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Yellow-crested Cockatoo

 (Cacatua sulphurea)
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© World Parrot Trust

Project Status: Active | 1998 - current

Collaborators

Ocean Park Conservation Foundation. The Wildlife Conservation Society, Indonesian Parrot Project and Konservasi Kakatua Indonesia (former), Natural Encounters Conservation Fund, Paradise Park, Disney Worldwide Conservation Foundation

Cockatoo species facing possible extinction

The Yellow-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua sulphurea) is Critically Endangered in the wild, with a world population likely numbering less than 1000 individuals.

Progress and outcomes: Long ago identified by the World Parrot Trust as a species of concern, and after a concerted effort with collaborators, the Yellow-crested Cockatoo was added to CITES Appendix I in 2005.  Additionally WPT, along with a member in Switzerland, funded part of the work of Drs. Margaret Kinnaird and Tim O'Brien from the Wildlife Conservation Society to study the Citron-crested Cockatoo (C. sulphurea citrinocristata) on the island of Sumba. A group of 12 cockatoos was held by the Indonesian conservation authority PHPA, and the opportunity was taken to fit them with radio collars to study their movements and behaviour on release.

In 2011-12, a collaboration with the Indonesian Parrot Project (IPP) and Konservasi Kakatua Indonesia (KKI) assessed the current population status of this cockatoo on the islands of Sumba, Pasoro, Komodo, Rinca, Nusa Kode, Gili Motang, and Masakambing. Initial results of this survey indicated that the species is in much greater peril than previously thought.  New knowledge was gained regarding the species’ breeding, feeding and daily activities as well as confirming the factors that has led to their decline.

Focus of future efforts: Ongoing efforts for the species will include:

  • Assessing the current number of birds in the wild
  • Gathering data about habitat use and daily activities
  • Examining existing threats to nesting cockatoos
  • Researching causes of poor reproductive success
  • Aiding the species' reproduction through the introduction of nest predator deterrents
  • Supplemental feeding and medical care of chicks in wild nests
  • Supporting a genetic analysis of the captive population in zoos
  • Provision of artificial nests to increase overall availability of sites
  • Mapping of nesting trees (old and new)
  • Encouraging local people to participate in conservation

With your help we can complete these important tasks to better understand the species, and continue to deliver effective solutions to further their conservation. 

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IUCN/CITES Status: Critically Endangered / Appendix I

Wild population: <1000

Where found: The Yellow-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua sulphurea) is found on various islands in Indonesia – the nominate race sulphurea is found on Sulawesi, and introduced to Hong Kong and Singapore, parvula is spread out on 8 islands including Nusa Penida and Lesser Sunda Islands, abbotti is restricted to Maskambing Island and citrinocristata is found only on the island of Sumba.  Feral populations in the low hundreds of C. suphurea  have established in urban environments in Singapore and Hong Kong (Long 1981, Lever 1987).

History: The Yellow-crested Cockatoo was formerly common throughout Nusa Tenggara, Sulawesi and other islands and the Masalembu Islands in Indonesia. Now it is confined to a few islands: in the past 40 years it has suffered massive population declines estimated at more than 80%. The nominate race and all related subspecies have been reduced to small remnant populations of only a few hundred birds scattered throughout Indonesia. Three subspecies, sulphurea, abbotti, and citrinocristata, are the most imperiled. The subspecies parvula is somewhat more robust. The total population of all subspecies is likely fewer than 1,000 birds.

Threats:

  • Unsustainable exploitation for the wild bird trade
  • Overharvesting of food and nesting trees and conversion of primary forest for agricultural use
  • Persecution as a crop pest
  • Possibility of introduced disease
  • Competition from other birds for nest sites in large trees
  • Unpredictable weather, leading to low breeding in either too high or too low rainfall years

Ecology: Yellow-crested Cockatoos are found up to an altitude of 1200m (3936 ft). They are found in forest edge, woodland, farmland, coconut palms, semi-arid areas and forest. They eat seeds, fruit, berries, flowers and nuts, and may also take cultivated maize. Birds are usually encountered in pairs or small groups of up to ten birds, with larger flocks forming to feed in fruiting trees, where they are noisy and conspicuous.

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