Bird Facts Gang Gang Cockatoo

The Gang-gang cockatoo has the scientific name of Callocephalon fimbriatum. It belongs to the family Cacatuidae and the order Psittaciformes. Its common names include Red-crowned cockatoo and Red-headed cockatoo.

The gang-gang is native to south-eastern Australia, being widely distributed through eastern New South Wales and through Victoria’s north-eastern regions. It is commonly seen in the Australian Capital Territory in winter where it feasts on cotoneaster and hawthorn berries.

Gang-gang cockatoos live in different habitats according to the season. In summer, they spend their time in tall mountain forests and woodlands. These habitats have dense, shrubby understoreys. In winter, the birds move to lower altitudes into more open forests and woodlands. This is also the time they are seen on roadsides and in urban parks and gardens.

The gang-gang cockatoo ranges in length from 32 to 37cm and has a wingspan of 62 to 76cm. It is a short, stocky bird with a wispy crest. The wings are large and broad and the tail short. The gang-gang is sexually dimorphic. The adult male is easily identified by the distinctive scarlet head and crest. He has a slate-grey body.

The female has a dark grey head and crest. The feathers of the chest and belly are edged with salmon pink and yellow. Both sexes have the pale-grey edging to the feathers of the wings and upperparts. In females there is additional yellow barring.

Gang-gangs are gregarious birds and may form large groups of up to 60 during the non-breeding season. During the warmer parts of the day, these birds will sit and preen each other. In captivity, this tends to become ‘over-preening’ and may lead to feather plucking.

During the breeding season, they form monogamous pairs and feed in pairs or small family groups. They stay mainly in the trees, coming to the ground to drink or to forage for fallen fruits or pine cones. For cockatoos, they are relatively quiet. The only signs of their presence may be slight noises as they feed, and falling twigs and leaf clusters. Where several pairs nest near each other, the young will roost together while the parents go off to feed. The call of the cockatoo has been likened to a creaking gate.

Gang-gangs feed mainly on seeds. They have a preference for the seeds of eucalypts and acacias, and introduced hawthorns. They also eat nuts, insects, berries and fruit.

The breeding season extends from October to January. For nesting, gang-gangs require tall trees with suitable hollows. The female chooses a hollow which may then be adapted by both birds. The nest is lined with wood chips and dust as the hollow is enlarged. Two eggs are generally laid.

Both parents prepare the nest, incubate the eggs and care for the young birds. After fledging, the young are fed for a further four to six weeks.

The gang-gang is adversely affected by the removal of older trees as this reduces the number of nesting sites available. Clearing and degradation of habitat reduces foraging and roosting areas. Breeding pairs have specific preferences for certain shapes, sizes and positions of nests. Successful breeding is compromised as habitat areas are reduced or altered. Gang-gang cockatoos are also known to be affected by Psittacine cirovirus disease (PCD).

One population of gang-gangs in the Lane Cover Valley, New South Wales, has been listed as threatened. The gang-gang cockatoo has disappeared from Northern Tasmania and from King Island. Its conservation status in New South Wales is listed as vulnerable.

This charismatic and distinctive bird is not the easiest of cockatoos to keep in captivity but it is certainly one of the most attractive.