What Is the Origin of the Cockatoo?

Cockatoos generally come from Australia and its surrounding nations.

Cockatoos generally come from Australia and its surrounding nations.

Generally, cockatoos are known for the big, colorful plumage atop their noggins. But not all species of cockatoo sport such elaborate headpieces. There are 21 types of cockatoo, and while their appearances vary here and there, they share common ancestry and origin.

Land Down Under

Cockatoos almost all originate from the Southern Hemisphere, particularly Australia. But not all of them are Aussies -- they also come from Indonesia and the Philippines. They may be found on islands north of the Australian continents, distributed throughout the Arafura, Timor, Banda and Molucca seas.

Names and Lineage

Not all cockatoos have the head plumage so often associated with this type of bird. All 21 species of cockatoo belong to the Cacatuidae family of birds, which along with two other families belongs to the Psittaciformes order. The name originates from a word in Malay, the national language of Indonesia and other nearby countries. The Malay word is "kakatua," which you may see as another name for cockatoo even in the United States.

Popularity Boom

Cockatoos boomed in popularity in the United States in the mid-1970s, in some part due to the popular television cop drama "Baretta." The title character had a white-and-crested cockatoo named Fred, earning the species an unprecedented amount of exposure and popularity with U.S. audiences. The bird was soon known to clamoring consumers as the "Baretta bird," cementing its place in American pop culture.

The Future for Cockatoos

Despite their common ancestry, not all cockatoos are equally well-suited for the future. As man continues to deforest and develop the cockatoo's natural habitat, some species thrive while others experience a decline. Varying species of cockatoo now occupy spots on vulnerable, near-threatened, endangered and critically endangered species lists, making the future of this family uncertain at best.

About the Author

Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

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