How to Identify a Cockatoo

A cockatoo is easily identifiable by its head plumage.

A cockatoo is easily identifiable by its head plumage.

A breed of parrot, cockatoos don't all look exactly alike. While there are dozens of subspecies, many share the same trademark characteristics, so if you know what to look for, you can differentiate a cockatoo from another type of bird.

Check the feathers. While some cockatoos feature different colors in their plumage, like rose, black or yellow, they are most often white-feathered birds.

Look at the bird's head. Cockatoos are the only breed of parrot with a head crest, which is a tuft of feathers that sits on top of the head. The crest can go from relaxed to erect depending on the bird's mood, and is most often a blend of the bird's all-over color with yellow or rose.

Gaze into your bird's eyes to identify its sex. Past the age of two, most female cockatoos develop red or reddish-brown coloring in their eyes. While this isn't foolproof, it can help you make an educated guess.

Look at the beak. Cockatoos have large, powerful curved beaks that get darker with age.

Count the toes. Cockatoos have four toes on each foot, with two facing forward and two facing backward. This is called a zygodactyl foot, and its formation helps birds like the cockatoo climb trees.

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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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