Umbrella Cockatoo

Umbrella Cockatoo

The Umbrella Cockatoo, Cacatua alba (also known as the White Cockatoo) is a medium-sized, up to 46 cm long cockatoo endemic to the islands of Halmahera, Bacan, Ternate, Tidore, Kasiruta and Mandiole in North Maluku, Indonesia. It is a white parrot with brown or black eyes and a dark grey beak. If it is surprised, it extends a large and striking crest, which has a semicircular shape (similar to an umbrella, hence the name). The crest is normally recumbent. The underside of the wings and tail have pale yellow or lemon colour, which flash when they fly.

The Umbrella Cockatoo can live up to, and perhaps beyond, 80 years in age.


The Umbrella Cockatoo is 48 cm (19 in) long, and weight are about 400 grams for small females and up to 800 grams for big males. The male Umbrella cockatoo usually has a broader head and a bigger beak than the female. During their puberty the female Umbrella cockatoo can begin to develop a more reddish iris than the male.

The feathers of the Umbrella Cockatoo are mostly white. However, both upper and lower surfaces of the inner half of the trailing edge of the large wing feathers are a yellow colour. The yellow colour is most notable on the underside of the wings because the yellow portion of the upper surface of the feather is covered by the white of the feather immediately medial (nearer to the body) and above. Similarly, areas of larger tail feathers that are covered by other tail feathers, and the innermost covered areas of the larger crest feathers, are yellow. Short white feathers grow from and closely cover the upper legs.


The Umbrella Cockatoo nests in tree cavities. The eggs are white and there are usually two in a clutch. The incubation period is about 28 days and both the female and male incubate the eggs. The larger chick becomes dominant over the smaller chick and takes more of the food. The chicks leave the nest about 84 days after hatching.

Conservation status

Although the Umbrella Cockatoo is not classified as an endangered species, it is classified as vulnerable. Its number in the wild have declined owing to habitat loss and illegal trapping for the cage-bird trade. It is listed in appendix II of the CITES list of protected species which gives it protection by making the export, import and trade of wild-caught birds illegal.


Umbrella Cockatoos are kept as pets because they can be very affectionate, bond closely with people and are valued for their beauty. They can imitate basic human speech, but are not considered the most able speakers among parrots. They are often used in live animal acts in zoos and amusement parks, because they are naturally acrobatic and easily trained, because of their highly social nature, and high level of intelligence. For this reason, they are amongst the most demanding parrots to keep. A happy Umbrella Cockatoo requires a great deal of daily attention from its caregiver, as well as plenty of toys and other enrichment, as is typical of large cockatoos.

Cockatoos require time, devotion and understanding from their caregivers. Raising a cockatoo requires a substantial commitment. They are loud, require a very large cage and gym, and it can also become costly to provide them with chewable toys. A young cockatoo's first one to two years of life are when it learns lifelong survival skills, so it is very important that a young cockatoo be given the opportunity to learn to play with toys and forage for food or otherwise entertain itself, and is not allowed to learn to scream for attention. A cockatoo that is spoiled with constant attention and cuddling in its first 1-2 years may develop behavior problems if it does not receive this same attention throughout its life. A properly reared cockatoo will be less demanding than a spoiled one; but still require several hours of attention and interaction every day.

If left unsupervised they can damage furniture, moldings, walls, etc and can inflict a potentially serious bite with their powerful beaks. Umbrella Cockatoos shed a white powdery feather dust, and this should be a consideration for those with allergies or asthma. A diet based solely on seeds and nuts simply is not sufficient. It's very important to get them eating a pellet based diet supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables. The seeds and nuts because of their high fat content should be saved for treats and rewards. Many cockatoos are prone to develop unwanted behaviors such as screaming, feather plucking, and even self mutilation if their needs are not met.

The high market value of these birds has led to unsustainable levels of harvest for the pet trade. In 1994 the Umbrella Cockatoo was listed as a CITES I endangered species. This species has since been taken off the endangered species list, but is still listed as Vulnerable. Principal threats to this species are the pet trade and loss and degradation of their forest habitat.


  • Database entry includes justification for why this species is vulnerable

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