Breeding the Greater Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo
Cacatua galerita (Latham)
(Reprinted from the Newsletter of the National Association for Sound Wildlife Programs, Vol. 2 No. 2 1978)


The Greater Sulphur-crested Cockatoo is perhaps the best known and most desirable member of the genus Cacatua. This species will obtain a length of 23 inches (50cm) and may weight 3 or 4 pounds.

The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo is found in New Guinea and most adjacent islands, New Zealand, Palau Island, Southern Indonesia, Aru Island and Northern and Eastern Australia. While the species is common over most of its range, there has been a noticeable decline in its numbers over the last several decades. Perhaps the major reasons for this are the bird's habit of feeding on food crops, thereby making itself an agricultural pest, and habitat destruction arising from postwar development.

Captive breeding of C. galerita is not, as many people think, an impossiblity. I believe there is no reason why anyone with a basic knowledge of caged bird care should not succeed in raising this species in captivity.

I have always felt that it was good to share the knowledge that I have gained through experience with others interested in keeping and breeding psittacine birds. Thus, this article covers several areas necessary for a sound working knowledge of breeding and maintenance techniques. Mastery of this information should promote successful mating of C. galerita and minimize juvenile mortality.


My first cockatoo breeding cages were constructed in our carport. This building was divided into two cages or flights, each measuring about 5 feet by 12 feet and approximately 8 feet high. Newer cages have been enlarged to 12 feet by 14 feet by 8 feet high. Frame materials are made of pipe or metal tubing to discourage chewing by the birds and also to aid in keeping the cages clean.

When my husband and I built our first flight cages we used 1 X 2 inch welded mesh wire, but found that this allowed rodents entry into the flight. Therefore, we rewired over the welded wire with hardware cloth. This has eliminated the problem. Floors are made of smooth-surfaced concrete in order to make cleaning easier and to keep rats and mice from digging into the flights.

The tops of the flights are covered with corrugated aluminum. We have tried green tinted fiberglass, but found that too much heat entered the flight and the birds were not well protected. When constructing the cover over the flight, about 2 feet of one end should be left open. The reasons for this are that the opening allows the birds to bathe during warm, rainy weather and also allows them to regulate the moisture in the nesting box with water brought in on their body during the brooding period.

There should be several perches placed at varying intervals along the length of the flight. They should be elevated considerably above the floor of the cage. You will find that most cockatoos prefer to sit as high in the flight cage as they can get. Because of this habit, I have not found it necessary to have a safety door on the cages. Most of my birds stay upon their perches when I enter and leave the cage. I have never had any problems with them escaping from a flight pen. The perches should be about 2 inches in diameter and constructed of natural limbs whenever possible.

The cage and floor should not be painted. I use a mild muriatic acid solution should not be allowed to sit for too long or it will dissolve the concrete. Make sure that the floor is cleaned and fresh running water after using the acid solution.

This covers basic cage construction. Although the flight can be larger that the size given, I would not advise building anything smaller than 5 X 12 X 8 feet.


All of our birds are fed on tables placed in each flight. The food is placed in open pans or disher. No bins or hoppers are used. Water dishes are used. However, we do not use a drip system of any kind.

The diet we have had good results with is as follows:

  1. Sunflower seeds (not mixed);
  2. Hard corn (fresh) that is cut into 2 inch sections. Every bird gets 2 of these sections each day;
  3. Boiled maize (corn). This is soaked overnight, with a large amount of salt sprinkled over the corn immediately before feeding;
  4. Parakeet seed;
  5. Canary seed;
  6. Whole wheat bread, that is soaked in powdered milk and then squeezed dry (the milk is mixed just as if you were going to drink it);
  7. Fresh fruit in season;
  8. Small amounts of fresh, green vegetables e.g., spinach, celery,
  9. cabbage, however, no lettuce.

This is fed every day. Each is given a separate dish and every dish is cleaned each day.

In addition to this basic diet, citrus fruit is fed twice a week to the birds. A vitamin supplement (Avitron) is used in the water dish each day.

I make my own mineral block by mixing in equal parts of bone meal, calcium carbonate, fine oyster shell and red grit. This mixture has plaster of paris added to it and is poured into waxed paper cups. When the mixture begins to set, use coat hangers bent into a "U" and place so that the ends of the "U" extend out from the cup. You simply tie the blocks to the wire so that the birds can chew on them as needed.

Once a week a solution of 8 drops of iodine is added to the drinking water (about 1 quart of water). This helps to fill the birds' need for iodine and may prevent thyroid problems.

You will find that cockatoos are not too keen for bananas. Don't waste your money on them. Most birds will feed periodically throughout the day, with most feeding activity being in the morning and early evening.

One final note--make sure that the food and water dishes are cleaned every day This will aid in the control of disease.

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