Everything You Need to Know About Cockatoos

Want a bird that will give you all their love and more? Here is everything you need to know about the cockatoo!

Originating in Australia, the Philippines, New Guinea, Indonesia, and the Solomon Islands, the cockatoo is the most monochromatic of all the parrot species. Unlike their colorful, large parrot cousins, the cockatoo species has distinctive white, black, grey, or pink feathers. Their more muted colors are caused by a lack of a special texture known as Dyck texture in their feathers.

The Cockatoo Personality

Don't let their bland coloring fool you, though; cockatoos have very colorful personalities. As a breed, they are known for being smart, curious, and very loving. So loving, in fact, cockatoos are often called "love sponges"! They want to be around their humans 24/7 and enjoy nothing more than a good cuddle with their favorite human.

While this loving personality can be wonderful, they can become quite upset and destructive if they do not receive enough attention. Cockatoos who do not feel that their emotional needs are being met will scream, engage in feather plucking or feather picking, and become aggressive. Due to this, even though they are popular pets, they are recommended for highly experienced bird owners only.

Cockatoo Characteristics

Cockatoos are very vocal birds. They are able to learn some words but do not have the same ability to mimic human speech that other parrots have. Instead of using words to communicate, cockatoos squawk, often accompanied with loud screaming. You can also tell the bird's mood by the position of its crest.

  • Raised crest: Cockatoo is excited, alert, or agitated
  • Lowered crest: Cockatoo is feeling submissive or moving around
  • Relaxed crest: Cockatoo is eating, rest, or otherwise content

Different cockatoo species have different traits, including varying lifespans and sizes. According to Lianne McLeod, DVM, the bare eyed, sulfur crested, and umbrella cockatoo are some of the most common types of cockatoos that are kept as pets. They can range from 12 to 27 inches in size and the smaller species have a life span of about 40 years. Larger birds can live to 80 years of age or more. With such a long lifespan, bringing home a cockatoo is a long-term commitment.

Buying a Cockatoo

All species of cockatoo besides the cockatiel are protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) including: Tanimbar corella (Cacatua goffiniana), red-vented cockatoo (Cacatua haematuropygia), Moluccan cockatoo (Cacatua moluccensis), yellow-crested cockatoo (Cacatua sulphurea) and palm cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus) to discourage wild-caught cockatoos being sold into captivity. The cockatiel subspecies, the white cockatoo (sulphur-crested cockatoo- cacatua galerita- and Major Mitchell's cockatoo), and the Goffin's cockatoo are the most popular pets. 

You can find these pet birds for sale from breeders, and occasionally pet stores also have cockatoos for sale. Because cockatoos require so much care and attention, they sometimes don't work out in homes with inexperienced bird owners. These birds may be offered up for adoption by bird and animal rescues. Before you buy or adopt a cockatoo, make sure that you have the skill and time to give this bird the care it needs.

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Do you have a pet cockatoo? Show us in the comments!