It’s not easy to stand-out among such spectacular birds as the cockatoos, but the Moluccan Cockatoo (Cacatua moluccensis) does so admirably. In size, color, trainability, and many other ways, it is in a class by itself. This adds to the species’ allure, but there is a downside…wild populations are plummeting, and their needs, as pets, are beyond the capabilities of many owners.
At 20 inches in length, the Moluccan is the largest of the white-colored cockatoos. Females often exceed males in size, and are also distinguished by their brown, as opposed to black, eyes.
The white body feathers, infused with pink, are often described as having a “peach-colored hue”. Even by cockatoo standards, the head crest is magnificent, being very long and colored deep-pink to orange-red.
Range and Habitat
The Moluccan Cockatoo is known from only 4 small islands within the Malaccan or Spice Island chain in Indonesia. It seems now to have disappeared as a breeding bird from all except Seram Island, where only two significant populations remain.
Within its tiny range, the Moluccan Cockatoo relies upon primary (un-cut) lowland forests. Unfortunately, this habitat is disappearing rapidly due to logging activities. It sometimes appears in secondary forests, but has difficulty breeding there due to the lack of suitable nesting sites (tree cavities high above the forest floor).
In the past, populations were decimated by collection for the pet trade. Estimates place the numbers exported between 1980 and 1990 at 75,000+; in-country sales were also significant. Despite legal protections, poaching continues, and wild-caught cockatoos are sold openly in some Indonesian markets.
As is true for any species confined to a small island, storms and similar natural events can cause overnight population crashes.
Moluccan Cockatoos as Pets: Loveable, but…
Moluccans are considered by many to be among the most intelligent and responsive of all cockatoos. Pets are often described as sociable and affectionate, and may form extremely strong bonds to a single person. Professional trainers, zoo educators and others who use Moluccan Cockatoos in bird shows and demonstrations rave about their abilities to learn tricks and mimic words and sounds.
However, the needs of a large, intelligent, active bird of any species must be carefully considered by potential owners. Perhaps even more than their relatives, pet Moluccans are prone to developing severe behavioral problems if denied proper care, space and attention. Feather-plucking, screaming and stress-related illnesses are all-too common. Birds that bond to one person, or are in breeding condition, may become aggressive…and with beaks capable of cutting into young coconuts (a favorite food), they can inflict serious injuries.
A loud (even by parrot standards!), shrill call and copious powder-down production are other points to consider.
A Plea to Potential Cockatoo Owners
Desirable qualities tempt many to underestimate the difficulties entailed in owning a cockatoo of any species. Please research carefully, speak with cockatoo owners and write me for advice before acquiring one of these magnificent birds.
Further thoughts on care and conservation
Moluccan Cockatoo image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Clinton Steeds
Bottom two Moluccan Cockatoo images referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Mahbob Yusef