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Cockatoo: An Affable Bird That Mimics Humans  


If there is any pet that gives dogs a run for its money as man’s best friend, it would be this bird – the Cockatoo. 


The Cockatoo is a lively, playful, and energetic bird mainly known for its talkative nature and brilliant crest of plumage on its head. The bird’s cheerful nature and beautiful appearance make them stand out from other birds. They belong to the parrot family but are known to be a particular category of parrots due to their perky crest and playful nature. In addition, this bird is much-loved for its capability to mimic its owner’s words.

There are twenty-one different species present all around the globe. However, their most common habitat is the Asia Pacific region, including some urban and suburban areas, smaller islands, and forested areas of all types. Oftentimes, they are seen inhabiting the lower slopes of mountain areas. 

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If you are one who has a perpetual love for birds, parrots, or just playful pets – these birds will most definitely tickle your fancy. This bird will not let you get bored for a single moment. Another upside is that it needs no toiling efforts to be cared for.

Read on to learn more about this interesting bird, you won’t regret it.

An Overview


Here is a complete overview of the Cockatoo.  

Common Names
Black-and-red cockatoos, red-tailed black cockatoos, white cockatoos, black-and-yellow cockatoos, yellow-tailed black cockatoos
Scientific NameCacatua (white), Calyptorhynchus (dark), Nymphicus (cockatiels), Eolophus (galah), Callocephalon (gang-gang), Probosciger (palm), Lophochroa (Major Mitchell’s)
Age of Sexual Maturity3 to 7 years
HabitatForests, groves, and plains
Favorite FoodFruits, seeds, and tubers
PredatorsFalcons, eagles, owls, snakes, and cats
Name of YoungChicks or hatchlings
Group BehaviorFlock
Length12 – 30 inches (30 – 76 centimetres)
Weight10,5 – 43 ounces (300 – 1,200 grams)
Most Distinctive FeatureCrest of feathers on the head
Life ExpectancyUsually, it lives for 30 – 70 years, depending on the species (or sometimes even longer)
Wing Span Varies
Fun FactOne of the noisiest birds on this planet
Conservation StatusVulnerable

Origin and History

pink cockatoo

The history of cockatoos dates back to 1850, when European sailors traveled to Indonesia and other Eastern countries and discovered this unique species. They brought dead specimens of these birds to hand over to scientists of the time. Later, they used to bring live cockatoos along with them. From there, the trend of keeping these birds as pets began.

The trend became even more prominent in the 1900s when European aristocrats became especially inclined to keep parrots and cockatoos as pets. However, they were first captive-bred in the Netherlands after eight decades, in 1985. Presently, most of the cockatoos in the USA and UK are captive-bred, contributing to protecting their population. 

Also, it is vital to note that baby cockatoos become higher in demand after captive breeding, which leads to an increased number of unwanted adult cockatoos. These birds are mainly native to Australia and the islands around Oceania, such as Malaysia, the Philippines, the eastern Indonesian Islands of Wallacea to New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. 

Cockatoo’s Scientific Classification 


The Cockatoo is a particular category of parrots belonging to the family Cacatuidae from Kingdom Animalia. Its phylum is Chordata of the class Aves from the order Psittaciformes. 

Notably, the bird has a subdivision of twenty-one unique parrots species that belong to the family Cacatuidae. However, the family of these twenty-one species is subdivided into two subfamilies based on their colors; white cockatoos (Cacatua species) and dark cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus species).

Cockatoos’ Appearance 

yellow cockatoo

They are medium- to large-sized nonmigratory birds. Their appearance makes them distinct from other true parrots. 

More precisely, they are well-famous for the crest on their heads. The crest has small feathers which may change their position according to their mood. In addition, they have a big curved beak and small rounded eyes. 

Above all, another intriguing feature of this exotic bird is the arrangement of digits on their feet, known as zygodactyls. This arrangement means “yoke-toed” and refers to the pairing of toes. This feature helps them to tightly grip branches and lets them climb the tree with one foot while holding the food on the other. 

Also, as mentioned earlier, all types of cockatoos are mainly categorized into two categories based on their color. It means they are usually arrayed in white, black, and gray colors instead of colorful textures, a typical feature of ‘true parrots.’ 

Lastly, the average species measure between 12 and 24 inches long and weigh up to a few pounds.

Cockatoos’ Temperament


We can reasonably assume the temperament of cockatoos from their playful and affectionate personality. 

It is no secret that they are incredibly great pets due to their playful, active, and talkative nature. Due to that, they are even known as velcro birds, referring to their highly sociable nature. 

It means that these birds have an amazing temperament highlighting their playful and affectionate nature. In a nutshell, these are some of the best cuddly pets that take little time to build a strong bond with their owners. 

Notably, one downside of their temperament is that they are often seen as excitable. As a result, they often show unwillingness to mix with young kids. 

In short, it is a playful yet demanding bird. They demand love, affection, and attention from their owners. If you fail to give them proper time and fulfill their emotional needs, it may cause depression and they could exhibit neurotic behaviors or self-mutilate. 

Some cockatoo owners have even stated that keeping a them as a pet is like adopting a two-year-old kid. It is noteworthy that they not only demand your affectionate behavior as a child does, but they also entertain you with silly and playful activities. 

Besides, they often become exceptionally loud.

Cockatoos’ Speech and Vocalizations

cockatoo on streetlight

When it comes to their speech and vocalization, they may not be as prolific as other parrots – but they have unique speaking capabilities nonetheless. Their vocalization skills are often one of the main reasons drawing people to adopt one. 

For instance, cockatoos can mimic almost any sound or even the words of their owners. It is vital to note that their vocabulary size entirely depends on their interaction with their owners. 

In addition, it may also depend on their species, as some species are more talkative. The Galah, a sulfur-crested and long-billed cockatoo, is one of the best talkers with incredibly good speech capabilities. 

Lastly, some cockatoos often become excessively loud, which can become irritating and frustrating to deal with.

Cockatoos’ Common Health Problems


Usually, cockatoos are prone to behavioral problems due to their demanding and dependent nature. 

If they’re not given enough attention and affection, it often leads to the risk of them self-mutilating. This is an occurrence when birds start biting or chewing their bodies, especially from the chest and legs. Likewise, they often end up screaming or picking their feathers. Notably, these diseases are challenging to cure. 

In addition, these birds are prone to swallow non-edible items. This causes certain medical conditions, such as reproductive disorders like egg binding, cloacal prolapse, liver disease, and obesity. 

Lastly, they often develop diseases like the psittacine beak and feather diseases, lesions on their feet, etc. 

Cockatoos’ Diet and Nutrition

white cockatoo

When establishing a cockatoo’s diet and nutrition, it is essential to consider its habitat first. 

For instance, a cockatoo living in the wild will feed itself on nuts and seeds. However, in captive breeding, Cockatoo needs a variety of fresh foods, including greens, vegetables, and fruits, and often formulated pellets. 

Reportedly, veterans believe that only a seed-based diet does not fulfill the nutritional requirements of cockatoos as it is deficient in nearly all vital nutrients. Seed-based diets only make up around 10% of a cockatoo’s nutritional needs.

Moreover, it is noteworthy that it is sometimes difficult to gauge the amount of food your bird needs. Since their diet varies, it depends on their size and weight. However, the best way to estimate their diet is to evaluate while they eat their food critically. You need to note how much a bird is eating or wasting.  

Also, be mindful of the fact that cockatoos like to play with their food and chew on everything.

Cockatoos’ Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan


An interesting fact about these playful birds is that they are typically monogamous animals. It means that they tend to build a deep, years-long bond with their partners. Also, as discussed earlier, they are super-affectionate and emotionally dependent, which also carries over in their bonding with their mates. 

It has been seen that they often suffer psychological or emotional trauma after being parted from their mate. Moreover, they are seen to court each other by feeding and preening (an activity to clean or maintain feathers through their beak). 

Besides, when they find their mate, they find a pre-existing hole that must be large enough to house two adult cockatoos. Moreover, they enter the hole to build their nest from bits of sticks, wood chips, and leaves. They use this nest for mating. Once the mating is done, the female Cockatoo will lay eggs anywhere at intervals of two to three days. 

The number of laid eggs ranges from one to eight. It is noteworthy that both parents divide the incubating duties equally. The baby cockatoo becomes sexually matured at three and seven years old.

The Most Common Species  

cockatoo in jungle

Here are the most common species of Cockatoo. 

Common NameHabitat Genus/Species
Molluscan CockatooIndonesiaCacatua molluccensis
Major Mitchell’s CockatooAustraliaCacatua leadbeateri
Red-vented CockatooPhilippinesCacatua haematuropygia
Goffin’s CockatooIndonesiaCacatua goffiniana
Sulphur-crested CockatooAustralia & New ZealandCacatua galerita
Ducorps’ CockatooSolomon IslandsCacatua ducorpsii
Citron-crested CockatooIndonesiaCacatua citrinocristata
Umbrella CockatooIndonesiaCacatua alba
Western CorellaAustraliaCacatua pastinator
Bare-eyed CockatooAustraliaCacatua sanguinea
Yellow-crested CockatooIndonesiaCacatua sulphurea
Gang-gang CockatooAustraliaCallocephalon fimbriatum
Red-tailed Black CockatooAustraliaCalyptorhynchus banksii
Rose-breasted Cockatoo (Galah)AustraliaEolophus roseicapilla
Yellow-tailed Black CockatooAustraliaCalyptorhynchus funereus
Palm CockatooAustralia & New GuineaProbosciger aterrimus

Cockatoo Population


The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has declared the cockatoo status vulnerable and features on its Red List. Seven species out of twenty-one species are already reported as threatened or critically endangered

More specifically, the species closest to extinction are the yellow-crested Cockatoo and the Philippine Cockatoo. The white Cockatoo comes third on the list.

Thankfully, the rest of the cockatoos are currently safe from being enlisted as critically endangered. 

Factors to Consider Adopting One

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There are not really any health risks involved in keeping cockatoos as pets. However, there are a few essential factors that you need to know.

For instance, these birds are known to constantly produce a white powdery layer on their feathers throughout their life. This coating is known as powder down which functions to protect their feathers. But this powder coating is dusty, which may cause problems for people with respiratory issues or allergies to birds. 

The best practice to avoid these issues is cleaning the Cockatoo’s cage regularly. Next, consider giving your Cockatoo a daily shower, and washing your hands after interacting with the Cockatoo should be obligatory. 

In addition, cockatoos often make noise that may become irritating or stressful. Especially the level of noise they produce may disturb your neighbors if you live in an apartment.

 Fun Facts

  • Cockatoos are nonmigratory birds that stay restricted to their particular habitat. 
  • People usually prefer adopting baby cockatoos as pets instead of adult cockatoos. It is because baby cockatoos are fed formula, and they are dependent, so owners can shape their personalities or habits as they want. 
  • Baby cockatoos are incubated in incubators, and most of them have never seen their parents. 
  • Most cockatoos are left-handed, meaning they use their left foot for more activities. 
  • Sometimes cockatoos are named lap puppies for their attention-seeking behavior and affectionate nature as they love cuddling. 
  • Male Cockatoos tend to have a darker color of eyes as compared to female ones. Their eye color helps people to distinguish between males and females.  
  • Another exciting and cute fact about these birds is that the male dances or uses a stick to beat on hollow logs to attract females. 
  • A specific species of cockatoos, Palm Cockatoos, can crack brazil nuts with their beaks.
  • People can identify their mood through the position of their crest feathers. Standing crest feathers mean that they are surprised or enthusiastic about something. However, a relaxed crest feather means the Cockatoo is also relaxed. 
  • Cockatoos have gallbladders, one of the most significant anatomical differences between cockatoos and “true parrots.” 
  • Adult Cockatoos are good at escaping from their cages.
  • Older people anticipate rain after seeing Red-Tailed Black cockatoos.
  • Cockatoos are featured in many great Renaissance paintings and medieval manuscripts, e,g., Andrea Mantegna’s “Madonna Della Vittoria” painting features a cockatoo. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

dark cockatoo in tree
Are cockatoos carnivores or omnivores?

As mentioned earlier, they mainly feed on seeds, nuts, fruits, and vegetables which means that they are indeed herbivores.

Do cockatoos make good pets?

The honest answer to that question will depend on you. It is because these birds are demanding and rely on their owners. 

Therefore, if you can provide them affection, love, and, most importantly, time, they will not let you get bored for a second due to their exceptionally amusing, lively, and mischievous nature. 

Contrary to that, if you cannot fulfill their emotional needs and give them proper time, you should reconsider if they really are a good fit for your lifestyle.

The Final Word

Key Points
Cockatoo is a lively, playful, and energetic bird mainly known for its talkative nature.
Cockatoos have a brilliant crest of plumage on their head that makes them unique. 
Cucaktoos are super-demanding yet the best cuddly and playful pets. 
They may face behavioral issues when their emotional needs do not get fulfilled. 
If you are thinking of owning a Cockatoo as your pet, you need to consider two important factors, if you have the time and if yo don’t mind the noise. 

To conclude, cockatoos are beautiful nonmigratory birds native to Australia and Oceania. The bird is typically famous for its incredible speech capabilities. However, it may often backfire, as they become the noisiest pets. 

Overall, the idea of keeping them as pets is exciting, but you need to be available for them. These birds are super-demanding and have particular emotional needs you need to fulfill as their owner. 

Nevertheless, they become entertaining, affable, and relatively long-living pets.

Thank you for reading this article! If you’ve realized that this might not be the best pet for you, albeit their extremely affectionate nature, continue your pet-hunt and read our post about the Hamster.

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