in the nest for a period of 6 to 8 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 chicks have reached independence. Young birds become reproductively mature between 3 and 4 years of age.
Major Mitchell’s cockatoo is under threat by the clearing of woodland, which results in the 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. 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.