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Do Cockatoos Make Good Pets?

Nicole Cosgrove

Are you thinking of keeping a cockatoo as a pet? If you are, then there are a few things you should consider first. These birds are very mischievous, they can be comical, and they are extremely affectionate. You would think that all of these traits would make the cockatoo a great pet, wouldn’t you?  But then again, maybe not.

In reality, whether a cockatoo is a good pet or not largely depends on the pet owner. This breed craves a lot of attention, and their mischievous streak will seriously kick in when they don’t get it. They aren’t the type of bird you can put in a cage, feed, and love with very little commitment required. No, they require quite a bit more care and attention than that. If you’re considering purchasing a cockatoo as a pet, read our guide below before making your final decision.

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two cockatoos on tree branch
Image Credit: Squirrel_photos, Pixabay

It’s important to note that even if you’ve owned a parrot in the past, it’s not the same as owning a cockatoo. These birds are unlike any other bird, especially in the behavior department. Cockatoos can be manipulative, and they have lightning-fast mood swings. One minute, your cockatoo might be screaming in anger; the next, he’ll be calm and as affectionate as can be.

These birds also have very sensitive natures and need a whole lot of attention to stay happy and content. If you fail to pamper and cuddle this bird, they do tend to become aggressive. Your cockatoo will be playful, is highly intelligent, and tends to be very loud.

If your cockatoo isn’t getting enough attention, he could resort to plucking out his own feathers and engaging in self-mutilation. This could also be a sign of a physical problem, such as parasites, bacterial infection, zinc poisoning, tapeworms, or a vitamin A deficiency. But it may be a sign of emotional problems in your bird, so make sure to take him to the vet if these symptoms occur even though you’ve been giving him the attention he needs to thrive.

Appearance

There are around 21 species of cockatoos in the world. Most of them are white, but you can find cockatoos that are blue, pink, black, or grey as well. The size of the cockatoo is going to vary according to the species as well, so make sure you determine which species you’re purchasing ahead of time, so you can be prepared for the growth expected. Since there are so many species of cockatoos in the world to choose from, we’ll go into a couple of them below, to help you make a final decision.

Bare-Eyed Cockatoo

Bare Eyed cockatoo
Image Credit: Anne Powell, Shutterstock

The bare-eyed cockatoo is super sweet, playful, and extremely intelligent. Smaller than many of the other cockatoo species, this species will make a good pet for families that have children. They’re also a good choice for someone who doesn’t have much space to keep them in.

  • Length: 14 to 17 inches
  • Weight: 11 to 16 ounces
  • Price: Around $2,000

Black Palm Cockatoo

black palm cockatoo
Image Credit: BangKod001, Shutterstock

These are large powerful birds, so they aren’t for every family. When hand fed, these birds can make great pets, however, it’s best for them to go to an owner who is experienced with cockatoos already. If you decide to purchase one of these birds, you need to be firm in their training and not be intimidated by the massive beaks they have.

  • Length: 23 inches
  • Weight: 32 to 42 ounces
  • Price: $15,000 to $16,000

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

Sulphur Crested Cockatoo
Image Credit: sandid, Pixabay

Highly intelligent, this species needs plenty of toys and attention to keep them happy. If they feel they aren’t getting enough attention, they will turn to destructive behavior and even pluck out their own feathers. If you don’t have a lot of time to spend with a pet cockatoo, then this isn’t the right species for you.

  • Length: 15 to 20 inches
  • Weight: 12 to 21 pounds
  • Price: $500 to $1,000

Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo

Major Mitchell's cockatoo
Image Credit: Tanya Puntti, Shutterstock

Major Mitchell’s cockatoos are gorgeous birds with high intelligence levels. However, they need a large cage, so large in fact, that many owners just don’t have the space to accommodate the cage or the bird. They also need a ton of specialized care, which means this cockatoo isn’t for everyone.

  • Length: 14 inches
  • Weight: 15 ounces
  • Price: $3,000 to $10,000

Rose-Breasted Cockatoo

rose breasted cockatoo
Image Credit: Gabriela Beres, Shutterstock

The plumage on the rose-breasted cockatoo is stunning. Its pink and grey feathers, and its sweet personality make this a favorite among many bird owners. However, they do tend to be bold and very loud, so you want to make sure you live somewhere that the neighbors won’t complain about their squawking. This species can also live up to 80 years if you care for him properly.

  • Length: 12 to 15 inches
  • Weight: 10 to 14 ounces
  • Price: $4,000 to $5,000

These are just a few of the species of cockatoos that you have to choose from when choosing the right pet for you and your family. Just make sure that you have the time and patience needed to take care of them.

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Lifespan

According to the species, a well-cared-for cockatoo can live from 40 to 90 years, so you need to be prepared to take care of your pet for that long. However, many of these birds die young when in captivity, which should really drive home how important it is to properly care for the cockatoo you purchase and give a forever home.

For example, the rose-breasted cockatoo can live up to 80 years if taken care of properly. The Major Mitchell’s cockatoo lives between 65 and 75 years, while the black palm cockatoo lives on average from 40 to 90 years. You need to take this into consideration when you’re researching to determine which species works best for you as well.

Caring for Your Cockatoo

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo in a cage
Image Credit: Nasar Lagenda, Pixabay

You need to ensure that you have a large cage for your cockatoo before bringing him home. The cage also needs a sturdy bar for him to perch on when he wants to. Make sure the cage has sturdy bars because cockatoos have really strong beaks. The last thing you want is for your cockatoo to get out while you’re sleeping or at work. They can be real escape artists!

Cockatoos enjoy watching movies, so leaving one on will keep him occupied when you’re busy, but you also don’t want to leave him at home alone for long periods, as he doesn’t do well on his own.

Make sure to have plenty of toys available to keep your cockatoo entertained since he’s very intelligent, his mind needs to be stimulated, and the last thing you want is for him to get bored. These birds are aggressive chewers and destroy things easily, so soft wood toys, ropes, bells, and even cardboard make them happy, as they are easy to chew.

As for food, your cockatoo will love fresh veggies, fruits, and grains, so you shouldn’t have a problem in that department. However, it’s important to avoid mixed grains and nuts that have a high-fat content. Never feed your bird chocolate, potato chips, salty foods, fried foods, or alcohol, as it could make them sick and even be deadly.

divider-birdsDo Cockatoos Make Good Pets?

If you’re going to adopt a cockatoo, do your research to determine if you indeed have the time and patience to make this bird happy, as you’ll end up with a host of problems you don’t want to deal with if you’re not ready. Many cockatoos end up back up for adoption or even abandoned because they are extremely needy and can be hard to take care of. Make sure you’re ready before you attempt to give this bird species a forever home.


Featured Image Credit: Tammy Lee, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.