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Moluccan Cockatoo

Common Names: Moluccan Cockatoo, Salmon-crested Cockatoo, M2
Order: Psittaciformes
Family: Cacatuidae Cacatuinae
Cacatua moluccensis
Native Range: Moluccas Islands in Eastern Indonesia [Map]
Habitat: Lowland Forests
IUCN Conservation Status: Vulnerable
Size: Very Large 18-22 inches, 850/1000 grams average weight
Life Expectancy: 60+ years
Noise Level: Extremely Loud

Moluccan cockatoos belong to the order of birds known as Psittaciformes (parrots) and are members of the family Cacatuidae (cockatoos). Moluccans are one of the twenty-one currently recognized species of Cockatoos. They are endemic to the Moluccas island group in Indonesia (Spice Islands) where they have been recorded from the islands of Ceram, Saparua, Haruku and Ambon. They are cavity nesters with a preferred habitat of lowland forests up to 3000 feet in elevation.

Trapping for the pet trade and timber extraction have severely impacted wild Moluccan populations and they are among the six species of Cockatoos considered by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) to face a high risk of extinction in the short or medium term. Moluccans are protected under the CITES agreement (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) and can no longer be legally imported into the United States. However, they are being domestically bred in captivity.

Moluccans lack obviously distinguishable sexually dimorphic characteristics, so it is not possible to tell male from female at a glance. According to some sources, females tend to be larger than males on the average. Mature females can reportedly be distinguished from males by having a deep brown to burgundy red iris in contrast to a male's darker brown to black iris. However, sexing by eye color is not entirely dependable and even experts have been fooled by a darker eyed female or lighter eyed male. A DNA test is the least invasive reliable method for determining the sex of immature or mature Moluccans. Noodles, our year-old Moluccan, has been DNA tested and is male.

Moluccans are among the largest cockatoos, and are long-lived birds with an average life span of 60+ years in captivity. One source reports the longest-lived captive Moluccan cockatoo on record at 125 years. They have white-pink feathers with a definite peachy glow, a slight yellow on the under wing and underside of the tail feathers, and a large retractable recumbent crest which they raise when threatened or excited, revealing otherwise hidden bright salmon colored plumes. Their feathers produce a powder down that gets everywhere quickly and can cause problems for people with allergies or asthma. Frequent baths are essential to help control the powder down produced by Moluccans.

Little scientific information is available on the diet of wild Moluccans, although fruit is likely important and they are known to take insects. One researcher has correlated their abundance in the wild with the availability of potential nest trees and figs. Everyone seems to have their own take on proper diet for Moluccan cockatoos, but ours gets a bowl of cut up fruits and vegetables consisting of 1/3 fruit and 2/3 veggies with some tree nuts mixed in for his morning meal, and a bowl of dry parrot blend consisting of pellets, seeds, nuts, noodles, dried banana, carrots and papaya in the late afternoon. Noodles particularly relishes dried papaya, corn on the cob, raw noodles, and bread as favored treats.

Moluccans are popular for their beauty and trainability but they are not a bird that should be considered if you don't have time to share with yours and extra cash for their toys. These birds crave human interaction and LOVE LOVE LOVE to shred their toys.

Moluccans are considered to be the one of the most demanding parrots to keep as pets due to their high intelligence, large size, potential noise level, and need to chew. Cockatoos as a group are among parrots that seem to show a propensity for feather damaging behavior, due to lack of enrichment or as a stress coping mechanism. A maladjusted Moluccan may become aggressive. They are highly social pets and require a great deal of attention and activity to remain healthy and well-adjusted. Moluccans have a beak shape that bites with high pressure and cutting action at the same time, and are capable of doing considerable damage to fingers, ears, and whatever else they choose to bite. Noddles demolishes toys made from 2x4s in short order.

Moluccans are good talkers, although not usually good enunciators. They also mimic sounds such as laughter or dog barking very well. They have a well deserved reputation of being loud birds and have piercingly loud cries. A well-adjusted Moluccan will scream several times a day just because it's their nature to scream. Our Moluccan seems most inclined to scream for 15 to 20 minutes in the early evening around dusk. However, a Moluccan that becomes a horrid, continuous screamer is maladjusted. Because hand raised Moluccans are very cuddly and affectionate, they can very easily be spoiled early on, and can become demanding and begin screaming to get attention.

Moluccans require a very large and sturdy cage. It is essential that Moluccans are supplied with a large variety of toys and learn to play and entertain themselves. This does not mean to say they should not be cuddled and shown they are loved. It just means that Moluccans must learn to entertain themselves and that you must learn to ignore them completely when they start screaming and go to them only after they have stopped. We will tell you this is not an easy thing to do, but going to them while screaming just reinforces screaming behavior.

Due to their large size, longevity, and loud voices, the potential Moluccan owner should carefully weigh the decision. This is definitely not a bird for someone living in an apartment or townhouse setting. A pet Moluccan can be a constant source of entertainment and companionship. They are affectionate, extremely intelligent, and learn behaviors, both positive and negative, very easily.

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