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Home > Birds > Where Do Cockatoos Come From? Origins & History

Where Do Cockatoos Come From? Origins & History

Cockatoo side profile

The word “cockatoo” refers to any of the 21 parrot species in the family Cacatuidae. They’re a popular avian companion as they are lively and affectionate birds that bond closely with their human family members. But where do cockatoos come from in the wild? They live primarily in Australasian and prefer various habitats depending on species and location.

Read on to learn more about the cockatoo’s natural habitat and distribution.


Where Do Cockatoos Come From?

These nonmigratory birds live in a broad range throughout Australasia, including countries like Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia, the Solomon Islands, and the Philippines. However, not all 21 species can be found in all of these countries. For example, Australia is home to just 14 species, such as Carnaby’s black cockatoos, gang-gang cockatoos, and Major Mitchell’s cockatoo. On the other hand, only seven species are found on the islands of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

Even though cockatoos are found on neighboring Pacific islands, none are found in Borneo.

Some species are widespread, while others are confined to just a small part of the country. For example, Goffin’s cockatoo (also known as the Tanimbar Corella) is endemic to the forest on three islands in the Tanimbar Islands archipelago.

Some cockatoo species were deliberately introduced or accidentally released to neighboring countries. Take the sulphur-crested cockatoo, for example. This species is not naturally found in New Zealand, yet there is a population there. Their presence seems to be the result of captive bird escapes. They were introduced to the area in the late 19th century in numbers large enough to allow for the establishment of wild populations. They aren’t present in New Zealand in great numbers now as they are subject to live captures for the pet trade.

Cockatoo in a branch
Image By: ignartonosbg, Pixabay

What Is a Cockatoo’s Natural Habitat?

Cockatoos have a wide range of natural habitats depending on the species and which country they originate in. Each species has its preferred habitat type, and no cockatoo is found in all habitats.

The most widespread species, the rose-breasted cockatoo (also known as Galah), loves the open country. The Galah can be found everywhere in Australia aside from exceedingly dry areas and the far north of Cape York Peninsula. It’s typically found in inland areas, though it’s recently begun colonizing coastal regions.

Species like the glossy black cockatoo live in coastal woodland and dry forested areas where its main food source (the Casuarina tree) is abundant.

The red-vented cockatoo, endemic to the Philippines, prefers coastal areas with mangroves.

The white cockatoo, also known as the umbrella cockatoo, is endemic to Indonesia’s tropical rainforests on the Moluccan Islands.

Some species of cockatoos are even becoming city dwellers. They fly in flocks to urban areas and parklands, where humans leave food scraps behind. Cockatoos are highly intelligent, adaptable, and able to thrive off resources like food waste that humans discard. Sulfur-crested cockatoos are one species flourishing in cityscapes, much to the chagrin of their human neighbors, who don’t take well to the birds’ rowdy habits of flipping open trash bins and foraging for food. This species is actually declared an agricultural pest by the southern half of Western Australia.

Glossy Black Cockatoo
Image By: Jayden Gunn, Shutterstock



Though their range is much more restricted than true parrots, cockatoos are widespread throughout Australasia. They live in various habitats, though they prefer forested areas and mangroves. However, some species are learning to adapt to urban life, choosing to wreak havoc in agricultural areas and busy cities. So, while cockatoos can make great companions, their wild counterparts aren’t always looked at with the same adoration.

Featured Image Credit: Magnascan, Pixabay

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