Moluccan CockatooCockatoo_Moluccan

Cacatua moluccensis


FAMILY: Cacatuidae
GENUS: Cacatua
SPECIES: moluccensis
Common Name(s):  Moluccan cockatoo, Salmon-crested cockatoo, Pink-crested Cockatoo, Rose-crested Cockatoo (English); Molukken Kakatoe, Zalmkuif Kakatoe (Dutch);  Molukkenkkadu, Rothaubenkakadu (German);  Cacatoès des Moluques (French); Cacatúa De Las Molucas (Spanish)


The Moluccan cockatoo, Cacatua moluccensis, is one of the most striking members of the cockatoo family, both in appearance and intelligence.  The most distinctive features of the Moluccan cockatoo, when compared to the other members of the same genus, are its large size and bright salmon-pink coloration of the head-crest feathers.

The Moluccan is the largest of the white cockatoos, with the female larger than the male on average.  It has white-pink feathers with a definite peachy glow, a slight yellow on the underwing and underside of the tail feathers and a large retractable recumbent crest which it raises when threatened, revealing concealed bright red-orange plumes to frighten potential attackers (may also be raised in excitement or other 'emotional' displays).  It has heavy, white powder-down on the feathers and is sexually dimorphic by iris coloration.  As they get older the iris of the females' eyes will develop a brownish color, the males' eyes will remain black

It also has one of the louder calls in the parrot world and in captivity is a capable mimic.


At 19-20 inches (47.5-50), this is the largest of the white cockatoos, with the female generally being larger than the males. They weigh between 640-1025g - the average being 850 grams.

Approximately 47.5-50 cm (19-20 in.)  Approximately 0.9 kg (2 lbs).


The Moluccan Cockatoo is endemic to Seram and surrounding islands, which are located in the Indonesian archipelago (island chain) also known as the Moluccas, Maluku or Spice Islands. Although it has been recorded from the islands of Ceram, Saparua, Haruku and Ambon, breeding populations are now found only on Seram, as development has destroyed breeding populations on the smaller islands

Its preferred habitat is lowland forest up to 1,000 meters (3,300 feet). The highest population densities occur in primary forest, but the species is also found at lower density in secondary forest.


Moluccan cockatoos live in small, loose flocks of 20 or more birds. They are very gregarious and have one of the shrillest cries of all birds.

Wild Cockatoos are friendly and peaceful, although they are considered pests in coconut plantations for attacking young coconuts and chewing through tough outer layers to get to the soft pulp and milk.

Moluccan cockatoos can hold their food in one foot and break pieces off of it with the other foot.

The Moluccan Cockatoo can no longer be imported into the United States because it is listed on the Wild Bird Conservation Act.  However, they are popular in the pet trade for their beauty and trainability (which makes them popular in trained bird shows).  The Moluccan Cockatoo is widely considered to be one of the most demanding parrots to keep as a pet due to their high intelligence, large size, potential noise level, and need to chew.  Moluccan cockatoos require a very large and very sturdy cage or aviary. They are highly social and as pets can be extremely cuddly, affectionate, and gentle birds.  This can lead to problems if a young cockatoo is spoiled with a great deal of attention and cuddling when young and does not get the opportunity to learn to play with toys, forage, or otherwise entertain itself. 

Moluccan cockatoos require a great deal of attention and activity to remain healthy and well-adjusted.  Attention and training from human caregivers is important in keeping them occupied, as are chewable toys and foraging toys that require them to work for their food. As with most large cockatoos, the Moluccan Cockatoo may develop health and behavioral problems such as feather-plucking and aggression if not provided with the appropriate environment, attention, and enrichment opportunities.  In addition, they tend to form close bonds with one person and may attack others in the household if they are not properly trained. They can develop severe emotional problems when separated from their mate (human or otherwise).

As a pet, this intelligent and complex parrot is emotionally very needy and not a bird for the faint hearted.  The Moluccan Cockatoo is a very intelligent bird and their learning abilities can go beyond talking. They have been known to pick their cage locks, destroy property and manipulate their owners. On the other hand, they can develop an extensive vocabulary, mimic noises around them and sing a variety of songs. 


The breeding season for this bird begins in July and August.  The normal clutch size for Moluccan cockatoos is most commonly two eggs; occasionally a single egg or rarely three can be laid in a clutch.

The eggs are completely white in coloration, and measurements average 45.4 millimeters by 33.7 millimeters (1.8 inches by 1.3 inches).  Both parents take part in incubating the eggs.

Newly hatched Moluccan cockatoo chicks commonly weigh between 14-20 grams (0.49-0.7 ounces).  A yellow primary natal down is present over the body at hatching, but often disappears from abrasion after a few days.  Under the care of their parents, the chicks will normally begin to leave the nest at 14 weeks of age.


The diet in the wild consists mainly of seeds, nuts, young coconuts, seeds, berries, and insects and their larvae.


Moluccan cockatoos reach sexual maturity at 5-6 years.  They have an average life span of 65 or more years

The oldest recorded Moluccan Cockatoo was stated to be 80 years at London Zoo, 85 years at San Diego Zoo, and 125 years (private owner in England).


The Moluccan Cockatoo is an endangered species, and has been listed on appendix I of CITES since 1989, which makes trade in wild-caught birds illegal.  Trade in captive bred birds is legal only with appropriate CITES certification.  Numbers have declined due to habitat loss and illegal trapping for the cage-bird trade.  During the height of the trapping of this species over 6,000 birds were being removed from the wild per year.  It has a stronghold in Manusela National Park on Seram, although even today some illegal trapping continues.  Surprisingly the species is not well-protected within Indonesia where a local trade continues to supply the internal pet market.

This bird is endemic to Seram, Ambon, Saparua and Haruku in South Maluku, Indonesia, but there are no recent records from Saparua and Haruku, and it may only survive at one locality on Ambon, leaving almost the entire population on Seram, where it was once abundant, but has suffered declines, including an estimated 20-40% in one region during the 1990s. It remains locally common in Manusela National Park and, perhaps especially, in east Seram.

By the 1980s the species was being extensively and unsustainably trapped for the cage-bird market, with an estimated 74,509 individuals exported from Indonesia between 1981 and 1990, and international imports averaging 9,751 per annum between 1983 and 1988. Although reported international trade fell to zero in the 1990s, trappers remain highly active and birds are openly sold within Indonesia. Forest loss, degradation and fragmentation owing to commercial timber extraction, settlement and hydroelectric projects, poses the other major threat. It is predicted that half the current population on Seram may be lost to conversion of forest in the next 25 years1. Most forest has already been lost from Ambon and the coasts and lowlands of Seram. It has also been considered a harmful pest to coconut palms, and, historically at least, was consequently persecuted.


Animal-World Pet and Animal Information.  Moluccan Cockatoo at

Austin, G. Birds of the World. New York. Golden Press, Inc., 1961.

Avian Web: Moluccan or Salmon-crested Cockatoos.

BirdLife International 2008. Cacatua moluccensis. In: IUCN 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. <>.  Downloaded on 07 March 2009.

Black Pine Animal Park at
Decoten, A.E. Handbook of Cockatoos. Neptune City, NJ. T.F.H. Pub., 1981.
Diefenbach, K. The World of Cockatoos. Neptune City. NJ. T.F.H. Publications, 1985.

DuHamel, D.  2007.  Owning a Moluccan Cockatoo: A Pet Bird for an Experienced and Patient Owner.  At the online magazine at

Forshaw, J.M. Parrots of the World. Neptune City, NJ. T.F.H. Publications, 1977.

Gotch, A.F. Birds - Their Latin Names Explained. UK. Blandford Books Ltd., 1981.

Simpson, D.P. Cassell's Latin Dictionary. New York. Macmillan Publishing Company. 1959.

Sweeney R.G. The husbandry, breeding and hand-rearing of the Salmon-crested Cockatoo Cacatua moluccensis at Loro Parque Foundation, Spain.  International Zoo Yearbook, Vol. 37, Zoological Society of London, Regents Park.

Sweeny, R.G.  2009.  Keeping and Breeding the Moluccan Cockatoo Cacatua moluccensis.  BirdTimes magazine online at

World Parrot Trust at