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Major Mitchell Cockatoo - Characteristics

By Edited Jun 4, 2015 0 0

Leadbeater's cockatoo, pink cockatoo or Major Mitchell

The one and only Lophochro

The Major Mitchell cockatoo is also known as Leadbeater's cockatoo or pink cockatoo. It is the only member of its genus Lophochro. One of its common names commemorates Benjamin Leadbeater, a British naturalist while the other is in honour of Major Sir Thomas Mitchell (1792 – 1855), explorer and Surveyor-General of the colony of New South Wales. There are two subspecies.

Major Mitchell Cockatoo

Range
The Major Mitchell cockatoo is locally common but its occurrence is patchy though widespread. It is found from south-western Queensland south to north-west Victoria. It is present through most of South Australia into south-west Northern Territory and across to the west coast.

Habitat
The Major Mitchell is restricted to arid and semi-arid regions of inland Australia. It requires extensive woodlands for nesting and, as pairs will not nest near each other, their range is contracting. They are always found within easy reach of water.

Description
The Major Mitchell is a beautiful bird with soft-textured plumage and a striking bright red and yellow crest. It is 35 to 40cm long and weighs around 350 to 400 grams. Mature birds can be sexed by the eye colour with the hen having a reddish brown iris and the cock a very dark iris. It is a stocky bird with the underparts being salmon pink and upper surfaces white. The crest is large, white-tipped and banded in red and gold.

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Behaviour
This species is territorial during the breeding season requiring an area with a 2km radius from the nest site. The birds are usually seen in pairs. Mating pairs are monogamous.

Nutrition
Wild birds feed mostly on the ground. They eat seeds and fruit. Saltbush, wattles and cypress pines supply their seed needs with native and exotic melons also providing sustenance. Captive birds require a varied diet with a small parrot mix supplemented by fresh fruit and vegetables. Cooked chop or chicken bones can be given and some meat is important during the breeding season.

Reproduction
The courtship ritual involves the male strutting with a bobbing motion along the branch to the female. The crest will be raised. Mutual preening then precedes mating.

The breeding season extends from July to January. Tree hollows in eucalypts are used as nesting sites. A clutch of two eggs is laid with both male and female sharing nest making, incubation and raising of the chicks. Incubation is about 25 days and the young at 7 to 8 weeks and are fed by the parents for another 2 months. The birds are sexually mature at 3 to 4 years.

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Threats
The Major Mitchell cockatoo faces several threats. Clearing of woodlands, heavy grazing of their feeding area (preventing regeneration), illegal trapping and loss of nesting sites are the main threats.

As a pet
The Major Mitchell makes a delightful pet as a young bird but often become aggressive as it matures. Its chewing habits can be very destructive and it can also be very noisy. For caged birds, the provision of tree branches or pine cones will help alleviate boredom. It needs a large aviary with a length of at least 5 metres and a height of 2 metres high. Because they have such strong beaks, an all metal construction is best together with heavy gauge wire. If you wish your birds to breed, a hollow log of over a metre long should be supplied. The inside diameter should be around 30cm.

Breeding Major Mitchells in captivity is fraught with difficulty. Finding a pair which are compatible is not easy and mate aggression is reasonably common among males. Females can be very quickly killed by an attacking male. Spacious aviaries should be provided with plenty of cover available. Nest boxes should have a double entry to allow easy egress by the hen if she is attacked. Once a suitable mate is found, the birds form strong bonds. Males may be aggressive to anybody entering their aviary.

Captive Major Mitchell cockatoos need meaningful interaction and socialisation with owners. Frustrated and bored cockatoos are likely to develop behavioural problems.

Other articles on aviary birds that you might enjoy:

Pink and Grey Galah - Characteristics
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo - Characteristics
Long-billed Corella - Characteristics

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