IUCN threat status:

Least Concern (LC)


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Major Mitchell's Cockatoo

The Major Mitchell's cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri) also known as Leadbeater's cockatoo or pink cockatoo,[2] is a medium-sized cockatoo restricted to arid and semi-arid inland areas of Australia. It is here placed in its own monotypic genus Lophochroa, though to include it in Cacatua as others do is not wrong as long as the corellas are also included there.[3][4]


Adult perched on a tree in Melbourne Zoo

With its soft-textured white and salmon-pink plumage and large, bright red and yellow crest, it is generally recognised as the most beautiful[peacock term] of all cockatoos. It is named in honour of Major Sir Thomas Mitchell, who wrote, "Few birds more enliven the monotonous hues of the Australian forest than this beautiful species whose pink-coloured wings and flowing crest might have embellished the air of a more voluptuous region."[5]


Major Mitchell females and males are almost identical. The males are usually bigger. The female has a broader yellow stripe on the crest and develop a red eye when mature.[6]

Systematics and naming[edit]

It is possible, though not certain, that the Major Mitchell's cockatoo is more closely related to Cacatua than is the galah, and that its lineage diverged around the time of or shortly after the acquisition of the long crest – probably the former as this crest type is not found in all Cacatua cockatoos and therefore must have been present in an early or incipient stage at the time of the divergence of the Major Mitchell's cockatoo's ancestors. Like the galah, this species has not lost the ability to deposit diluted pigments dyes in its body plumage, although it does not produce melanin coloration anymore, resulting in a lighter bird overall compared to the galah. Indeed, disregarding the crest, Major Mitchell's cockatoo looks almost like a near-leucistic version of that species (see also "External links" below). Another indication of the early divergence of this species from the "white" cockatoo lineage is the presence of features found otherwise only in corellas, such as its plaintive yodeling cry, as well as others which are unique to Major Mitchell's and the true white cockatoos, for example the large crest and rounded wing shape.[3]

The scientific name commemorates the British naturalist, Benjamin Leadbeater. In Central Australia south of Alice Springs, the Pitjantjatjara term is kakalyalya.[7]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

In contrast to those of the galah, populations of the Major Mitchell's cockatoo have declined rather than increased as a result of man-made changes to the arid interior of Australia. Where galahs readily occupy cleared and part-cleared land, Major Mitchell's cockatoo requires extensive woodlands, particularly favouring Callitris, Allocasuarina and Eucalyptus. Unlike other cockatoos, Major Mitchell pairs will not nest close to one another, so they cannot tolerate fragmented, partly cleared habitats, and their range is contracting.

In the Mallee region of Victoria where the galah and Major Mitchell's cockatoo can be found to be nesting in the same area, there have been occasions where the two species have interbred and produced hybridised offspring.[8]

Conservation status[edit]


Major Mitchell's cockatoo is not listed as a threatened species on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.


  • Major Mitchell's cockatoo is listed as a threatened species on the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act (1988).[9] Under this Act, an Action Statement for the recovery and future management of this species has been prepared.[10]
  • On the 2007 advisory list of threatened vertebrate fauna in Victoria, this species is listed as vulnerable.[11]
Cookie, a cockatoo that is 80 years old, housed in Brookfield Zoo


One Major Mitchell's cockatoo that has become quite famous is "Cookie," a beloved resident of Illinois' Brookfield Zoo near Chicago since it opened in 1934. Cookie is 80 years old and has retired from actively being displayed. He currently resides in the keeper's office at the Perching Bird House.



  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Cacatua leadbeateri". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Cacatua leadbeateri on Avibase
  3. ^ a b Brown, D.M. & Toft, C.A. (1999): Molecular systematics and biogeography of the cockatoos (Psittaciformes: Cacatuidae). Auk 116(1): 141-157.
  4. ^ Les Christidis & Walter E Boles (2008) Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds, CSIRO Publishing
  5. ^ John Gould (1865). Handbook to The Birds of Australia, Volume 2. 
  6. ^ Major Mitchell's Cockatoo Handbook of the Birds of the World
  7. ^ Cliff Goddard (1992). Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara To English Dictionary (2 ed.). Alice Springs, Northern Territory: Institute for Aboriginal Development. p. 26. ISBN 0-949659-64-9. 
  8. ^ Hurley. V, The State of Australias Birds 2008, Major mitchell's Cockatoo: changing threats, Birds Australia, p. 8 ISSN: 1036-7810
  9. ^ Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria
  10. ^ Department of Sustainability and Environment, Victoria
  11. ^ Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment (2007). Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria - 2007. East Melbourne, Victoria: Department of Sustainability and Environment. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-74208-039-0. 

Further reading[edit]


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