Lophochroa leadbeateri

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo
With crest raised in Queensland, Australia
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Psittaciformes
Superfamily: Cacatuoidea
Family: Cacatuidae
Subfamily: Cacatuinae
Tribe: Cacatuini
Genus: Lophochroa
Bonaparte, 1857
Species: L. leadbeateri
Binomial name
Lophochroa leadbeateri
(Vigors, 1831)

C. (L.). l. leadbeateri  (Vigors, 1831)
C. (L.). l. mollis  (Mathews, 1912)

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo range (in red)
  • Plyctolophus leadbeateri
    Vigors, 1831
  • Lophochroa leadbeateri

The Major Mitchell's Cockatoo (Lophochroa leadbeateri) also known as Leadbeater's Cockatoo or Pink Cockatoo, 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.[1][2]


With its soft-textured white and salmon-pink plumage and large, bright red and yellow crest, it is generally recognised as the most beautiful 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".

Systematics and naming

It is possibly (though not certainly) a little closer related to Cacatua than the Galah, and 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 the 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.[1]

The scientific name commemorates the British naturalist, Benjamin Leadbeater. In Central Australia south of Alice Springs, the Pitjantjatjara term is kakalyalya.[3]

Distribution and habitat

Unlike the Galah, Major Mitchell's Cockatoo has 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. In contrast to other cockatoos, Major Mitchell pairs will not nest close to one another; in consequence, 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 has been on occasion where the two species have interbred and produced hybridised offspring[4]

Conservation Status


Major Mitchell's Cockatoo are not listed as threatened on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.


  • Major Mitchell's Cockatoo are listed as threatened on the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act (1988).[5] Under this Act, an Action Statement for the recovery and future management of this species has been prepared.[6]
  • On the 2007 advisory list of threatened vertebrate fauna in Victoria, this species is listed as vulnerable.[7]


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. As of June 2013, 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.



Further reading

  • www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Database entry includes a lengthy justification of why this species is of least concern
  • Flegg, Jim (2002): Photographic Field Guide: Birds of Australia. Reed New Holland, Sydney & London. ISBN 1-876334-78-9
  • Fluffies.org (2006): Zazu the Major Mitchells cockatoo. Retrieved 2006-JAN-14.
  • Chicago Zoological Society (2009): http://web.archive.org/web/20091009213655/http://www.czs.org/czs/Cookie.aspx

External links

  • Major Mitchell's Cockatoo at the World Parrot Trust Parrot Encyclopedia
  • BirdLife Species Factsheet
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