Cockatoo Cockatoo
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CockatooCockatoo species commonly kept as pets in the United States include umbrella cockatoos, Moluccan cockatoos, sulphur crested cockatoos, rose breasted cockatoos, Goffin’s cockatoos, bare eyed cockatoos, and Ducorp’s cockatoos. In Australia collections may also include the various species of black cockatoos, Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos and Gang Gangs.

Endearing Characteristics:

Cockatoo characteristics can vary greatly within this diverse group.  

Cockatoos are typically thought of as a group of parrots quite receptive to touch. In many cases this seems to be true. This is particularly noticeable with the larger species, the umbrella and Moluccan cockatoo. Some individuals of the smaller species may also respond favorably to touch. But it most often the large white or light pink birds pictured snuggled in the arms of their caregivers.

The smaller cockatoos have other features about them that make them quite captivating. They often move quickly and have a propensity to learn fast as well. This fast moving, quick learning type of cockatoo can keep a trainer on their toes! (Of course this does seem to apply to the larger slender billed and western corellas as well) A great DVD to help you get started training with a cockatoo is “Parrot Behavior and Training. An Introduction to Training

If a cockatoo learns to talk, it is often in a high pitched rather sweet sounding voice. This can be much more appealing than the loud vocalizations these birds are capable of producing.

Interesting Cockatoo Facts and Quirks:

Some species of cockatoos are known for producing copious amounts of dust. This dust is the result of special feathers called powder down. These feathers are constantly breaking off into tiny bits that coat the bird with powder. This actually contributes to “waterproofing” the bird. Try spraying a powdery umbrella cockatoo with water and you can watch droplets of water bead up and roll off the birds back. For some other parrot species, such as blue and gold macaws exposure to this dust can create respitory problems.

Some species of cockatoos are considered pests in Australia. They have a reputation for destroying crops.

Different cockatoo species are adapted for different feeding styles. In the wild some spend the majority of their time on the ground foraging and eating grass shoots. Others are arboreal. Some specialize in eating very specific food items.

The palm cockatoo has an interesting behavior in which it will grab a stick with its foot and smack a hollowed out log. This drumming is thought to be a territorial display. Palm cockatoos will also quickly stamp a foot on the perch when agitated.

Rose breasted cockatoos are known as galahs in Australia. This word is now part of colloquial language in Australia and is used when referring to someone as a fool or idiot.

Video of wild bare eyed cockatoos also known as little corellas

Potential Cockatoo Behavior Problems:

Because many cockatoos seem receptive to touch, it can be quite reinforcing for parrot owners to interact with their birds in this way. For some cockatoos this can lead to sexual and courtship behaviors. This can create others problems such as aggressive behavior towards others, territorial aggression and medical problems such as prolapsed cloacas and chronic egg laying. Monitoring touching so it does not create this type of response can help prevent these problems.

Some cockatoos learn to scream to get attention. This can be especially difficult for many parrot owners because of the incredibly loud sounds some cockatoo species can make. Avoiding and fixing this problem is possible. To read more about how to stop a parrot from screaming for attention visit Good Bird Inc's Blog.

Cockatoos are another group of parrots that seem to show a propensity for feather damaging behavior. It is important to look at possible medical causes such as beak and feather disease. Behaviorally many parrots feather pick due to lack of enrichment or as a stress coping mechanism. Gang gang cockatoos are a species in which feather picking in captivity is quite common and difficult to address. Enrichment solutions have been shown to have a measurable impact for this species.

Certainly any parrot species can learn to bite based on its life experiences. Biting does not have to be a part of having a parrot as a pet. However it is worth noting that the larger cockatoos (Moluccans and Umbrellas) have a beak shape that seems to allow a bite with a lot of pressure and cutting action at the same time. Of most parrot species this bite seems to be a bit more damaging than others. Ideally a parrot should never be pushed to the point of needing to resort to biting. Training with positive reinforcement can allow parrot owners to have a great relationship with their parrots based on trust that does not involve biting. See the book “The Parrot Problem Solver”  for more information on addressing aggressive behavior.

Cockatoo Training Examples: Chris Shank from Cockatoo Downs trains one of her cockatoos to fly through hoops.

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Pat Phillips has trained her Moluccan cockatoo to do a variety of behaviors including play the shell game, play basketball, put money in a piggy bank and take a bow.

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