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Cockatoo: Personality, Food, & Care Guide

Cockatoos, which are large birds with even larger personalities, are popular, if occasionally needy and demanding, pets. The cockatoo family consists of over 20 species, all of which vary in size, appearance, and disposition.

Among the most vocal pet birds, cockatoos are never hesitant to express their emotions, regardless of what they are! However, with proper care, they can also be affectionate and fascinating companions.

Continue reading "Cockatoo: %year% Personality, Food, & Care Guide" by BestForPets (bestforpets.org) to discover more about the sociable and sarcastic cockatoo!

Species Overview

  • Common Names: Black cockatoos, white cockatoos, palm cockatoo, galah cockatoo, Major Mitchell’s cockatoo, gang-gang cockatoo,
  • Scientific Name: Calyptorhynchus (black), Cacatua (white), Probosciger (palm) Eolophus (galah), Lophochroa (Major Mitchell’s), Callocephalon (gang-gang)
  • Adult Size: 12-26 inches long
  • Life Expectancy: 30-70 years in average

Origin and History

All cockatoo species are indigenous to Australia and the surrounding islands of New Zealand, Indonesia, and the Solomon Islands. They were brought to Europe in the middle of the 1800s, first as specimens and then as pets, by explorers returning from that region.

Early in the 20th century, cockatoos captured in the wild were popular pets among wealthy Europeans. Around 1985, captive breeding of cockatoos began, and today almost all cockatoos kept as pets are bred rather than captured in the wild.

Cockatoos inhabit woods of various sorts, including rainforests, in the wild. They are extremely sociable, living and foraging in flocks of up to 100 individuals.


Cockatoos are renowned among pet bird species for their distinct behavior. They are intelligent, affectionate, and loving given the proper socialization and attention. However, they can also be demanding of their owner’s time, prone to moodiness, and prone to developing behavioral issues if their demands are not satisfied.

Add to this their inclination to express their emotions extremely loudly, and it becomes clear why cockatoos are often not advised for novice or first-time bird owners.

Correctly raising a cockatoo requires striking a fine balance between touching them enough to make them tame and allowing them enough time on their own to become accustomed to it. Otherwise, they may develop an unhealthy attachment to their humans and become unable to handle being left alone.

A well-adjusted, socialized cockatoo is a lively, loving, and frequently extremely amusing pet. They like spending time with their owners and adore being the center of attention and putting on a show.

These temperamental characteristics assist to explain why cockatoos are so popular as pets, despite the difficulties they occasionally offer.


  • Extensive personality, loving, and active
  • Intelligent, capable of learning tricks and language, and able to mimic human behavior
  • Closely bond with humanity


  • Can be quite noisy
  • Can quickly develop behavior problems if not given enough attention
  • Can be hostile, especially toward strangers (not recommended for kids)


Speech & Vocalizations

Cockatoos are talkative, continuously conversing with one another and with their people, because they live in huge flocks by nature. Their most typical noises are loud shrieking and squawking.

This screech may be used by a pet cockatoo to alert its owners when someone approaches the door or to demand attention. If experienced cockatoo owners promote this behavior, their cockatoos will only become louder.

Cockatoos may be trained to “use their words” rather than scream. Cockatoos are not as proficient at speaking as other types of parrots, but they are exceptional in imitating noises, including human speech.

Cockatoo Colors and Markings

Cockatoos, unlike most other varieties of pet birds, are not available in vibrant colors. This is because cockatoo feathers lack the textural impact of other bird feathers. Dyck texture, which cockatoos lack, reflects light in a manner that provides the vibrant coloration of the majority of pet bird species.

Most cockatoos are predominantly either white or black. Some birds have splashes of red or yellow on their crest, wings, or around their eyes. A few cockatoo species, including the galah and Major Mitchell’s, exhibit gray and pink coloration.

Similar to many pet birds, male and female cockatoos have similar coloration and are difficult to distinguish visually. However, certain cockatoo species do exhibit some sexual dimorphism, often involving eye color, beak size, and occasionally duller coloration in females.

Caring for the Cockatoo


Cockatoos require a cage large enough to allow them to comfortably stretch and flap their wings, therefore the appropriate cage size will depend on their size.

Larger cockatoos, such as the umbrella cockatoo, require a cage measuring at least 3 feet wide by 4 feet deep by 4 feet tall. Because cockatoos are avid chewers, the cage bars must be 1 to 1.5 inches apart and fashioned of durable materials for their protection.

If feasible, use a cage with vertical rather than horizontal bars so that the cockatoo may climb them more readily for exercise. Provide your cockatoo with a plenty of toys and perches to keep it busy. Cockatoos may be destructive, so they require plenty of durable, non-toxic items to chew and shred.

Place the cockatoo’s cage where it may see and engage in household activities. They will desire to feel both secure and included.

Cockatoos may appreciate having a companion of a comparable size, especially if you must leave them alone during the day for work or school.


Cockatoos are unlike other birds in that they do not create oil in their feathers, but rather a fine powder. Due to this, kids must bathe frequently to prevent the powder from creating an excessive mess. Provide them with at least one water bath or mist shower every other day.

As with any pet birds, cockatoos require regular trimming of their beaks, wings, and claws. If your cockatoo is an only bird, it will depend on you to groom its head and neck feathers by gently scratching these regions.

Frequent Health Issues

The most prevalent health issues in cockatoos are typically behavioral, such as plucking and self-mutilation. Cockatoos that are lonely or bored frequently develop these issues, which can lead to more skin diseases.

Other health issues that cockatoos may have include:

  • Beak and feather illness is a viral ailment that is infectious.
  • Overweight and fatty tumors
  • Bumblefoot, painful or swollen feet brought on either poor nutrition or filthy cages.

In addition to these problems, cockatoos can generate problems for themselves due to their curiosity and destructiveness. They frequently chew or swallow harmful materials like as electrical cables, jewels, and furniture. Ensure that your cockatoo’s area is devoid of such objects, and observe them closely during out-of-cage fun.

Diet and Nutrition

Because cockatoos are prone to obesity, providing them the proper food is of utmost importance. Up to 75% of a cockatoo’s diet should consist of nutritionally balanced pellet food. Moreover, cockatoos must consume a range of fruits, vegetables, and cooked grains daily. High-fat meals such as nuts and sweets should be served infrequently and in moderate quantities.


Cockatoos require regular activity for both cerebral stimulation and to maintain a healthy weight. If feasible, they should be allowed out of their cage for 3 to 4 hours every day.

They like playing with a variety of toys, especially those they can destroy, on bird gyms or trees and with a range of toys. Maintain their attention by periodically switching their toy and activity alternatives.

Daily one-on-one time with your cockatoo is vital for maintaining their happiness and wellbeing. Many cockatoos like cuddling and other forms of bonding, such as training, conversing, and grooming sessions.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Cockatoo

Due of their lengthy lifespans, loudness, and high attention requirements, many cockatoos must be relocated. If you are willing and able to adopt a cockatoo, you will likely be able to do so.

Animal shelters and bird rescue organizations are ideal locations to begin looking for adoptive cockatoos. Adopting a cockatoo will typically cost between $450 and $600.

Generally, cockatoos, particularly the more common pet species, are commonly accessible for purchase from specialist pet stores or breeders. The typical cost to acquire a cockatoo is $2,000, while rarer species can cost as much as $15,000.

Whether you adopt or purchase a cockatoo, be sure to select a healthy bird and be prepared for the responsibilities and demands of caring for them.


Cockatoos, sometimes referred to as “love sponges,” might be among the greatest feathery friends since they are dedicated to their owners and full of affection.

As we mentioned in “Cockatoo: Personality, Food & Care Guide” on BestForPets (bestforpets.org), living with a cockatoo brings some obstacles. They might be nice one moment and throw a tantrum the next! Maintaining their mental and physical health needs commitment and is not for the novice bird keeper.

However, owners who are up to the challenge will be rewarded with years of affection and fun from their cockatoos!

Author Image

Dr. Deborah Fletcher

Deborah R. Fletcher, DVM, is a skilled veterinarian with more than 15 years of experience dealing with companion and exotic animals. She has experience caring for a variety of animals, including household cats and dogs, reptiles, birds of prey, and even primates. Dr. Fletcher is a valuable part of the BestForPets team, where she contributes to their aim of providing pets and their owners with the finest possible treatment and services.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Deborah Fletcher


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