A cockatoo is any of the 21 species belonging to the bird family Cacatuidae. Along with the Psittcidae (the true parrots) and the Strigopidae (the large New Zealand parrots), they make up the order Psittaciformes. Placement of the cockatoos as a separate family is fairly undisputed. Cockatoos have a mainly Australasian distribution, ranging from Australia to the Solomon Islands and New Guinea, to eastern Indonesian islands and the Philippines.
Cockatoos are instantly recognisable by their showy crests and curved bills. On average they are larger than other parrots; however, the cockatiel, the smallest cockatoo species, is a small bird. Their plumage is generally less colourful than that of other parrots, being mainly white, grey, or black, and often with coloured features in the crest, cheeks or tail.
Cockatoos prefer to eat seeds, tubers, corms, fruit, flowers and insects. They often feed in large flocks, particularly when ground-feeding. Cockatoos are monogamous and nest in tree hollows where usually one or two eggs are laid. Some species have been adversely affected by habitat loss, especially that of suitable nesting hollows when large, mature trees are cleared; conversely some species, like the sulphur-crested cockatoo and the corella, have adapted well to human changes and are considered agricultural pests.
Cockatoos are very popular birds in aviculture, but their needs are difficult to cater for. The cockatiel is probably the easiest cockatoo to keep as a pet and is therefore the most popular. White cockatoos are more commonly found than black cockatoos. In Australia you need special permits to keep certain cockatoo species.
An edited phylogeny of cockatoos is shown below:
- Genus Nymphicus (Cockatiel)
- Genus Probosciger (Palm cockatoo)
- Genus Calyptorhynchus (Black cockatoos)
- Genus Callocephalon (Gang-gang cockatoo)
- Genus Eolophus (Galah)
- Genus Lophochroa (Major Mitchell's cockatoo)
- Genus Cacatua (White cockatoos)