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Victorian cockatoos

Ian Temby, Flora & Fauna Branch
September, 2003

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This note has been prepared to remove confusion about the identification of cockatoos, so that protected species are not misidentified and destroyed in error. Brief descriptions and distribution maps are given. Selected references are listed.

Victoria has nine species of cockatoos, comprising three black-cockatoos, two corellas, the Gang-Gang Cockatoo, Galah, Major Mitchell's Cockatoo and the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. All of these species are protected under the Wildlife Act 1975, but the Long-billed Corella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and the Galah have been declared unprotected by a Governor in Council Order, under certain conditions.

Conditions of unprotected status
(Order published in Government Gazette G 26, page 1704, 4 July 1996)
  • Under the conditions of their unprotected status, the Long-billed Corella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and Galah, may be taken or destroyed by-
  • landowners or occupiers, their employees and members of their families., or
  • in the case of recreational reserves, members of committees of management- only where serious damage is being caused by those species to trees, vineyards, orchards, recreational reserves or commercial crops.
  • Persons specified in paragraph (1) may take or destroy these species by-
  • the use of firearms in accordance with the Firearms Act l958; or
  • using trapping and gassing equipment approved by the Department of Natural Resources and Environment- only on the freehold or leasehold property on which the damage is occurring.
Note: The use of firearms in a town or populous place or on a street, road, thoroughfare or place open to or used by the public is prohibited under the Firearms Act 1958.
. Persons intending to use firearms to take or destroy the species in accordance with this Order, must comply with any requirements of the Firearms Act 1958 and any other relevant legislation.

Identification of species

Long-billed Corella
The Long-billed CorelIa has an average total length of 375 mm, and is largely white, with a band of orange-scarlet feathers across the throat and above the bill, extending back just behind the eye. There is a light yellow wash under the wings and tail. The bill, with a greatly elongated upper mandible modified for digging, is horn coloured and there is a grey-blue naked ring around the eye. The range of this species is undergoing a significant expansion to its pre-European position, spreading mainly in an easterly direction. Major foods of the Long-billed Corella are Onion Grass corms and cereal grains.

Map: Distribution of the Long-billed Corella

Figure 1. Distribution of the Long-billed Corella

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo is a large bird, some 495 mm in total length, white above and below, with a striking, forward-curving erectile yellow crest. The undersides of the broad wings have a strong yellow wash and the ear coverts are yellow. The bill is black and the naked eye ring is white.

The Sulphur-crested Cockatoo feeds on a wide variety of seeds, fruits and nuts, with Onion Grass corms, thistle seeds and cereal grains being taken readily. Sunflower seeds are particularly attractive to this species.

Map: Distribution of the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

Figure 2. Distribution of the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo

The Galah, smallest of the three species that are unprotected under certain conditions, with a total length of 338-362 mm, has a pale pink crown. The back, wings and tail are grey. The cheeks, nape, ear coverts and underparts, including underwing coverts, are rose-red. The bill is horn coloured. The naked eye-ring is crimson in the eastern race.
The diet of the Galah is similar to that of the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo.

Map: Distribution of the Galah

Figure 3. Distribution of the Galah

Little CorelIa
The species most likely to be confused with the Long-billed Corella is the Little Corella. Although much the same size as the Long-billed Corella, it is best distinguished from that species by the lack of pink on the breast and over the upper mandible, by its short, rounded beak and by its significantly larger crest.

The Little Corella often forages together with Long-billed Corellas, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos and Galahs.

Like the Long-billed Corella and the Galah, the range of the Little Corella is expanding.

Map: Distribution of the Little Corella

Figure 4. Distribution of the Little Corella

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo
Also known as the, Pink Cockatoo. this small species (350 mm total length) should not be confused with any other. White above and salmon pink below, it has a large. forward-directed crest of scarlet, with a central yellow band and broad white tip. Major Mitchell's Cockatoo is usually found in Mallee, particularly where there are native pine (Callitris) trees. Its restricted range means that it seldom occurs where other species may cause problems.

This cockatoo feeds on a variety of seeds, and will occasionally feed with Galahs on germinating wheat and in wheat stubbles, where it takes residual grain, as well as weed seeds. It is not regarded as a pest. Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo is listed as threatened under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.

Map: Distribution of  Major Mitchells Cockatoo

Figure 5. Distribution of Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo

Gang Gang Cockatoo
With a length of 350 mm, this species is a similar size to Major Mitchell's Cockatoo and the Galah, but its sooty grey colouring distinguishes it readily from those species. The male has a bright, orange-red head and crest, while the female and young lack this. Body feathers are edged with greyish or yellowish-white, giving a scalloped appearance.
The call is unmistakable, resembling the sound of a cork being withdrawn from a bottle, greatly magnified. Gang Gang Cockatoos are usually found in eucalypt forests, but may also visit agricultural areas, where they feed on the fruits of exotic cypress and hawthorn trees.

Map: Distribution of the Gang Gang Cockatoo

Figure 6. Distribution of the Gang Gang Cockatoo

The three black-cockatoo species are large, conspicuously coloured birds. Their size and colour make it impossible to confuse them with any of the unprotected cockatoo species.

Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo
The largest Victorian cockatoo, at 650 mm, the Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo is a dull, brownish-black, with yellow cheek patches and a yellow 'window' in the very long tail.
The Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo is common in wetter forests within its range. It occasionally forages on the ground, but usually feeds in trees, often visiting pine plantations to feed on pine seeds extracted from pinecones.

Map:Distribution of the Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo

Figure 7. Distribution of the Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo

Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo
The Red-tailed Black Cockatoo is about 600 mm long. Males are black, with bright red 'windows' in the tail. The female is brownish-black with yellow spots over the head, and breast feathers edged with yellow, giving a heavily scalloped appearance. The tail has incomplete yellow cross-bands, with a black tip.

This species is listed as threatened under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988, and is considered endangered in Victoria, with estimates of total population of fewer than 650 birds, and fewer than 100 breeding pairs. It feeds on Buloke and Brown Stringybark seeds.

Map: Distribution of the Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo

Figure 8. Distribution of the Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo

Glossy Black-Cockatoo
This, the smallest of the black-cockatoos, is some 480 mm long. It has a broad, strongly-curved beak which it uses to open the cones of sheokes, its major food being sheoke seed. Overall colour is brownish-black, with red ‘windows' in the black tail of the male. In the female, these red 'windows' have a yellowish tinge. The head of the female has scattered yellow feathers.

The Glossy Black Cockatoo is listed as threatened under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988.

Map: Distribution of the Glossy Black-Cockatoo

Figure 9. Distribution of the Glossy Black-Cockatoo

Further information
  • Birds Australia Parrot Association
  • Emison, W.E., Beardsell, C.M. & Temby, I.D. 1994. The biology and status of the Long-billed Corella in Australia. Proceedings of the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology 5(4):211-247.
  • Emison, W.B., Beardsell, C.M., Norman, F.I. & Loyn, R.H. 1987. Atlas of Victorian Birds. Dept. Conservation, Forests & Lands and Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union, Melbourne.
  • Forshaw, J.M. & Cooper, W.T. 1981. Australian Parrots (2nd Edition). Lansdowne, Melbourne.
  • Noske, S. 1980. Aspects of the behaviour and ecology of the White Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita) and Galah (C. roseicapilla) in croplands in north-east New South Wales. MSc. Thesis, University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales.
  • Rowley, I. 1990. Behavioural ecology of the Galah, Surrey Beatty & Sons, Chipping Norton.
  • Venn, DR. & Fisher, J. 1993. Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo. Action Statement No. 37. Flora and Fauna Guarantee. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Melbourne

The advice provided in this publication is intended as a source of information only. Always read the label before using any of the products mentioned. The State of Victoria and its employees do not guarantee that the publication is without flaw of any kind or is wholly appropriate for your particular purposes and therefore disclaims all liability for any error, loss or other consequence which may arise from you relying on any information in this publication.

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