Also known as the Salmon-crested or
Seram Cockatoo, the Moluccan Cockatoo (Cacatua moluccensis), is the
largest of the white cockatoos. With a length of up to 52cm (21in) and weighing between 900g and 1,050g, its is
an imposing bird.
Classified as Vulnerable, it has been
listed on Appendix I of CITES since
1989. Excessive trapping of wild birds
and to a lesser degree, deforestation, have caused its decline. Listing it on
Appendix I reduced the international trade but illegal trapping still occurs. A
shocking total, in excess of 74,000, were exported between 1981 and 1990.
Sadly, many of these were adult birds who were terrified of people and never
adapted to captivity.
Unfortunately, young hand-reared
Moluccan Cockatoos are often the subject of impulse buying. Can there be
anything more sweet, vulnerable affectionate, cuddly and adorable than a young
bird of this species? And can there be anything more difficult to control and
to live with than an unhappy adult Moluccan? I believe that, in any case, they
are too intelligent and with an extraordinary degree of sentience that makes
life in captivity difficult to bear in most cases.
If there is such thing as a suitable
owner it would be someone who is:
100% committed to providing a
stimulating and loving environment for as long as he or she lives or is physically able to care for the bird.
Note that the potential lifespan is 60 years
One who understands the unpredictable
temperament of this cockatoo. This takes
experience. A sudden wrong move that makes the bird over-excited could land you
in an A&E hospital department with a very serious wound. An attack from a
Moluccan can be very sudden and unexpected if you cannot read their behaviour.
The pictures below show the injuries made by Moluccan Cockatoos to even the
most experienced and caring owners.
Able to tolerate ear-splitting
screeches of a magnitude seldom encountered in the avian world.
Willing to love and care for the bird
even when it is feather-plucked or self-mutilating.
In the UK Andelphine Mason Brown and
her husband care for unwanted and abused cockatoos. They have dedicated their
lives to ensuring that some of these birds have their faith in humans restored.
To see them win the trust of cockatoos that are highly unpredictable and have
caused serious injuries to previous owners is remarkable.
It is a sad fact that most Moluccan
and Umbrella Cockatoos (the most sensitive and difficult species) have multiple
homes because purchasers did not understand the difficulties involved in
keeping them or the nature of these two species whose need for affection and
constant attention is much more pronounced than in other white cockatoos.
One breeder stated that he did not
usually sell these cockatoos as pets and
that if his young go to breeding facilities he did not expect problems to
develop. This surely missed the point. If they breed, the problem of their
young going to homes where the family is
totally unprepared for dealing with a once-cuddly, doe-eyed young cockatoo that
matures into a sad, misunderstood bird that disrupts the entire household, is
Such birds are ultimately considered
unsuitable for pets and are often sold to breeders. Unfortunately, the very
high price tag of hand-reared cockatoos of the two species mentioned makes the
aim of producing young impossible to resist for some people.
This problem is especially serious in
the USA and Canada where so many white cockatoos were hand-reared for the pet
trade. One large commercial facility stopped rearing them in the 1990s because
they finally had to admit it was cruel and unethical. In North America it is Wendy Huntbatch who is
bravely trying to care for a couple of
hundred white cockatoos, from a total of about 700 unwanted parrots, at the
World Parrot Refuge on Vancouver Island. Her dedication, too, is immense and
endless -- even while she battled to overcome a life-threatening disease two
If I had one wish it would be to send
breeders of white cockatoos to the World Parrot Refuge to listen to Wendy talk
on the subject of the dreadful neglect of white cockatoos and the damage,
physical, but mainly psychological, that results.
Can there be anyone who reads parrot
magazines who is not aware of the fact that white cockatoos, especially when
hand-reared, are too demanding to make
suitable pets? That is putting it mildly.
Many, perhaps even the majority, of these highly intelligent and (when
young) irresistibly appealing birds, end up as unwanted or abused. They develop
serious psychological problems that manifest themselves in problem behaviours
such as biting, screaming and feather plucking.
On too many occasions I have received
a telephone call from someone who has bought a white cockatoo and is now
paying the price. One lady told me: I have just bought a copy of your book The
Loving Care of Pet Parrots. How I wish that I had read it before deciding
to buy a cockatoo. Everything you said has come true
! In the book I warn
about the demands of tame cockatoos that cannot be met by those who go out to
Male Moluccan Cockatoo
She was not an unthinking lady who
had carelessly embarked on buying a young hand-reared bird. She had wanted to
do everything possible for her companion, who she loved dearly. She had even
built an aviary in the garden so that when she was out her cockatoo could play
and exercise there. The problem was that she worked and when she returned home
the cockatoo screamed so much that, very reluctantly, she had to part with it.
In fact, the breeder took it back. So already this young bird had lost its
first home. I believe that the majority of white cockatoos spend less than
three years at their first location and that period is numbered in just a few
months for many individuals, especially those that have been hand-reared and, as
usually happens, weaned too early.
Forced weaning has profound
psychological effects on white cockatoos. It makes them exceedingly anxious and
clinging. They go on to become screamers, seed-flingers, pluckers and, in the
worst scenario, self-mutilators (they gauge out areas of flesh, usually from
the breast). I am not pretending that wild-caught cockatoos never showed these
traits but the incidence is lower.
In the UK, a former cockatoo breeder
now devotes her time and energy to taking in unwanted cockatoos. Breeders
created the problem. If they have a conscience, they will stop breeding, or at
least stop hand-rearing young, now that most rescue centres have run out of space
for housing cockatoos. Sadly, the point
has been reached where numbers of cockatoos that people no longer want are
Breeders should speak to those few
caring and dedicated people who rescue abused and abandoned cockatoos and hear
some of the terrible abuse and conditions suffered by these cockatoos. Their
popularity is a tragedy for the species as a whole and for thousands of
These cockatoos occur only on
the island of Seram, Indonesia. For more
information: please visit the website www.indonesian-parrot-project.org
which describes the work being done to educate
local people regarding the importance of this species, also rescue and
rehabilitation of illegally trapped Moluccan Cockatoos.