Major Mitchell's Cockatoo: Habitat and Characteristics

Major Mitchell's cockatoo flies over Australian semi-arid regions in search of food. Although it's not common, it can become a somewhat stubborn pet.
Major Mitchell's Cockatoo: Habitat and Characteristics

Last update: 15 June, 2021

Probably the last thing you expect to find in the Australian semi-arid regions is a spectacular bird like Major Mitchell’s cockatoo, but nature is full of surprises. This species, along with many other species of cockatoos, resides in Australia, where it’s endemic.

Do they form large or small groups? What type of habitat do they reside in within Australia? These questions and many others will be answered throughout the article.

Habitat of Major Mitchell’s cockatoo

As previously mentioned, Major Mitchell’s cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri) resides in Oceania, specifically, within Australia. However, it isn’t distributed throughout the country, but is located in specific areas of the region: the center and the west. In turn, its favorite habitat is in open forests – especially eucalyptus ones – and bushes.

Physical characteristics

Not only is this bird known by the name of Major Mitchell’s cockatoo, but it also receives many other nicknames, which highlight certain striking characteristics of the animal. Among them, we have Leadbeater’s cockatoo and Pink cockatoo. There’s another nickname that we’ll mention in a moment too.

The only species of its genus with a spectacular crest

Major Mitchell’s cockatoo responds to the scientific name of Lophochroa leadbeateri and is the only species that integrates this genus. Among the most striking features of this bird, is the spectacular crest that crowns its head.

On the crest there are 16 long, curved feathers, with reddish and yellow hues like the flag of Spain. For this reason, in Spanish-speaking countries it also receives the names Spanish flag cockatoo or Spanish cockatoo.

Regarding their size, these birds reach a length between 33 and 40 centimeters (up to 16 inches) and their weight is around 480 grams (just over one pound). In addition, two subspecies are currently known: L. leadbeateri leadbeateri and L. leadbeateri mollis, differing by almost imperceptible features, such as the variation in the tonality of their crest.

2 Inca cockatoos.

Sexual dimorphism

Regarding sexual dimorphism, there are hardly any differences between males and females of this species. However, it should be mentioned that males are larger than the females. Another way to differentiate them is in the tonality, as the female has a somewhat lighter color.

In females, the eyes are pink and the ventral part is white, while in males it’s brown and salmon, respectively.

Both sexes have a pink face and neck, along with lower parts that show tones reminiscent of salmon. Finally, both the wings and tail reflect a salmon color that turns white towards the tips. The back is also whitish.

Behavior of Major Mitchell’s cockatoo

These birds have a strong character, and are not at all docile. On the other hand, they are very intelligent birds, which need to interact with each other and perceive stimuli in order to stay active.

If they don’t have any toys or anything to amuse them, they may get bored and may display aggressive behavior. For example, if they’re in captivity, they often destroy elements of the cage. It goes without saying that, due to these characteristics, they aren’t recommended as pets.

Aggression or bad behavior

Although they aren’t docile animals, they aren’t usually particularly violent. If you notice that the cockatoo is beginning to show signs of misbehavior or even aggressiveness -such as destroying things- consider the following options:

  • Attention: If the cockatoo gets bored, it will try to get your attention in different ways, with bad behavior.
  • Breeding season: Males tend to become aggressive during this period of time, especially if the couple is of a different age.
  • Cage position: Placing the cage near noisy places or in other inappropriate places can cause serious changes in the bird’s behavior.
  • Socialization: You may not know how to interact with a cockatoo and it may feel threatened by your presence.

Major Mitchell’s cockatoo: Feeding

If you’re wondering what food Major Mitchell’s cockatoo eats, they have a great variety! Their diet is mainly made up of different seeds from herbs and trees and fruits. Not only that, but it can also ingest invertebrate larvae, so we can say that it is an omnivorous animal.


In nature, we can observe that cockatoos usually form small groups, ranging from 10 to 50 birds. In relevant situations, such as drought or abundance of food, several groups meet. Of course, during the nesting season —from August to December— each group separates and migrates towards the traditional nesting places. Only couples stay together.

Because of this, experts suggest that the couple is the basic social unit.

Threats and conservation status

Currently, Major Mitchell’s cockatoo populations are stable and in a conservation status of least concern. However, the loss of their habitat has led to a considerable reduction in the population in the southern and eastern parts.

In addition, these animals are exposed to various threats, such as theft of nests or traps. In order to put an end to these attacks, recovery plans have been activated and conservation sites have been protected.

Can you have an Inca cockatoo as a pet?

One of the main reasons why we wouldn’t recommend this bird as a pet is its excessive price and dominant behavior, compared to other popular pet birds, such as canaries or parrots.

An Inca cockatoo flies over the blue sky.

In short, Major Mitchell’s cockatoo is one of the most important Australian endemic animals for poultry farming. This noisy, very active bird, which loves to play, is usually much more beautiful and curious in nature than in the domestic environment, as it has quite a difficult to manage temperament.

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