The avian world is a captivating part of the animal kingdom, filled with stunning colors and majestic creatures. Among these, the cockatoo stands out as the quintessential style icon, flaunting a snazzy feather crest that could rival any fashion accessory. And of course, their unparalleled palette of hues only adds to their beauty. With stunning feathers of flamboyant pink to fiery crimson and electric blue, cockatoos continually enchant with their beautiful appearance and charming personalities. In this article, we will explore the mesmerizing kaleidoscope of cockatoo colors, ranging from the exceptionally rare to the common and familiar!
What Is a Cockatoo?
Hailing from countries like Australia and Indonesia, cockatoos are extraordinary parrots in the Cacatuidae family. These incredible birds are loud and proud, with a distinct appearance and expressive personalities. There are over 20 different species of cockatoos, ranging from 12 inches to 2 feet in length. One of the most recognizable features of a cockatoo is the majestic crests of feathers on the top of their heads, which can be raised high when they are excited or angry.
In addition to their eye-catching appearance, cockatoos are also renowned for their clever and playful personalities. Social and charismatic, cockatoos thrive in the company of their flocks and possess a remarkable level of intelligence. Cockatoos can use tools and mimic many different sounds (including human speech), which is why they make for fascinating companions.
Do Cockatoos Make Good Pets?
Cockatoos are truly captivating animals and are quite distinct from other parrots. Not only are their commonly creamy colors delightful, but cockatoos are also popular due to their vibrant and vivacious personalities. These personable pets showcase playfulness and affection. Some can even be taught multiple words and enjoy chatting with their human companions. Cockatoos can also live for up to 70 years, which means that they can be lifelong companions.
However, cockatoos are also an enormous responsibility. A cockatoo can easily outlive its owner and will need an additional safe and secure home. In addition, most cockatoos are quite large and require a great deal of space to move around. They also demand a lot of time and attention. Their exuberant energy often manifests in destructive tendencies, and their spirited vocalizations are very loud. Owning a cockatoo is an enriching experience, but it calls for an unwavering commitment to the bird’s wellbeing, both physically and emotionally.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the many beautiful cockatoo colors!
1. Black and Red
Some of the rarest cockatoo colors in the world are black and red, with only three species displaying these colors. Unfortunately, due to extensive habitat destruction, poaching, and illegal bird smuggling, the numbers of these stunning black and red cockatoos are diminishing, which is one of the reasons that they are so rare today.
The first, the palm cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus), is one of the largest species of cockatoo in the world. These beautiful and rare birds can grow 22 to 24 inches long! Palm cockatoos have beautiful black or dark smokey grey feathers with a striking bright crimson skin patch on each cheek. In contrast, male red-tailed black cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus banksii) appear almost completely black with a grey bill and full head crest. However, when these birds take flight, you can also see bright red feathers on the underside of their tails. Female red-tailed black cockatoos also have yellow-orange or yellow-to-red stripes on their tails, chests, cheeks, and wings.
Male glossy black cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus lathami) are also black with red patches on their tail feathers. Female glossy black cockatoos, on the other hand, are a very dark brown that often appears black, with yellow spotting.
2. Grey and Red
Another rare cockatoo color combination is grey and red, found only in the gorgeous gang-gang cockatoo (Callocephalon fimbriatum) of southeastern Australia. Gang-gang cockatoos are a bit smaller than many other species, measuring only 13 to 15 inches long. Their bodies are mostly a soft gray color, and the upper parts of their feathers have slightly paler edges, creating a unique, bar-like pattern.
The bright red heads and feathery crests of male gang-gang cockatoos are quite striking against their grey bodies. Female birds also have uniquely colored feathers with yellow to pink edges, adding a touch of color and dimension to their overall appearance. Unfortunately, gang-gang cockatoos are rare and vulnerable in the wild due to habitat destruction and the loss of the older trees they need for nesting.
3. Black and Yellow
The only cockatoo species with black and yellow feathers is the yellow-tailed black cockatoo (Zanda funerea), a native of southeast Australia and the nearby islands. This extraordinary bird has a stylish short crest atop its head, with primarily black or brownish-black feathers. Striking yellow cheek patches, which are brighter in color on female birds, accentuate the bird’s elegantly dark body. In addition, many feathers have a delicate yellow trim, which creates an alluring scalloped appearance across the body. Male yellow-tailed black cockatoos have pinkish or reddish-colored eye-rings, while females have grey eye-rings.
One of the rare and stunning colors you’ll find on a cockatoo is pink. The first species that exemplifies this is Major Mitchell’s cockatoo or the pink cockatoo (Cacatua leadbeateri). The feathers of this stunning bird have a soft texture, showcasing a unique combination of white and salmon-pink hues. What truly sets the pink cockatoo apart, however, is its large and regal head crest, which is filled with vibrant shades of red and yellow. When raised, the bird looks like it is wearing a majestic fiery crown!
Unfortunately, this rare beauty is threatened and endangered in Australia due to habitat loss. Pink cockatoos make their homes in vast woodland areas, favoring certain types of trees like she-oak, conifers, and eucalypts. In addition, while other cockatoos don’t mind sharing close quarters, pink cockatoos don’t like to build their nest close to their neighbors, which means that they require more space and undisturbed habitats to thrive.
5. White and Orange
Another less common color in cockatoos is white and orange, as seen in the citron-crested cockatoo (Cacatua citrinocristata). This regal bird can only live on the island of Sumba in Indonesia’s Lesser Sunda Islands. It is a critically endangered species, and its numbers have decreased significantly due to illegal capture of the bird trade and habitat loss. A majestic and dignified bird, the citron-crested cockatoo has pristine white feathers covering its entire body, with a pale orange patch on each cheek. Its head is adorned with a vibrant citron-orange crest of feathers and pale periwinkle blue eye-rings.
The red-vented cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia) is also a critically endangered species, endemic to the Philippines. These gorgeous white birds have unique colors on the underside of their tail feathers, with striking shades of red and yellow that create a unique gradient of orange. They also have a pale yellow patch on each cheek.
6. Pink and Yellow
A stunning and rare pink and yellow cockatoo is the salmon-crested cockatoo or Moluccan cockatoo (Cacatua moluccensis). When relaxing on a perch, these beautiful cockatoos have a unique whitish-pink or faint peachy color, accentuated by their grey beaks and feet. However, in flight, salmon-crested cockatoos are much more colorful!
Their large crests are deep flamingo pink, with enormous thick feathers that stand up tall when they are emotional or excited. The undersides of their wings also have pale canary yellow feathers, giving them an almost creamsicle-like appearance. Salmon-crested cockatoos are endemic to Eastern Indonesia’s Seram Archipelago, but a small population also lives on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. Unfortunately, these stunning creatures are a vulnerable species, primarily due to the illegal pet trade and habitat loss.
Many species of corella cockatoos have unique blue eye-rings that accent their other beautiful colors. However, none of them can truly compare to the vibrant blue eyes of the beautiful blue-eyed cockatoo (Cacatua ophthalmica). The blue-eyed cockatoo is the only cockatoo in the Bismarck Archipelago, endemic to the island of New Britain. These large cockatoos have a large and beautiful crest, which is a stunning combination of vibrant yellow and white feathers.
Accenting its feathers and dark grey beak is a stunning baby blue ring with featherless skin encircling each of the bird’s eyes. Some consider blue-eyed cockatoos to be one of the most loving and friendliest types of cockatoos, but they do require a lot of attention and are very demanding pets. In addition, they’re a vulnerable species in the wild, mostly due to habitat loss and illegal pet trade.
8. Black and White
If you’re looking for a breathtaking avian companion to take to your next Black-Tie event, look no further than Carnaby’s black cockatoo (Zanda latirostris) and Baudin’s black cockatoo (Zanda baudinii)! These beautiful and elegant birds look almost identical, except for the size of their bills. Carnaby’s black cockatoo is also called the short-billed black cockatoo, as its bill is shorter and wider than that of Baudin’s black cockatoo, or the long-billed black cockatoo.
Both of these stunning black and white cockatoos live in southwest Australia and have gorgeous dark grey or black feathers with mesmerizing patterns. Their feathers are decorated with narrow, light grey scalloping which creates a beautiful contrast against their otherwise dark-colored feathers. In addition, there are patches of whitish feathers around the birds’ ears, and their lovely tail feathers are a mix of all-black and crisp white with black tips.
9. Yellow and Grey
The most common cockatoo species is the cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus) from Australia. Today, cockatiels are also one of the most popular types of pet birds in the world. Cockatiels are the smallest cockatoo species, measuring only 12 inches long. These delightful birds flaunt a mostly grey plumage, with notable white patches on their wings. Their cheeks have vibrant orange spots on each side, adding a splash of color to their adorable appearance. One of their most distinctive features is the long wispy crest on their heads, which combines shades of both gray and yellow.
In addition to their “wild” colors, there are many other color mutations in the pet trade today as well. Lutino cockatiels, for example, lack any black or gray feathers. Instead, their feathers are all white with orange cheek circles and a yellow crest. White-faced cockatiels, on the other hand, are white and gray without any yellow or orange feathering at all.
10. Pink and Grey
Australia’s galah or rose-breasted cockatoo (Eolophus roseicapilla) is the only species with pink and grey colors. Galah cockatoos only grow about 14 inches tall and have gorgeous rose-colored feathers covering their faces and bodies. The feathery crest atop their heads is a lighter pink color, and their wings and tail feathers showcase beautiful gradations of gray and silver.
Galah cockatoos are extremely social birds that live in flocks that number anywhere from 10 up to 1,000 other birds, many of which may even be other cockatoo species. Unlike many of their other relatives, they are extremely adaptable and are some of the most widespread and abundant birds in Australia.
The most common cockatoo color in the bird world is white, exemplified best by Solomon’s cockatoo (Cacatua ducorpsii) and the endangered umbrella cockatoo (Cacatua alba). Solomon’s cockatoo is a smaller species, growing only about 12 inches long. Almost all of its feathers are completely white, accentuated beautifully by a silvery-blue beak and eye-rings. Umbrella cockatoos, on the other hand, are endemic to the islands of Indonesia, with large white feathers and umbrella-like crests with a semicircular shape. They also have pale lemon-yellow feathers on the undersides of their tails and wings, which are best seen when they fly.
Other predominantly white cockatoos also have very bold accent colors. The sulfur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) and the yellow-crested cockatoo (Cacatua sulphurea), for example, both have pristine white bodies and bright yellow crests. There are also yellow-tinged feathers on the undersides of their wings and tails. Corellas are also white with yellow-tinged underwings. However, in addition, their faces have small amounts of pink or red, and their eye-rings are blue.
Summary of Cockatoo Colors: Rarest to Most Common
|Common Name||Scientific Name||Main Colors|
|1||Palm cockatoo||Probosciger aterrimus||Black and red|
|2||Red-tailed black cockatoo||Calyptorhynchus banksii||Black and red|
|3||Glossy black cockatoo||Calyptorhynchus lathami||Black and red|
|4||Gang-gang cockatoo||Callocephalon fimbriatum||Grey and red|
|5||Yellow-tailed black cockatoo||Zanda funerea||Black and yellow|
|6||Pink cockatoo (or Major Mitchell’s cockatoo)||Cacatua leadbeateri||Pink|
|7||Citron-crested cockatoo||Cacatua citrinocristata||White and orange|
|8||Red-vented cockatoo (or Philippine cockatoo)||Cacatua haematuropygia||White and orange|
|9||Salmon-crested cockatoo (or Moluccan cockatoo)||Cacatua moluccensis||Pink and yellow|
|10||Blue-eyed cockatoo||Cacatua ophthalmica||Blue|
|11||Carnaby’s black cockatoo (or short-billed cockatoo)||Zanda latirostris||Black and white|
|12||Baudin’s black cockatoo (or long-billed cockatoo)||Zanda baudinii||Black and white|
|13||Cockatiel||Nymphicus hollandicus||Yellow and grey|
|14||Galah cockatoo (or rose-breasted cockatoo)||Eolophus roseicapilla||Pink and grey|
|15||Solomon’s cockatoo (or Ducorp’s cockatoo)||Cacatua ducorpsii||White|
|16||Umbrella cockatoo||Cacatua alba||White|
|17||Sulfur-crested cockatoo||Cacatua galerita||White|
|18||Yellow-crested cockatoo||Cacatua sulphurea||White|
|19||Tanimbar corella (or Goffin’s cockatoo)||Cacatua goffiniana||White|
|20||Little corella||Cacatua sanguinea||White|
|21||Long-billed corella||Cacatua tenuirostris||White|
|22||Western corella||Cacatua pastinator||White|
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Sanit Fuangnakhon/Shutterstock.com
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