Often called a pink cockatoo due to its soft pink body colouring, the Major Mitchell cockatoo is in fact named after Major Sir Thomas Mitchell, who was a surveyor and explorer of Southeast Australia during the 1800s. This beautiful cockatoo’s most distinctive feature is its white tipped crest, which is banded red and yellow at the base. The wings are generally white with a darker pink underside. The birds grow to 36 cm long, a medium size amongst cockatoos. Living in small groups or pairs, they have also been seen with flocks of galahs and little corellas.
Major Mitchell cockatoos are found across inland Australia, in a wide variety of arid and semi-arid environments from forest to mallee scrub. Their main requirements are fresh surface water and trees that have large hollows for nesting.
During the day, the cockatoos are found on the ground and in the trees eating seeds – particularly acacia seeds, fruit, nuts and tubers. At dawn and dusk they gather at waterholes to drink.
During the mating season, males attract females by strutting along branches bobbing their heads with their crests raised. Adult pairs mate for life and return to the same breeding grounds year after year. Females lay 3-4 eggs in the hollows of eucalyptus or Callitris trees. The hollows are lined with bark that the birds strip from the trees using their beaks. Both parents incubate the eggs for a month and take turns feeding the young, who leave the nest at 6-8 weeks. Breeding pairs need a large feeding area, so nests are well spaced. Loss of habitat is particularly affecting nest sites, so in some states the bird is listed as vulnerable.