Cockatoos are a very popular choice as companions for many new bird lovers. Along with their stunning appearance, they are a very interactive species both emotionally and physically: traits that make them endearing.
However, the cockatoo is arguably the most complicated and challenging of the many parrot species. For that reason they are the ones most often relinquished to rescues and sanctuaries when things go wrong. Furthermore, as cockatoos never do anything in a small way, when things go wrong, they go very wrong.
The cockatoo, particularly the white ones, might well be their own worst enemies. These birds love affection. In fact, they CRAVE your physical attention and would do nothing else but cuddle all day if given the opportunity. When you pair that bird with an owner who is all too happy to hold the bird around the clock, then the result is a bird that is ONLY happy when plastered to the chest of its owner.
It becomes unwilling to function independently; the minute you step away, it screams. It is the beginning of a cycle that is difficult to manage.
Even the comparatively small and demure Goffin's cockatoo can pack a wallop with unwanted behaviors when things are allowed to get out of hand. Like their larger cockatoo cousins, they need specific handling in order to thrive in captivity.
Highly Intelligent... Highly Destructive...
Cockatoos are highly intelligent parrots with a seemingly innate understanding of manipulation. They learn almost immediately what they need to do to get our approval, and they use it. You will often hear a heartfelt “I love you” just before you discover the decimation of your computer keyboard.
Speaking of decimation, there will be plenty of that! A large bird with a large beak, the cockatoo needs to be kept active with toys made of wood and other shreddable materials if your furniture is to remain intact. They are also very adept with foraging toys. If there has ever been a parrot species that was put on this planet to benefit from training, it is the cockatoo.
Cockatoos are very full of themselves and believe that the sun rises only for them each day. They are happiest when you get onboard with that idea. Training makes them the sole focus of your attention (just as it should be from their standpoint). They will go to great lengths to earn rewards, and praise is often as acceptable to them as food. The many ways you will also benefit from their training can be our little secret.
The bottom line is that the cockatoos are not for the faint of heart. The people that do the best with them are those who know when to say no and mean it. Consistency with your actions will be challenging with a bird that cuddles under your chin and tells you they love you, but it is imperative you stick to your guns.
Did you know that:⦁ a cockatoo is capable of producing vocalizations that can carry for over a mile in the wild? You can only imagine what that same volume would be like in your home.
⦁ a cockatoo bite is different from other bird bites? The cockatoo’s lower mandible has two prongs that when combined with the pointed top mandible gives them the advantage of being able to hold and tear in three separate places. This is not something you want to learn about firsthand.
The following are some articles from our blog as well as further resources that you will find helpful:
- Cockatoo videos
- Noise levels of cockatoos
- The incredible cockatoo
- 3 ways to lose your parrot's trust
- Setting clear expectations with your parrot
- Over stimulated parrots
- Picking your battles with your bird
- Using diversion with your grumpy parrot
- Too much cuddle time is not a good thing
- 3 mistakes you must not make with a cockatoo
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.