Animals / Birds



Class — Aves. Order — Psittaciformes. Family —Cacatuidae. Subfamily — Nymphicinae, Calyptorhynchinae, Cacatuinae.


Native to Australia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, there are over 40 species. These can be divided into two main groups – the white cockatoos and the black cockatoos. The species available as pets range from the well-known Sulphur Crested, the Galah, the Major Mitchell, the Red tail Black Cockatoo, to the lesser known White (Umbrella) Cockatoo. Outside of Australia, the Moluccan and Umbrella also make a lovely pets but are rarely kept as pets in Australia due to their expense.

Outward appearance

Length: 30 – 33 cm. Weight: 90 g. Erectile crest is the most obvious external feature of a cockatoo that raises immediately when alarmed or excited. When the crest is lowered, the feathers fold back over the head and the crest is hardly visible. It is their major purpose is communication. A raised crest can indicate that a cockatoo is displaying for its mate; defending its territory or its flock, calling its flock members; or he or she may be expressing curiosity, excitement, surprise, fear or frustration. For those approaching this parrot -a raised crest may be a warning not to touch them - or else risk being bitten. A lowered crest can indicate calmness, friendliness and general approachability. Beak is strong. It is used to crack large seeds but can also produce a powerful and destructive bite.


The Cockatoos are very lively and affectionate birds. They are quite "cuddly" and bond very closely with their owners. However, their sociability and need for affection means they demand a great deal of time from their owners. Deprived of affection, cockatoos will become depressed or exhibit neurotic behaviors. They are intelligent, playful, mischievous, and they can be exceptionally loud. They are somewhat excitable so sometimes don't do that well around young kids.

Maintenance care

For cockatoos, the larger the enclosure you can provide, the better. The ideal size of any bird cage should be equal to at least 3 flight wingspans of the bird. Anything smaller is detrimental to the bird unless it has freedom outside the cage. A minimum size cage to house a small cockatoo is 27" x 27 " x 39" (70x70x100 cm), which should then be accompanied with regularly outside time for the bird to exercise. For larger cockatoos a larger cage must be considered.
Horizontal bars are important as your cockatoo needs to climb. Keep in mind that because of the strength of their beaks, cockatoos are able to bend bars and pop the joints on cages. For additional security on the cage door, a snap lock is recommended. Provide one or two perches about 3/4' in diameter and dishes hanging from the side for feed, water, and grit. Try to place the perches away from dishes so the food and water dish do not become soiled with bird droppings. Do not use plastic because your bird will chew and break the plastic and it can become hazardous. Your cockatoo is very social and inquisitive, so the room you house your pet in must be a room that gets visited frequently by the family. Place the cage at eye level in a quiet sunny area away from drafts. Indoor Aviaries: For a small cockatoo the minimum size of a suitable indoor aviary is about 39" x 39" x 78" (100x100x200 cm), and of course larger for the larger cockatoos. Outdoor Aviaries: An outdoor or breeding aviary needs to have a protected shelter that can be heated and cooled where necessary and have a sand floor. An attached flight cage should be 78" x 117" x 78" (2x3x2 m) for small cockatoos, and of course bigger for larger cockatoos. One third of the flight cage should be covered. Equip the flight cage with a perch at each end. A climbing branch and a bird bath are nice additions too Give you cockatoo fresh drinking water every day. Most cockatoos really do not need to be washed any more than a cat would. This is because they are extremely clean by nature and preen themselves regularly. They naturally produce a great deal of dust which aids in keeping their wings and skin healthy. However, a cockatoo's personal hygiene may include a weekly shower or bath to get rid of accumulated feather dust. For the bird, bathing is strictly an individual preference, as in the wild some cockatoos will enjoy standing in the rain while others will dive for cover. Bathing a cockatoo in anything other than plain water can change the pH of its feathers and may lead to troubles such as infections, or parasitic infestations like mites. A shower can be accomplished with either a hand held shower sprayer or a hose with a fine spray head and lukewarm water. A bath pan or ceramic dish 12"-14" (30-35 cm) can be placed on the bottom of the cage or mounted at about 39" (1m) above the floor in an aviary. If cockatoos are not partnered with another bird, they will need assistance from their owners to preen. Scratch lightly in the direction of the feathers on the top of the heads, the neck area, and other areas they can't reach. This will help remove the clear feather sheaths from new feathers, as these can get itchy and uncomfortable.The wings should be kept trim if you want to discourage flight and to prevent the loss of your pet through an open window or door.The beak and claws need to be trimmed if they are not worn down from climbing and chewing. A variety of concrete type perches are available to help the keep nails trim, but they should still be trimmed if they become overgrown. Because cockatoos will demolish mineral blocks, lava blocks, and other beak grooming items in a matter of a few minutes, they won't work to keep beaks trim.


In their natural habitat, they typically feed on various seeds, nuts and fruits, such as papaya, durian, langsat and rambutan. As they are also feed on corn growing in fields, they do considerable damage and are, therefore, considered crop pests by farmers. They also eat large insects, such as crickets and skinks. Captive birds are usually provided a parrot mix containing various seeds, nuts and dried fruits and vegetables. Additionally, they need to be offered lots of fresh vegetables, fruits and branches (with leaves) for chewing and entertainment.


Cockatoos love to be cuddled and bond very easily with their human owners. Well-raised cockatoos are adorable; a hog for attention, a socialite, and just a pleasure to have around. Not all Cockatoos are talkers. But those who can have good amount of vocabulary. These birds are in constant need for attention. Lack of attention from their owners might lead to boredom and feather plucking. Cockatoos love to chew and destroy things, so providing chewable toys is a necessity.   A team of scientists from Oxford University, the University of Vienna and the Max Planck Institute conducted tests on ten untrained Tanimbar corellas (Cacatua goffini), and found that they were able to solve complex mechanical puzzles.


Cockatoos are monogamous breeders, with pair bonds that can last many years. Many birds pair up in flocks before they reach sexual maturity and delay breeding for a year at least. Females breed for the first time anywhere from three to seven years of age and males are often older. Sexual maturity is delayed so birds can develop the skills for raising and parenting young, which is prolonged compared with other birds; the young of some species remain with their parents for up to a year. Cockatoos may also display site fidelity, returning to the same nesting sites in consecutive years. Courtship is generally simple, particularly for established pairs, with the black cockatoos alone engaging in courtship feeding. Established pairs do engage in preening each other, but all forms of courtship drop off after incubation begins, possibly due to the strength of the pair-bond. Because the cockatoos are threatened with extinction, successful breeding is helping to preserve the species and reduce the number of wild caught birds.
Breeding cockatoos can be difficult and it is in not recommended for a beginner. The best success in breeding cockatoos in captivity started with the greater sulphur-crested, lesser sulphur-crested, and the rose-breasted cockatoos, though several others are now also being breed successfully. Pet cockatoos have a very difficult time getting used to a mate so are very hard to use for attempts at breeding. Establishing any harmonious cockatoo pair can be difficult. It is best to have several young birds together and let them pair naturally. Most cockatoo species are easily sexed. The lesser sulphur-crested, greater sulphur-crested, umbrella, Goffin's, rose-breasted and Philippine cockatoos have a red-brown, brown, or chestnut-brown iris in the female after about two years of age. The Mollucan is basically the same except the female iris is dark brown so it can be difficult to distinguish from the slightly darker iris of the male.
Both sexes of the bare-eyed cockatoo have the dark iris, but the male is a larger bird and the female has more feathering around the eye than the male. Sometimes with the Bare-eyed and the Mollucan you can only be certain if you have them sexed by either a surgical probe, endoscopy, a DNA test, or a chromosonal analysis. The best environment for breeding cockatoos is accomplished in an aviary.  Place the cockatoo's square nesting box, or a round hollowed out tree trunk of the same approximate size, high in the aviary. On the bottom of the nest box, put a 4" (10 cm) layer of soft bedding such as wood shavings.
The nesting box for a small cockatoo should be 10"-12" (25-30 cm) wide x 23"-31" (60-80 cm) high, with a hole size of 4" (10-12 cm). For a medium cockatoo it should be 12"-14" (30-35 cm) wide x 31"-39" (80-100 cm) high, with a hole size of 4"-5" (10-12 cm). For the larger cockatoos it should be 14"-18" (35-45 cm) wide x 47"-59" (120-150 cm) high with a hole size of 5"-6" (12-15 cm). The cockatoo female will lay between 2 to 3 eggs. Brooding, depending on which species, is between 25 to 30 days. The young are naked and blind when hatched and don't open their eyes for several weeks. Hatchlings take between 60 and 100 days to become fully plumed and at that time they will begin to explore outside of the nest. However they will still be dependent for another two to three weeks before ready leave the nest for good.


A cockatoo that is well cared for will seldom become ill. Though it is often difficult to determine illness, some visible signs of illness can be plumage that is lusterless, ruffled, or has bare spots. Other signs may be having no appetite, sneezing, discharge from the nostrils, slit eyes instead of round, the bird sleeps a lot resting on both feet instead of having one foot tucked up, develops movements of neurotic screaming, begins feather plucking, and any change in the feces. Some of the common illnesses your cockatoo could contract are parasites, intestinal inflammation, coccidiosis, respiratory ailments, feather picking, and parrot fever also known as psittacosis which is not common but is contagious to humans and can be dangerous. Isolate the bird in a hospital cage with an infrared lamp placed about 23" (60 cm) distance from the cage. If it does not perk within 24 hours, the ailing parrot should be taken to a avian veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.
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