In the wild, these cockatoos inhabit lowland rainforest below 1000 m. They usually live in small and loose flocks, and are largely resident, even though they might do some minor local movements.
The Moluccan cockatoo is one of the most well-known and kept cockatoo species in captivity, growing quite big with an impressive look. This makes them very popular among zoos, bird shows, and also as pets because of their quite impressive size, beauty, and intelligence.
Their height reaches between 46 and 52 cm and it can weight between 640 and 1025 grams averaging about 850 g. Their size puts the species among the largest in the white cockatoo group. On average females are larger than the males.
Their feathers are white with a salmon, pink or peachy glow throughout the body. Both the underwing and underside of the tail feathers are yellowish or orange in color. The Moluccan Cockatoo also displays a large retractable crest which it raises to show the beautiful concealed bright red, pink or orange feathers, although some describe may them as flamingo-colored.
They do this when threatened possibly to frighten potential predators or in excitement or other emotional displays, particularly during courtship. Their bill and feet are greyish-black in color. While older females have brown to maroon red eyes males have dark brown or black eyes. The eyes have a bare bluish-white eye ring.
Their voice includes discordant trumpeting, cackles, screeches and nasal chattering, and they have one of the louder calls of any parrot species. In captivity, the Moluccan cockatoo is also a capable mimic. These Cockatoos require a very solid commitment if they are to be kept as pets since their lifespan is over 30 years probably around 60 to 65 years.
Subspecies / Taxonomy / Etymology
There are no subspecies currently recognized for these cockatoos.
The Malay name for these birds, "kakaktua", is the origin of the species common name cockatoo, and translates literally as "older sister." The species specific name moluccensis refers to their origin, the Maluku Islands also known as the Moluccas.
Diet / Feeding
In the wild, the Moluccan Cockatoo has a varied diet that includes various seed and nuts, but also fruits like langsat, papaya, rambutan, durian and as well as coconuts. These cockatoos have a powerful beak, capable of exerting around 500 pounds of pressure, allowing them to crack the shell of even the hardest nuts.
There's some evidence that they also eat insects such as crickets and even small reptiles such as skinks. But unfortunately they will also feed on corn growing on fields and are capable of doing considerable damage and therefore farmers often considered them crop pests.
The Moluccan cockatoo breeds only breed once a year, with the breeding season taking place between December and March when vegetation growth has peaked and the food is also readily available.
In the courtship behavior, males will ruffle their feathers, spreading the tail feathers, extending the wings. It will also erect the crest and bounce about to attract a female. At first, the female may ignore or avoid the male but if he meets her approval the female will eventually allow the male to approach her.
Once the female accepts the male, the pair will start scratching one another around the tail and preening each other's heads. These affection signs will strengthen the pair's bond, and Moluccan cockatoos do form a close bond lasting for a lifetime.
Eventually, the male will perform the actual mating, which normally takes longer in newly formed pairs and is quite shorter in bonded pairs. The pair separates from their flock to settle down in the nesting area, which is normally a cavity in a tree.
The female lays a clutch o 2 to 6 eggs that are incubated for approximately 30 days. Both male and female take part in incubating the eggs. Sexual maturity in this species is reached at about 5 to 6 years old.
If they get separated from their mate, Moluccan cockatoos may slip into a deep depression. That's why in the absence of a "true" mate, these birds may accept their caretaker in captivity as their mate.
Conservation status and major threats
The Moluccan cockatoo is considered a "Vulnerable species" by the IUCN. Even though this protected species has been listed in Appendix I of CITES since 1989, making the trade in wild-caught cockatoo illegal their population in the wild has steadily declined.
But despite the listing, some illegal trapping did still occur between 1981 and 1990 when more than 74,000 of these birds were exported. Their decline is mainly due to illegal trapping of wild birds for the cage-bird trade, but also habitat loss through deforestation.
Probably the only remaining stronghold for the Moluccan cockatoo is the Manusela National Park located on Seram island. Even today some illegal trapping continues but to a lesser degree.
Their population decline is projected to continue and may even accelerate in the future, and probably it will warrant the species an uplisting to a higher category of threat.
Since the species is listed on the Wild Bird Conservation Act it can no longer be imported into the US, but the Moluccan cockatoo is being bred in captivity.
Did You Know?
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Species: C. moluccensis