Moluccan (Salmon-Crested) Cockatoo: Bird Species Profile

Temperament, Diet, and Care Tips

Moluccan cockatoo, as seen in the Bahamas.
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Moluccan cockatoos (salmon-crested cockatoos) are affectionate birds that bond strongly with their owners, thriving on the social interaction. Moluccans are a cuddly bird that tends to get clingy at times. As pets, they want to be as close to their human mate as they naturally would with a mate in the wild. This bird needs a dedicated owner. This parrot stands out from the rest because of their salmon-pink feathers and brilliantly colored crest. Their beauty rivals their boisterous, comical personalities.

Species Overview

Common Names: Moluccan cockatoo, salmon-crested cockatoo

Scientific Name: Cacatua moluccensis

Adult Size: 20 inches

Life Expectancy: Up to 70 years

Origin and History

This species is native to the Moluccas (Maluku Islands) in Indonesia. They live in the lowlands and form large flocks. Farmers sometimes consider them a nuisance. Moluccans separate from the flock when they form a mating pair during the breeding season. They mate for life and can get very depressed after losing a mate. Due to habitat loss and trapping for the pet trade, Moluccan cockatoos are an endangered species. Only captive-bred birds should be available to keep as pets.


Sweet and affectionate are understated descriptions. This cockatoo loves to be loved and wants nothing more than someone (bird or person) to be with at all times. As a pet, the Moluccan tends to turn into a one-person bird.

Moluccans are brilliant birds that thrive on challenges. They can learn to dance and do tricks and acts like an entertaining comedian when in a good mood.

While Moluccans are known to be extremely affectionate, males may get aggressive as they age. Any cranky cockatoo can bite, which is why they are not the right pet for families with children. This bird's powerful beak is capable of cracking open tough nuts.

Speech and Vocalizations

Moluccans are not the best talking parrot. They can mimic some sounds, though many owners say that it's more like yelling than talking. These birds are also screechers and will scream for attention when unhappy or no apparent reason. They are noisy, so they are not ideal for anyone with close neighbors.

Moluccan Cockatoo Colors and Markings

This species is easy to recognize by the bright pink feathers that adorn the base of its crest. It's barely noticeable when the feathers are flat, but when the bird is excited, afraid, or angry, the crest will raise and show off its true beauty. Among the cockatoo species, their crest is one of the fullest, only rivaled by the umbrella cockatoo.

Besides the pop of color on their heads, Moluccan cockatoos are primarily white with salmon-colored feathers on their chests and wings. They have a beautiful pale yellow to peach color underneath their wings. Their beaks and feet are black but often appear gray due to the natural powdery down that the bird sheds.

You can tell the sexes apart when the bird has matured to at least 3 years old. Male cockatoos have black eyes and females have brownish-colored eyes.

Caring for Moluccan Cockatoos

Moluccan cockatoos bond strongly with their owners. Do not get a Moluccan cockatoo unless you can be sure you will be home most of the time with it. If your lifestyle does not allow for this, consider getting two Moluccans. A pair will keep each other entertained. The trade-off is that owning two of these feisty birds is an even more significant commitment than one.

Moluccans will do best in the largest cage possible. If you can make the bird's home an aviary or a full room, your bird will be happier. The cage should be sturdy and able to withstand the cockatoo's destructive nature. Address its pent-up energy by providing plenty of toys and activity during its daily, supervised playtime.

All cockatoos emit a dusty powder. The birds produce it naturally to help preen its feathers. You can expect a light dusting of this powder on any surface the bird is near; be ready to clean often. This powder may be problematic for some people with allergies.

Common Health Problems

Moluccan cockatoos are prone to pulling out their feathers if not offered enough mental and physical activity or if their human mate does not spend sufficient time socializing with it.

Other conditions found in cockatoos include psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD), fatty liver disease, and obesity. You can curb the risk of weight-related illness if you monitor fat intake and keep it low.

Diet and Nutrition

In the wild, Moluccans eat seeds, fruits, nuts, and insects. Like all members of the cockatoo family, Moluccans can suffer health problems if they gain too much weight. Since Moluccans are not getting as much exercise as they would if they were in the wild, owners need to ensure these birds get a well-balanced diet and cut back on high-fat foods like seeds.

A formulated pellet diet should make up 75 percent of its food source. The other 25 percent should be bird-safe fruits and vegetables, such as bananas, apples, carrots, and kale. Thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables to protect your bird against pesticides and bacteria.

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, add small amounts as desired. Treats such as seeds, nuts, and table foods may be given in small quantities, especially as rewards for good behavior. Never feed birds avocados or chocolate, as these foods are toxic to them.


Moluccan cockatoos are an active bird. They need plenty of exercise to maintain their mental and physical well-being. Let your bird play and stretch its muscles. Give it between three and four hours outside the cage daily. It doesn't have to be in one long stretch.

Designate the bird's out-of-cage time in a safe, enclosed area where your bird won't hurt itself or escape from the house. You can also play to its foraging instinct and hide food as a game. The bird will enjoy the challenge.

Ensure your Moluccan cockatoo has bird-appropriate chew toys to exercise its beak. A bored cockatoo is likely to chew on whatever's available; this can include walls and furniture made of wood. Bird toys deter this unwanted behavior, though the bird will go through them quickly. Expect to have a ready toy supply available as back-ups or for rotating through. Once a toy stops being interesting to the bird, change it out.

  • Cuddly, affectionate, likes handling

  • Intelligent, can dance and learn tricks

  • May be able to learn to say a few words

  • Beautiful species, one of the most impressive crests

  • Noisy, not well-suited for apartments

  • Temperamental, has powerful beak; not well-suited for children

  • Emits powdery dust that can aggravate people with allergies

  • Large bird, requires a large space or aviary and at least 3 hours of exercise outside of the cage

Where to Buy or Adopt a Moluccan Cockatoo

If you are interested in getting one of these birds, contact local breeders to see if you can spend some time with the species. Young, hand-trained cockatoos average about $3,000 to $4,000.

Get to know someone that has experience raising Moluccans. Describe your lifestyle and discuss if they think this bird is a good fit for you. It's always better to check out a bird in advance and decide against adoption than to take one home and become overwhelmed. Some online sources where you can find Moluccan cockatoos include:

Sadly, this species has a very high abandonment rate because they do demand far more attention than people think. It's unfair to these very sensitive birds. They are also a long-lived species, able to live up to 70 years.

Make sure that the bird you want to take home is alert, active, and exhibits all the signs of a healthy bird, such as bright eyes, clean feathers, and full crops.

More Pet Bird Species and Further Research

If you’re interested in a similar species, check out:

Otherwise, check out all of our other cockatoo species profiles.