Citron-Crested Cockatoo: Bird Species Profile

Temperament, Diet, and Care Tips

Sumba Citron Crested Cockatoo
Ger Bosma / Getty Images

The citron cockatoo is a slightly smaller, quieter, and more subdued variety of the sulphur-crested cockatoo. It is a subspecies of the lesser sulphur-crested cockatoo. Its distinctive orange crest sets it apart from the yellow plumes of the other subspecies. Its personality makes it a popular choice for owners who want to be needed by a pet bird and have the time to do so.

Species Overview

Common Names: Citron-crested cockatoo, citron cockatoo, Sumba cockatoo

Scientific Name: Cacatua sulphurea citrinocristata

Adult Size: 13 and 15 inches in length

Life Expectancy: 50 years in captivity under ideal circumstances

Origin and History

The citron cockatoo is native to Indonesia's Lesser Sunda Islands and Sumba. It is sometimes called the Sumba cockatoo. Its preferred habitat is tropical forests, especially along the edge of those forests.

Officially classified as an endangered species, citron cockatoos are critically endangered over its entire native range. Its population decline is due to habitat loss and illegal trapping for the pet trade.


Citron cockatoos are quieter than most cockatoo species, but they still have big personalities and love to play and interact with their owners. This bird is a slightly more withdrawn cockatoo than other varieties, and it may take a bit of time to become acclimated to new surroundings.

Once it feels comfortable, the bird is curious, affectionate, and will want to be by your side as often as possible. This species recommended for a bird owner who has plenty of free time to spend with their pet. Cockatoos, in general, need more human attention than other types of parrots, and the citron is a classic example. 

In general, all cockatoos are intelligent birds with the ability to learn to speak and do tricks like dance, wave, and play fetch.

Speech and Vocalizations

Birds who become talkers are most vocal early in the morning. Citron cockatoos are less skilled at vocal imitation than other members of the parrot family with learned vocabularies of no more than about 15 words and phrases. These birds are generally quiet by parrot standards, but they can make loud growling sounds that can suddenly escalate to very high-pitched, startling shrieks. Citron cockatoos are not the right choice for those who live in apartments or condominiums; their potential screams and vocalizations may bother nearby neighbors.

Citron-Crested Cockatoo Colors and Markings

Citron cockatoos are mostly white with pale orange patches on their cheeks, pale yellow on the undersides of their wings and tail feathers, and a bright orange crest that clearly distinguishes them from the other sulfur-crested subspecies, which have yellow crests. The citron cockatoo has dark gray feet and grayish-black beaks.

Males and females look identical. The only noticeable difference is that males have black eyes, while females have brown eyes. This difference is only apparent in adult birds; maturity occurs between 3 to 5 years of age.

Caring for a Citron-Crested Cockatoo

Like all cockatoos, they are social birds that require a lot of human interaction to remain emotionally healthy. Citrons that feel neglected will quickly resort to screaming and destructive behaviors. If you're unable to interact with them, some owners report that their birds appreciate having a television or radio left on; they are especially fond of music.

While citrons are among the smaller of the cockatoo species, these birds still need plenty of living space. The minimum cage size for a citron cockatoo is one with a 4-foot long by 4-foot wide and at least 4 feet tall. Bigger is better; an aviary setting is ideal.

Common Health Problems

The citron-crested cockatoo is susceptible to psittacosis, a disease caused by the bacteria Chlamydia psitttici. Signs of this disease are lethargy, discharge from the eyes, and respiratory problems. It is treatable with antibiotics.

Nutritional deficiencies are also common in citron cockatoos and preventable with a balanced diet or vitamin supplements. 

Emotional issues can lead to destructive behavior like feather-pulling. Birds that feel neglected or crave human interaction are more likely to engage in self-mutilating behavior.

Diet and Nutrition

Like all cockatoos, citrons are prone to weight gain, so owners should monitor their fat intake. In the wild, this bird eats seeds, nuts, berries, and fruits. A healthy diet for a pet citron cockatoo should consist of high-quality pellets, a daily helping of fresh bird-safe fruits and vegetables, and occasionally seeds or nuts as treats for good behavior. These birds can also eat some proteins in the form of cooked chicken or other meats. 

To start, offer approximately 1/4 cup of formulated diet and 1/4 cup of fresh fruits and vegetables daily. If the bird consumes all of its food, incrementally add small amounts as desired. Never feed birds avocados or chocolate; these foods are toxic to them.


All parrots need exercise, and the citron cockatoo is no exception. Owners should provide a minimum of 3 to 4 hours of time outside of the cage per day so that the bird can play and stretch its muscles.

This activity time also provides the essential human contact the birds need. Consider training it to talk and speaking to it during this time to give it the social interaction it craves.

Among the parrots, cockatoos have some of the strongest beaks and jaws. Provide plenty of durable, safe chew toys for them. Expect some of the toys to get shredded. Since birds tend to get bored quickly, rotate the toys in and out often.

  • Social, affectionate, likes handling

  • Intelligent, can learn to talk and do tricks

  • Quieter than other cockatoo species

  • Can get noisy, not well-suited for apartments

  • Requires at least 3 to 4 hours of supervised out-of-cage time

Where to Adopt or Buy a Citron-Crested Cockatoo

With their beautiful colors and endearing personalities, citron cockatoos are a popular pet bird. This species is not commonly found in pet stores, so you will need to find a reputable breeder. Trade of wild-born birds is illegal, and you should buy a bird that has a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) certificate that proves it was captive-bred.

Ask how long they have been breeding and tour their facility. And make sure that the bird you take home is alert, active, and exhibits all the signs of a healthy bird, such as bright eyes, clean feathers, and full crops.

The price ranges from $3,000 to $4,000 for hand-tame babies or adults that need a new home. Some online sources where you can find citron-crested cockatoos include:

More Pet Bird Species and Further Research

If you are interested in the citron cockatoo, you should also consider these other bird species: 

Otherwise, take a look at other cockatoo species profiles.