Alternative Pets: Is a Cockatoo the right pet for you?

by Lisa Burns

Cockatoos make wonderful companions and a source of entertainment for someone who is willing to put the time in. These birds are often given up for adoption due to what people consider to be behavior issues. Like any pet you may be considering it is important to fully research and carefully consider if this is the pet for you. If you decide to add one of these fun birds to your family be sure to check with local avian rescues to see what they have available for adoption. Here are some things to consider before you adopt.

Creating a fun and safe environment

A cockatoo needs a sturdy cage that is also spacious giving them room to climb. A well-built parrot specific cage will keep your ‘too from escaping and will also prevent the bird from destroying it. Hanging toys are an important enrichment item for birds, giving them something to chew and destroy, other than their cage. Toys should also challenge your cockatoo. Look for toys that are puzzles or that have parts they can take apart or undo. Cockatoos are quite intelligent and are good at figuring out puzzles, such as how to unlock cage doors. A 2013 Oxford University study showed that Goffin’s Cockatoos can solve complex puzzle by undoing a series of pins, bolts and latches.

Pay attention to me!

Cockatoos tend to be a needy species and boundaries should be set from day one. It is important to show attention to your new family member but non-stop attention in the beginning will only lead to “behavior” issues later on, like screeching. They are one of the loudest of parrots and will scream just to hear themselves make noise. A sociable bird, cockatoos enjoy being held and/or petted. They will also talk and can learn to mimicking other animals and people. Toys and other enrichment items will help keep your new friend entertained when you are not available for one on one time. Keep in mind, if your cockatoo is not given enough mental stimulation they may pick or pull out their feathers.

What’s for dinner?

Your bird’s diet should include food specific to their breed. There are many quality pellets available just for parrots. Fruits and vegetables should be a part of their daily diet including: romaine, kale, green beans, peas, bananas, apples, papayas and carrots. They enjoy cooked plain pasta on occasion as a treat. You should also include a foraging element such as nuts still in the shell.

Cockatoo Fun Facts:

  • Cockatoos have a preferred “footedness” similar to how humans have a preferred handedness. Unlike humans, most cockatoos are left-footed.
  • In captivity, cockatoos have an average lifespan of 40 to 80 years. It is important when adopting a bird that you have a plan for them after you are gone.
  • The word ‘cockatoo’ has its origins in Malay and means ‘vice’ or ‘grip’ because of their incredibly strong beak.
  • Cockatoos are native to Australia, New Guinea, Indonesia, Solomon Islands, and the Philippines
  • They are the only parrots with moveable crests which they use to communicate with. Raised feathers may mean they are excited or agitated. Relaxed feathers mean the bird is eating or resting.
  • Cockatoos are zygodactyl meaning they have two toes pointing forward and two pointing backward. This gives them the ability to use their feet much like we use our hands to grab food and to climb.