Biology and breeding of the Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo. PART II

January 12th, 2016 | by LubosTomiska
Biology and breeding of the Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo. PART II

Read also the first part of this article:

Biology and breeding of the Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo. PART I


In comparison with other cockatoo species, Major Mitchell’s cockatoos nest in shallow cavities. The nest is never deeper than one meter. The inside diameter is regularly about 18cm however it can be also smaller. The nest is located high, at least eight meters above the ground. Another interesting fact is that in following breeding season only 50% of pairs nest in the same cavity although they have a chance. In the wild this species nest usually once a year.

Average weight of an adult Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo is around 420g. We observe sexual dimorphism in this species. Females have red iris while in males it’s dark brown. Young birds have a brown eye. However, this trait is not 100% sure way how to determine sex in this species and that’s why it’s recommended to do DNA test or endoscopy.



Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos forage often on ground but in comparison with Galah Cockatoos (Eolophus roseicapillus), they spend also much of time in treetop chewing bark and leaves. Generally, they feed on grass seeds, herb seeds, fruits, berries, blossoms and buds. This species also consumes insects and its larvae. According to Rowley and Chapman the main food source of this cockatoo are seeds of following plants: wheat, Doublegee (Emex australia) and Wild Melon (Citrullus lanatus). Birds feed on these seeds all year long in different stages of ripeness. Interestingly, not a single of above mentioned plants is native species, all are invasive. Besides them Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos feed also on seeds of Casuarina, Hakea, Exocarpus and Grevillea.

In the wild, habitats of Galah Cockatoos and Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo overlap. One paper indicates that sometimes when pairs of these two different species fight for a cavity then both females can lay eggs inside. However, only one pair will raise the chicks. Therefore, parents care for foster youngers unknowingly. Authors of the study suggested that chicks raised in this way will later accept identity of parent species. They behave and call just like their parents and also mate with a bird of different species. This can lead to natural hybridization. If we use foster parents in captivity we should remember this fact.



(c) Lubomir Tomiska



In Loro Parque, the largest parrot park in the world, they keep Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos in two types of aviaries. One design has dimensions 10,5 x 1,5 x 2,5m, the second type 6,6 x 1,5 x 2,5m. Ben Quist (1986) bred this species in aviaries four meters long. In literature we can find cases when Major Mitchell’s cockatoos were successfuly bred in an aviary of size 1,8 x 0,9 x 1,5m. However, mostly it’s recommended to place them to a flight of minimal length 4-6 metres. These cockatoo fly rather than climb just like other Australian parrots.

Arndt (1990-1996) recommends to feed this species with seed mixture which consists of: sunflower, pumpkin seeds, safflower, millet, oat, wheat and hemp seeds. Besides that he gives them also cones, corn on cob, vegetables and fruits (especially apples and pears). It’s also good to feed with sprouted seeds. As Arndt indicates, this species is quite conservative in consuming of new foods so it can easily happens that they will refuse it for a long time until they get used to it.



(c) Lubomir Tomiska


Forshaw (2002) recommends to feed with seed mixture of following composition: safflower, striped sunflower, canary seeds and millet. According to his experience, birds love safflower and canary seeds a lot. During winter months we should feed with oat. As supplement we can give to our Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos carrots, celery leaves, apples, wholegrain bakery products and corn. Every second day, Forshaw gives three almonds and ¼ of orange per one cockatoo.




author:  Lubomir Tomiska


Arndt, T. (1990-1996): Lexikon der Papageien, Arndt-Verlag, Bretten.

Brown, D. M., & Toft, C. A. (1999). Molecular systematics and biogeography of the cockatoos (Psittaciformes: Cacatuidae). The Auk, 141-157.

Cameron, M. (Ed.). (2007). Cockatoos. CSIRO PUBLISHING.

del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. J., Christie, D. A., Elliot, A., & Fishpool, L. D. C. (2014). Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World (Vol. 1). Lynx Edition.

Forshaw, J. M. (2010). Parrots of the World. Princeton University Press.

Forshaw, J. M. (2002). Australian Parots. Avi-Trader Publishing

Garnett S.T., Szabo J.K., Dutson G. (2011) The Action Plan for Australian Birds 2010. CSIRO Publishing, Melbourne.

Reinschmidt, M. (2007). Untersuchungen zur Brutbiologie des Inkakakadus (Cacatua leadbeateri) im Loro Parque, Teneriffa (Doctoral dissertation, Universitätsbibliothek Giessen).

Rowley, I., & Chapman, G. (1986). Cross-fostering, imprinting and learning in two sympatric species of cockatoo. Behaviour, 96(1), 1-16.

Rowley, I., & Chapman, G. (1991). The Breeding Biology, Food, Social-Organization, Demography and Conservation of the Major Mitchell or Pink Cockatoo, Cacatua-Leadbeateri, on the Margin of the Western Australian Wheat-Belt. Australian Journal of Zoology, 39(2), 211-261.



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