Lesser Sulfur-crested Cockatoo

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image: lsc-cockatoo.jpg

Common Name: Yellow-crested Cockatoo

Scientific Name: Cacatua sulphurea sulphurea

Size: Lesser: 13-14 inches (33-35 cm)

Habitat: Asia; endemic to Timor-Leste and Indonesia, where it was formerly common throughout Nusa Tenggara (from Bali to Timor), on Sulawesi and its satellite islands, and the Masalembu Islands (in the Java Sea). It has undergone a dramatic decline, particularly in the last quarter of the 20th century, such that it is now extinct on many islands and close to extinction on most others. Sumba appears to support the largest remaining population, tentatively estimated (in 1992) at c.3,200 birds (but declining by perhaps 500 birds annually, with just 10% of the island still forested in 34 fragments), with other significant (but considerably smaller) populations on Komodo (c.500 individuals), Sulawesi, Buton, Moyo and Timor-Leste. Tiny populations of just a few individuals also exist in the Tukangbesi Islands, on Oroho Island (a satellite of Wangi Wangi Island) and on Lintea Selatan (a satellite of Tomea Island). The Komodo population alone (where poaching is virtually absent) declined by an estimated 60% between 2000-2005. Its current status on several small islands is unclear, but surveys of Masakambing on the Masalembu Islands in 2008 found only ten individuals remaining of race abbotti. A feral population of several hundred birds exists in Hong Kong.

It inhabits forest (including evergreen, moist deciduous, monsoon and semi-evergreen), forest edge, scrub and agriculture up to 500 m on Sulawesi, and 800 m (sometimes 1,500 m) in Nusa Tenggara. On at least some islands (e.g. Sumba), it appears heavily dependent on closed-canopy primary forest. On others, it survives despite the total clearance of original vegetation, indicating that its habitat requirements are somewhat flexible.

Status: Critically Endangered. Global Population: 2,500-9,999 Mature individuals. Its precipitous decline is almost entirely attributable to unsustainable exploitation for internal and international trade. Large-scale logging and conversion of forest to agriculture across its range has exacerbated the decline, and the use of pesticides since around 1989 is a further potential threat. At least formerly, the species was regarded as a crop-pest, and consequently persecuted. High rainfall years appear to limit productivity considerably resulting in very low recruitment. Conversely, rainfall on Komodo has been low in recent years leading to limited availability of water sources. Competition for cavity nest sites with other parrots and owls in large trees (those targeted by logging activities) leads to low productivity.

Diet: Seeds, buds, fruits, nuts and herbaceous plants

Breeding: Cockatoo become sexually mature after two to four years. Breeding takes place from September to May on Sumba. It nests in tree cavities with specific requirements. The female lays two to three eggs in a tree hole. Both parents incubate the eggs for about 27 days.

Cool Facts: This cockatoo is all-white, but for long, forward-curling yellow crest (which is much more orange in race Cacatua sulphurea citrinocristata (Lesser Citron-crested Cockatoo).

Cockatoo eat clay in the morning to detoxify any dangerous food they might eat. Sulphur-crested cockatoos are popular pets, however they may no longer be imported into the United States as a result of the Wild Bird Conservation Act. They are now bred in captivity. The potential owner should be aware of the bird's needs, as well as how loud these birds can be and their natural desire to chew.

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