The White (or Umbrella) Cockatoo (Cacatua alba) is a large white cockatoo with a fan-shaped erectile crest of broad, blunt-ended feathers. As in other Cacatua species, there is some yellow suffusion on the underwing and undertail. The sexes are very similar in appearance, but the eyes of females have a reddish (rather than dark brown or black) iris (juveniles have dark gray eyes). This species is found only on Halmahera and on a few surrounding islands in the North Moluccas in the Maluku province of Indonesia. White Cockatoos are common in captivity. This is the only large cockatoo with an entirely white crest. When the crest is relaxed, head shape is similar to that of the closely related Salmon-crested (or Moluccan) Cockatoo (C. moluccensis), but the White Cockatoo is sleeker, the color and erected crest shape are different, and the Salmon-crested plumage is suffused with pink.
White Cockatoos occur in lowland and hill forests up to 600 m. The diet consists of seeds, nuts, berries, and other fruits. Although this species seems relatively tolerant of habitat degradation, large trees with cavities are needed for nesting. The 2 to 3 eggs are incubated (by both parents) for around 30 days and young may remain in the nest for two to three months. White Cockatoos spend most of their time in the canopy and can be seen in small pairs or small groups flying above the trees or perched in emergent trees, although they may forage inconspicuously at lower levels. They are often most conspicuous when groups of up to 50 birds may gather before roosting in large trees.
Birds are trapped for the pet trade using decoys to lure them into snares. An estimated 10% of birds intended for export die prior to leaving Indonesia. White Cockatoos are also shot for food. Because cockatoos are long-lived, the impact of reproductive shortfalls may not be immediately apparent.
(Collar 1997 and references therein; Juniper and Parr 1998 and references therein)
- Collar, N.J. 1997. White Cockatoo (Cacatua alba). P. 278 in: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., and Sargatal, J., eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 4. Sandgrouse to Cuckoos. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
- Juniper, T. and M. Parr. 1998. Parrots: A Guide to Parrots of the World. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut.