Moluccan or Salmon-crested Cockatoos
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The Moluccan Cockatoo, Cacatua moluccensis, or Salmon-crested Cockatoo, is a cockatoo endemic to Seram (formerly Ceram), South Moluccas in eastern Indonesia. In the wild, the Moluccan Cockatoo inhabits lowland forest below ~3,300 feet (~ 1000 m), where they can be seen foraging on seeds, nuts, fruit and coconuts. A Moluccan Cockatoo's beak is capable of exerting 500 pounds of pressure, allowing it to crack even the hardest nuts.
The moluccan cockatoo is endangered in its natural habitat and is a protected species, as such this cockatoo is listed on appendix 1 of CITES since 1989, which makes trade in wild-caught birds illegal. The number of Moluccans in the wild has declined because of habitat loss and illegal trapping for the cage-bird trade.
At 20 inches (50 cm), this is the largest of the white cockatoos, with the female generally being larger than the males. They weigh between 640 and 1025 grams - the average being 850 grams.
This cockatoo has white-pink feathers with a definite peachy glow (and a slight yellow on the under wing), and a large retractable recumbent crest. The Umbrella Cockatoos and the Moluccan Cockatoos have the largest and fullest crests.
When the crest is lowered, the feathers fold back over the head and the crest is hardly visible.
As attractive as the cockatoo crests are, their major purpose is communication.
- A raised crest can indicate that a cockatoo is displaying for its mate; defending its territory or its flock, calling its flock members; or a cockatoo may be expressing curiosity, excitement, surprise, fear or frustration. For those approaching a cockatoo -a raised crest may be a warning not to touch them - or else risk being bitten.
- A lowered crest can indicate calmness, friendliness and general approachability.
There are some pale yellow / lemon colored feathers on the underside of the wings, which flash when they fly.
The males have dark brown / black eyes. Mature females have brown to burgundy red eyes. A small flashlight may be helpful when assessing the eye color.
Vocalizations: It also has a loud voice, and in captivity is a capable mimic.
Moluccan cockatoos only breed once a year - usually between December and March, when vegetation growth is at its peak and food is readily available.
Courtship & Mating
As part of the courtship behavior, the male ruffles his feathers, spreads his tail feathers, extends his wings, and erects his crest. He then bounces about. Initially, the female ignores or avoids him, but - provided he meets her approval - will eventually allow him to approach her.
Once he is accepted as a mate, they will both preen each other's head and scratch each other around the tail. This serves to strengthen their pair bond. Eventually, the male will mount the female and perform the actual act of mating by joining of the cloacae. For bonded pairs, this ritual is much shorter and the female may even approach the male. Pairs leave their group and find a nesting spot in a tree.
Cockatoos form a close bond that lasts for a lifetime. If they are separated, they may slip into a deep depression. In absence of a "true" mate, they may accept a caretaker as its mate.
Nesting & Raising of the Young
Cockatoos generally nest in tree cavities of the largest trees, about 16 - 100 ft (~5 to 30 meters) above the ground.
The average clutch size consists of 2 (occasionally 3) eggs which are incubated for about 30 days. The male and the female share the responsibility of incubating the eggs until they hatch. Generally they raise only one of the chicks, which in most cases is the first one that hatches. However, if that chick is malformed or weak, they will raise the second one.
The young fledge when they are about 3 months old and are fully independent half a month to one month after leaving the nest.
The young reach reproductive maturity when they are 5 to 6 years old.
Diet / Feeding
In their natural habitat, moluccan cockatoos typically feed on various seeds, nuts and fruits, such as papaya, durian, langsat and rambutan. As they are also feed on corn growing in fields, they do considerable damage and are, therefore, considered crop pests by farmers. (BirdLife International, 2001)
They also eat large insects, such as crickets (order Orthoptera) and skinks.
Captive birds are usually provided a parrot mix containing various seeds, nuts and dried fruits & vegetables. Additionally, they need to be offered lots of fresh vegetables, fruits and branches (with leaves) for chewing and entertainment.
- Please refer to this webpage for information on what to feed cockatoos.
Moluccans as Pets:
This intelligent and complex parrot is emotionally very needy and not a bird for the faint hearted. 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).
This all being said, this is an absolutely wonderful pet for the right person who enjoys spending a lot of time with their pet and is willing to provide this training with the love and attention it deserves. Many people own Moluccans who have no behavioral problems at all, and yet the list of Moluccans with behavioral problems may just be as long.
A well-adjusted and trained Moluccan is sweet and cuddly and totally devoted to their owner. If their special needs are not met, they may scream incessantly. Males tend to develop aggressive tendencies as they get older that need to be curtailed through continuous training.
The Moluccan Cockatoo is obviously not a good choice for inexperienced parrot owner. The perfect Moluccan owner should have a gentle, yet disciplined disposition, who appreciates these special parrots for the special beings they are.
While working at a rescue organization, I met one such special cockatoo. He was extremely noisy, incredibly affectionate -- you could basically cuddle with him all day long -- and he was a real performer. Indeed a prize winner at American's Funniest Videos. He loved to dance and put on quite a show. Sadly, he is very plucked and the situation he is in right now is desperately sad. The realization that acquiring such a creature without first considering your personality and the personality of your family, and all the ramifications for your lifestyle and changes necessary to accommodate this new pet can have devastating results for any moluccan brought into this situation.
Cockatoo owners need lots of time on their hand to spend with their pets. It really is difficult for working people to be able to accommodate this needy pet, unless they have a well-furnished bird room (instead of a cage), preferably with a fun outside retreat and several hours to spend with this pet after work. Even better if it is bonded with other family members who are willing to spend time with this precious cockatoo.
This cockatoo will never outgrow his or her great need for affection and they have immeasurable amounts of love to give. He will entertain you for hours with his antics and technical skills that enable him to eventually figure out how to get around most locks (be sure to padlock his cage). This cockatoo is very intelligent and this mind should be nurtured by providing plenty of mental stimuli and training.
Thousands of these beautiful parrots end up discarded in rescue organizations that cannot possibly provide them with the special attention they so crave. Many develop severe behavioral problems, including excessive screaming and extreme feather plucking even self-mutilation. Once that final stage of self-mutilation has been reached, vets often suggest euthanasia to stop further injuries and suffering
Cockatoos certainly demand a lot of attention, but are appreciated for their exceptionally loving, devoted personality that is second to none. Cockatoos require an extremely dedicated owner who is willing to provide significant and meaningful attention to these intelligent parrots. They require consistent training from a young age to ensure potential cockatoo owners enjoy a bird free of destructive and annoying habits. Behavioral challenges that cockatoos present include:
- Excessive Chewing: Any parrot will chew. In nature, they use their beak to "customize" their favorite tree, to enlarge the size of their nest in a tree hollow. Doing this keeps their beaks in good condition. The problem is excessive and undesirable chewing. Undisciplined cockatoos will chew on electric wiring potentially causing house fires. The owner needs to provide plenty of "healthy" chewing opportunities (bird toys, natural wood branches, etc.) and training is necessary to teach a cockatoo what is "off-limits."
- Biting: Cockatoos, as most parrots, are likely to discover their beaks as a method of "disciplining us" once they are out of the "baby stage." It really is important to learn to understand them and to guide their behavior before an undesirable behavior has been established. If this behavior is unchecked, the cockatoo is likely to be dominating the entire family, chasing and attacking their least favorite humans (usually the ones they deem to be a competitor for their human mate's affection). Training is vital to stop this destructive behavior.
- Screaming: Not everybody can tolerate the natural loud call of a cockatoo, and even though it can't (or should not) be entirely eliminated, there are ways to discourage screaming / screeching in your pet cockatoo.
Training and behavioral guidance will help your pet be the kind of companion you want it to be ...
- AvianWeb Resources: I put together web resources for you to help you understand your pet bird and properly direct him. Please visit this website for valuable tips on parrot behavior and training. If you found a way to resolve a "parrot behavioral issue" please share it with others.
- If you are, as I am, a visual learner and prefer step-by-step instructions to train your pet, I recommend:
If you are considering one of these magnificent parrots as pets, please visit the following websites for information:
- Cockatoo General Information
- Procuring your Parrot
- The 3 Key Elements to Keep Your Pet Bird Happy & Healthy
- Housing Your Bird
- Bird Nutrition
- Parrot Products
Genus: English: White Black-billed Cockatoos ... Dutch: Wit & Zwartsnavelkakatoes ... German: Eigentliche Kakadus ... French: Cacatoès
Species: Scientific: Cacatua moluccensis aka Psittacus moluccensis ... English: Salmon-crested Cockatoe, Moluccan Cockatoos ...Dutch: Molukken Kakatoe, Zalmkuif Kakatoe ... German: Molukkenkkadu, Rothaubenkakadu ... French: Cacatoès des Moluques
CITES I - Protected Species
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