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The Magnificent Cockatoos – Pros and Cons for Potential New Owners – Part 2

Cockatoo in SydneyStriking in appearance, playful and affectionate when socialized, hardy and possessed of complex, interesting personalities, Cockatoos have much to recommend them as pets (please see Part I of this article for more information).  Today, however, I feel it is important that we also consider some of the difficulties that may face the Cockatoo owner (or person owned by a Cockatoo!).

Need for Contact

A high degree of sociability renders Cockatoos as wonderful companions but in need of a great deal of human contact.  Even more so than many other parrots, Cockatoos left alone for long periods nearly always begin to scream or to pluck their feathers.

A typical working schedule does not allow for enough interaction time…two birds should always be kept in such situations (on the positive side, Cockatoos often get along well with other parrots, including lovebirds and other small species).

Housing Considerations

Cockatoos are extremely active and need a very large cage  or outdoor aviary.

The degeneration of powder-down feathers forms a fine, powdery “dust” that Cockatoos use in grooming and waterproofing their flight feathers.  This material spreads like windblown ash, and invariably winds up on furniture, clothes and floors.  Air filters and spraying the bird with water daily (Cockatoos like this!) will help, but powder down will remain a fact of life for the Cockatoo owner.

Potentially Troublesome Characteristics

Palm CockatooEven by parrot standards, most Cockatoos have very loud voices.

Cockatoos are inveterate wood chewers, and can demolish furniture and perches that would stand up to the largest macaw (or, it seems, axe!).  Interestingly (or annoyingly!) they are quite systematic in their “projects”…once a potential target has caught its eye, your Cockatoo, no matter how well trained, will usually find a way to get at it.


While most species can learn to repeat a few words, Cockatoos are not the most gifted mimics (they do excel in learning tricks, however).

Further Reading

You can read about a unique “digging” cockatoo, the Long Billed Corella.

An interesting article on powder down and its relation to health and illness in cockatoos is posted here.

For some idea of the impressive carrying power of a cockatoo’s voice, check out this video.



Cockatoo in Sydney image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Snowmanradio
Palm Cockatoo image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Doug Jansen

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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