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Home > Birds > Black Palm Cockatoo: Traits, History & Care (with Pictures)

Black Palm Cockatoo: Traits, History & Care (with Pictures)

black palm cockatoo

Black Palm Cockatoos are gorgeous, intelligent, and massive birds, making them a favorite among bird enthusiasts. However, these cockatoos have an unruly temperament that makes them most suited for experienced bird owners.

If you have the right experience, confidence, and tools, caring for a Black Palm Cockatoo can be really rewarding. With the right hand, these unruly birds can be very affectionate and listen to your commands.


Species Overview

Black palm cockatoo bird resting on a branch
Image By: Elena11, Shutterstock
Common Names: Black Palm Cockatoo, Goliath Cockatoo, Palm Cockatoo, Great Black Cockatoo, Black Macaw, Van Oort’s Palm Cockatoo
Scientific Name: Probosciger aterrimus
Adult Size: 22-24 inches, 2-3 pounds
Life Expectancy: 40-60 years in the wild; 80-90 years in captivity

Origin and History

The Black Palm Cockatoo is native to Queensland, which is the northernmost tip of Australia. The bird was first described by Johann Friedrich Gmelin in 1788. Today, you can find these birds in the rain forests and woodlands of New Guinea, Indonesia, and Australia, as well as exotic shops around the globe.

These birds are in high demand within the pet trade because of their unique appearance. Luckily, they are not listed as endangered or threatened. However, their numbers are decreasing because of habitat and hunting.


Parrots are often known as being quirky, affectionate, and intelligent. Although Black Palm Cockatoos have many of the same characteristics as their other parrot family members, they aren’t as affectionate or easy to tame.

These unruly birds need persistent training if you have any hope of your pet following your commands. You also have to be very diligent because these birds are super intelligent. An unruly behavior with high intelligence is not a good mix.

Black Palm Cockatoos are so intelligent that they’re actually one of the few bird species that finds and uses tools in the wild. Whenever a female is trying to find a place to nest, the males will use a big stick to drum on hollow trees. It is unclear if the males are doing this to find a place to nest or if they are marking their territory.

  • Highly intelligent
  • Very talkative
  • Lives a long time
  • Unruly
  • Less affectionate than other parrots

Speech & Vocalizations

Like other cockatoos, Black Palm Cockatoos are known for having an unusual human-like vocalization. They even have the ability to create a sound that sounds much like “hello.” This hello sound is actually their signature sound.

Because Black Palm Cockatoos are so intelligent, you can train them to say certain words. Even if you do not take the time to teach your cockatoo words, it will still be very vocal. It is for this reason that Black Palm Cockatoos are not a great choice for owners who live in apartments.

Plus, we don’t recommend this bird for owners who like a quiet house. This bird will definitely get loud while trying to talk to you and your neighbors.divider-birdcage

Black Palm Cockatoo Colors and Markings

black palm cockatoo
Image By: Keung, Shutterstock

Black Palm Cockatoos primarily have a smoky gray coloration. Some of these cockatoos will appear blacker than others. This dark color appears on their crest, feet, and legs.

These birds are primarily only dark gray, but they have red patches on their cheeks as well. This color will change whenever the bird gets excited. These cheeks really stand out against the rest of the bird’s dark gray coloration.

In addition to the dark color, another feature that is very notable on the Black Palm Cockatoo is its beak. This bird has an incredibly long beak, and the two mandibles don’t meet. Their beaks are so large and strong that they can easily cause injury.

Something else to keep in mind is that Black Palm Cockatoos are monomorphic. This means that you cannot detect the sex of the bird visually. The bird must undergo genetic or surgical sexing for the sex to be identified.

Caring for the Black Palm Cockatoo

Because Black Palm Cockatoos are so unruly, they are mainly only seen in zoos, bird shows, and professional aviaries. Still, they can make good pets with the right owner.


Most importantly, the cage must be large enough for the cockatoo to play and fly inside. At the very minimum, the cage should be 10 x 6 x 6 feet, but something bigger would be even more ideal. If you cannot handle a cage of the size, you should not get a Black Palm Cockatoo.

Friends and Socialization

In the wild, it is very common to find Black Palm Cockatoos in small groups. For this reason, it is a great idea to have a friend or two for your Black Palm Cockatoo. Keep in mind that the pairs will mate for life. If you add more than one cockatoo to the cage, the cage will need to be bigger.

If your Black Palm Cockatoo does not have a bird friend, you need to give it frequent intention. You should never leave it home by itself for more than 8 hours at a time.


You want to give your Black Palm Cockatoo a bath every now and then. Provide regular opportunities for getting wet as well. These birds naturally shed dust that coats nearby services. Allowing the bird to get wet will help clean up this dust. Less dust results in less triggered allergies.

Common Health Problems

  • Obesity
  • Bacterial infections
  • Feather disease
  • Kidney problems
  • Boredom

Diet and Nutrition

In the wild, Black Palm Cockatoos primarily eat palm fruits, nuts, eucalyptus tree bark, and seeds in the early morning.

If you have a Black Palm Cockatoo as a pet, you want to replicate this diet while monitoring their fat intake. 50% of the cockatoo’s diet should come from high quality pellets. The remaining 50% should be through fruits and vegetables that are specific for birds.

It’s also important to occasionally feed your Black Palm Cockatoo nuts within the shell. This keeps their beak exercised. However, don’t feed them too many nuts because nuts are high in fat.


Because these massive cockatoos are so large and are prone to obesity, they require exercise. These birds should have a minimum of three to four hours of playtime every day. More so, Black Palm Cockatoos require consistent training schedules.

Providing toys can be a great way to keep the bird occupied while it is playing outside or in the cage. Ropes and wood toys are great options. You will need to rotate the toys because the bird will lose interest or destroy them before they have the opportunity.

Whenever your Black Palm Cockatoo is exercising outside the cage, make sure to supervise. These birds will chew up things you don’t want them to, such as furniture, electrical wires, and household goods.

black palm cockatoo
Image By: Asep Rizki Nugraha, Shutterstock

Where to Adopt or Buy a Black Palm Cockatoo

You won’t be able to find a Black Palm Cockatoo at just any pet store. You will likely have to go to a reputable breeder or adoption agency that specializes in rare birds. We recommend looking online to find any local agencies near you.

Before committing to any bird, see if you can spend time with the Black Palm Cockatoo before purchase. This allows you to check out the breeder to ensure that the conditions are safe.

Whenever you meet the breeder, confirm that the bird is not wild-caught. Wild-caught cockatoos are very difficult, if not impossible, to tame. Do an inspection of the bird’s eyes, feathers, and crops to confirm it is healthy.

Keep in mind that these rare birds can cost up to $20,000, and you will need a CITES permit to own one.



Black Palm Cockatoos are really gorgeous and intelligent, but they can be a handful. Unless you are an experienced or professional bird owner, we would not recommend this massive cockatoo as a pet.

With the right care, however, Black Palm Cockatoos can be somewhat affectionate, quirky, and fun to live with. Keep in mind that they require a large financial investment, a lot of attention, and consistent training.

Featured Image Credit: BangKod001, Shutterstock

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