Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Birds > Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo Bird Species – Personality, Pictures, Food & Care Guide

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo Bird Species – Personality, Pictures, Food & Care Guide

Sulphur-crested cockatoo with crest erect

One of the largest subspecies of white cockatoos, the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo is a beautiful and iconic Australian parrot. Despite their beauty, these are not easy birds to keep as pets because they are large, long-lived, exceedingly noisy, and a massive commitment to undertake. That said, they are still hugely popular birds that are commonly kept as pets due to their intelligence and unique beauty.

If you have the dedication and motivation, these birds make wonderful pets that will likely be with you for your entire life. Read on for more info on this gorgeous parrot!


Species Overview

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo Bird
Image By: hartono subagio, Pixabay
Common Names: Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo, Greater Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo
Scientific Name: Cacatua galerita
Adult Size: Up to 20 inches
Life Expectancy: 80 years in captivity

Origin and History

The Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo is native to Australia, New Guinea, and Indonesia and has been introduced to New Zealand, preferring to live along the edges of tropical rainforests. They are a prolific species in their native habitat and can be frequently seen in urban environments too. They are even considered a nuisance in some areas, so high are their numbers.

They are hardy and adaptable birds that can thrive in various environments, including urban areas and agricultural plantations. Their numbers in the wild are stable and even increasing in most areas. Importing Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos to the United States is now prohibited, so all birds available as pets are captive-bred.

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo Bird on a tree branch
Image By: Nel Botha, Pixabay


Known as one of the most eccentric and “goofiest” parrot species around, the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo has a huge personality. They are vibrant, talkative, loud, and social birds that certainly make their presence known at all times, making them a challenge for some owners to keep as pets. They are affectionate animals that form strong bonds with their owners and enjoy being close to them as much as possible. This is a challenge for most people, but it’s an essential requirement in owning one of these birds. They are known to get destructive and even self-abusive — pulling out their feathers – if they don’t get the attention and stimulation that they need.

Sulphur-crested cockatoos are also widely considered among the most intelligent parrots and can easily be taught to talk and perform tricks. Some experts compare their intelligence to that of a chimpanzee. They can easily learn to open cupboards or bins in search of food.

  • Highly intelligent
  • Long lifespans
  • Affectionate
  • Comical personality
  • Social
  • Beautiful
  • Hardy and healthy
  • Docile
  • Large
  • Noisy
  • Needy
  • Occasionally destructive

Speech & Vocalizations

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos are excellent at mimicking speech and phrases and can quickly learn to speak a large variety of words. While they are not as adept as some other parrots, such as African Greys, these birds can easily learn 20-30 words or more. They are also known for “babbling,” a form of talking that is characterized by making noises that sound like words but have no meaning. They are also highly adept at mimicking other sounds, like barking dogs, ringing doorbells and phones, and laughter, which can certainly become confusing!

Other than talking, these birds are also known for their ear-piercing shrieks, a trait that can easily get you into trouble with the neighbors if you live in an apartment. These birds are noisy and are almost constantly vocalizing in one way or another!

Sulfur-crested Cockatoo Colors and Markings

The Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo is a large, white parrot with a dark grey beak, a distinctive sulfur-yellow crest, and a slight yellow wash underneath their wings. Males and females are similar and difficult to tell apart, but males tend to have dark brown eyes, whereas females will have a slightly red tinge to their eyes. That said, this does not become noticeable until the birds have reached full maturity at around 4-5 years old.

There are three subspecies of the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo: the Triton, Eleonora, and Matthews. They are all close in resemblance and are only differentiated by their size.

Caring for the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

These large birds need large enclosures but will enjoy spending most of their time outside of their cages. At a minimum, they’ll need a cage of 60×60 inches, and at least 75 inches in height. Even though these birds will do better outside of their cage and you should aim to keep them outside as much as possible — 3-5 hours per day is a great general guideline — the bigger the cage, the better, with an aviary being the best bet.

Your Cockatoo will also need various interactive toys to play with and chew on, as they have a hardy, durable beak and will otherwise chew on anything that they can find. While it is a larger responsibility, Cockatoos in general do better in pairs because they are social birds, and this will also decrease the amount of time that you need to interact with your bird. That said, you’ll need to introduce the birds slowly, and even then, there is no guarantee that they’ll get along.

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo in a cage
Image By: Nasar Lagenda, Pixabay

Common Health Problems

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos are hardy, healthy birds that are rarely sick. The most common health issue with large birds like Cockatoos is the result of behavioral problems due to lack of stimulation. A bored or frustrated Cockatoo will commonly begin to pluck their feathers out or become destructive. They must get adequate stimulation.

The correct diet is essential to a healthy cockatoo, and a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables can result in a host of health issues, including fatty tumors, respiratory infections, and bacterial infections.

If your cockatoo is displaying any of the following symptoms, you should take them to an avian vet immediately:
  • Nasal discharge
  • Fluffed-up, messy plumage
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Abnormal behavior
  • Wheezing

Diet and Nutrition

In the wild, Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos eat various seeds, insects, and fruits, so in captivity, they’ll need to be fed on a similar diet. A commercial pellet mix tailored for large parrots is ideal because it has all the required nutrition for your bird, but they’ll also need plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and seed mixes. A good rule of thumb is that around 70% of their diet should consist of pellets, with the remainder consisting of fresh food.

Avoid feeding them the following foods, as they are potentially toxic and life-threatening to your bird:
  • Avocado
  • Caffeine
  • Chocolate
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Xylitol
  • Bread


Your Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo will need at least 2-5 hours outside of their cage every day, but they will need enough space in their cage to spread their wings too. They’ll also need ladders to climb on, toys to play with and chew on, and swings or perches for entertainment. These birds are active and lively animals that need a great deal of daily activity to stay healthy and happy.

Sulphur crested Cockatoo in flight
Image By: sompreaw, Shutterstock

Where to Adopt or Buy a Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

The best place to purchase a Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo is from a reputable breeder. There are also plenty of rescue birds that can be adopted, and you’ll be giving a loving home to a bird in need. But bear in mind that these parrots may have picked up bad habits or even experienced past trauma and can be even more of a challenge to raise.

Depending on their age and tameness, you can expect to pay between $2,000-$4,000 for a Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo, though adopting one will be significantly less. There are various adoption and rescue organizations to choose from that can easily be found online. Since these birds are so popular in the U.S., breeders are not difficult to come by.


Final Thoughts

It’s no surprise that the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo is one of the most well-known and popular pet birds in the United States, as they are intelligent, sociable, and beautiful and make wonderful pets. These birds are challenging to look after, though, and a massive responsibility that should not be entered into lightly. They can easily live for up to 100 years in some cases, so they are a significant long-term responsibility.

That said, they are wonderful birds that will provide you with a lifetime of companionship and affection!

Featured Image Credit: Ken Griffiths, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets