Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are large white native parrots with a yellow crest. Males and females look very similar, although females have red eyes while males’ eyes are black.


Sulphur-crested Cockatoos (also known as ‘cockatoos’ or just ‘cockies’) are successfully adapting to urban environments as their natural habitat reduces. Having cockatoos in our cities and suburbs is quite wonderful. However, the following cockatoo behaviours can be challenging:

  • They can be messy feeders. Cockatoos will happily scavenge for food in garbage bins which can cause significant mess. Some birds have even learnt to open bin lids to access garbage.
  • Rubbish bins, food scraps, waste processing centres, open grassy ovals, people intentionally feeding birds, gardens planted with seed and fruit-bearing plants all provide ample food for these opportunistic birds. Some of these sources are not particularly healthy for the birds.
  • They have a harsh, screeching call which can be very loud, especially when the flock is large.
  • Cockatoos are fond of chewing and pulling materials apart, such as the soft timbers around window frames, decking wood, outdoor furniture, trees, shrubs etc.

What can you do

  • Don’t overfill your garbage bins and make sure the lid is closed. Cockies and ibis both thrive on access to food scraps.
  • If using a public park or open space, always put your rubbish in the bin or take it home and dispose of it appropriately.
  • Don’t feed or encourage cockatoos. They are likely to turn up regularly in noisy and often destructive flocks. Sutherland Shire has a wide variety of natural food sources for cockies, so they won’t be missing out if you don’t feed them.

If cockies are damaging your house, garden or other property, the following strategies may be helpful:

  • Give them a quick squirt with a water pistol, spray bottle, or garden hose.
  • Hang shiny, moving objects around the problem area (old CDs, strips of foil or used foil pie-dishes are perfect for this!).
  • Use wildlife-friendly netting on a frame over the affected area.
  • Try painting timber areas white as a deterrent.
  • Use a scarecrow or hang a hawk/owl-shaped kite or decoy.
  • String fishing wire across the area to deter them from landing
  • The Australian Museum, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney University and Domain Trust are currently conducting a long-term project to understand Sydney’s Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and Australian White Ibis populations. If you see an ibis or cockatoo with a numbered plastic tag on its wing or metal / coloured plastic bands around its legs, report it to the Big City Birds project. By reporting the bird, you will be providing valuable data about ibis populations and behaviour.
  • You can send your report via email to or download the Big City Birds (available for both Androids and iPhones).

It may take several days for the birds to stop hanging around, so be persistent but take care not to harm them. They are protected under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 and it is illegal to harm them.

Contact WIRES if you find an injured native animal