Moluccan Cockatoo Profile

Cacatua Moluccensis

by Sally Blanchard

» Also known as the Salmon-crested Cockatoo and the Seram Cockatoo
» One of the largest cockatoos at 18 to 22"
» Endemic to the south Moluccas Islands of eastern Indonesia
» CITES I Considered vulnerab
le in its native range. Several years ago an undocumented population was found on Seram which increased the number of these magnificent birds in the wild.

I have worked with more Moluccan Cockatoos than any other species of cockatoo. I tamed dozens of wild-caught Moluccans when they were being imported by the thousands. Many of these birds seemed to have PTSD from the trauma of being captured, quarantined, and placed in pet shops or homes. Many people who bought these birds did so because Moluccans are large and beautiful. Unfortunately, many of the people who purchased them had no idea how to tame them. Some the birds that I worked with were hard to reach, while others adapted well to life in captivity. It depended a great deal on the patience and willingness of the caregivers to learn the right was to win the trust of their birds. Those that didn't adapt well often ended up with an array of behavioral problems including excessive screaming, feather picking, and mutilation. 

When breeders started raising domestically-raised Moluccans a common belief was that if the babies were given too much attention, they would become spoiled and develop serious behavioral problems. This misconception caused even more problems with this intelligent species. Proper socialization is critical and raising Moluccans with production techniques actually created over-dependent cockatoos with serious behavioral problems. Providing instructional interaction by teaching babies their social and survival skills is what creates independent cockatoos. Some cuddling is OK but it should be accompanied by instructional interaction. Being intelligent birds, Moluccans can easily be taught behaviors and tricks that can be used as distractions from negative behaviors. If not provided with nurturing guidance, they are smart enough to outsmart us on a regular basis and not only control their own lives (doing a bad job of it) but control our lives to the detriment of all involved. 

As far as companion cockatoos are concerned, Moluccans are both the most desired and the most problematic. Moluccan Cockatoos are highly intelligent. They are beautiful, demonstrative, enthusiastic, comical, loving, affectionate, and devoted to their caregivers. They are certainly much more than just a love sponge. When done “right” they are one of the very best companion parrots. They are very verbally communicative, often good talkers and just about always wonderful mutterers. Moluccans can be very conversational; you can talk to them and they talk back but they don’t always agree with you. They are naturally noisy but allowing them to let it all out at least once a day for a short time will help keep them from being excessively noisy. The big problem with their vocalizations is not simply that they are loud but that they can easily evolve into excessive, manipulative screaming if the people in their lives are not very careful about setting rules and providing guidance. Moluccans need a lot of stimulation with toys and activities but they don’t do well with an excessive amount of physical affection, mostly because they often form too strong a sexual bond with their caregivers. Moluccans are strongly interactive with their human flocks. Like all cockatoos, Moluccans don’t do well shut away in a bird room. They need to live where the activity is and to be a part of it. They thrive on ambient attention.

Moluccans have an absolute need for rules and guidance. Their intelligence and size can create a challenge for the people in their lives. Moluccans are not for a person who can’t find time to work with them  and provide guidance. It is critical to establish independence in young birds so they do not become overdependent on human interaction. This is done with lots of instructional interaction when they are young. It is equally important to continue these interactions throughout their entire lives.

These intelligent cockatoos have a serious problem with a sudden decrease in attention level. Moluccans can easily suffer “broken hearts” from neglect and this can lead to serious behavioral problems. These are high activity birds who need to learn to entertain themselves. They can be headstrong and stubborn. Moluccans are potentially one of the loudest birds alive. Their noise levels can be redirected into acceptable talking, whistling, or whispering. Screaming is not the real problem; excessive manipulative screaming is the problem. Males are generally more dominant than females. Out-of-control (in control of their own lives) Moluccans can create serious problems for caregivers. Undisciplined sexually mature males who have been allowed to bond sexually to their caregivers may become aggressive stalkers of anyone else in their perceived territory. Moluccans who receive focused attention and instructional interaction from many people in their lives are less likely to show aggressive territorial behavior based on sexual bonding regardless of gender and/or age.

Besides quality human interactions, sturdy toys are a necessity for big-beaked Moluccans. Large chunks of wood will be destroyed fairly quickly, Being mechanical-minded, these large cockatoos love heavy duty metal or impact resistant acrylic/plastic toys that move around and make noise.

Many, but not all, Moluccans also have serious problems with feather destructive behavior. The reasons for this can be so complex that most diagnostics are educated guesses and can include disease, hormonal overload, poor nutrition, insecurity from lack of early socialization, heavy metal toxicity, food allergies, excessive amounts of salt, emotional deprivation, and attention rewards for the picking behaviors. I am convinced that a varied fresh food diet with veggies, some fruit, quinoa and whole grains are a much better diet than any pelleted diet would ever be! A feather picked bird may not be attractive but this alone is not life-threatening. The greatest problem is that feather destructive behavior can exacerbate into skin mutilation and this becomes a life-threatening problem with Moluccans if a solution is not found. Another serious problem with these cockatoos is cloacal prolapse. This occurs when the cloaca, which is the chamber where the droppings collect, protrudes through the vent. Some avian veterinarians have had some success in treating this problem but it remains one of the most serious problems for some Moluccan Cockatoos and their caregivers. 




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