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Tag Archives: cockatoos as pets

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The Moluccan (Salmon-Crested) Cockatoo – Captive Care and Conservation

Moluccan CockatooIt’s not easy to stand-out among such spectacular birds as the cockatoos, but the Moluccan Cockatoo (Cacatua moluccensis) does so admirably.  In size, color, trainability, and many other ways, it is in a class by itself.  This adds to the species’ allure, but there is a downside…wild populations are plummeting, and their needs, as pets, are beyond the capabilities of many owners.


At 20 inches in length, the Moluccan is the largest of the white-colored cockatoos.  Females often exceed males in size, and are also distinguished by their brown, as opposed to black, eyes.

The white body feathers, infused with pink, are often described as having a “peach-colored hue”.  Even by cockatoo standards, the head crest is magnificent, being very long and colored deep-pink to orange-red. Read More »

The Citron Cockatoo – Beautiful, Rare and Almost Quiet

Citron Crested CockatooAlso known as the Citron-Crested or Sumba Cockatoo (Cacatua sulphurea citroncristata), this beautiful parrot stands out among its relatives for a number of reasons.  Although restricted in range to a single Indonesian island, it has done well in the hands of private breeders, and captive-born individuals are available in the trade. Today I’d like to take a look at its natural history and captive care.


The Citron Cockatoo is one of 6 subspecies of the Lesser Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo, and is distinguished by being the smallest (12 inches in length) in size and number, and in being the only one with an orange crest (others sport yellow crests, please see photo).  The effect of the orange crest and ear coverts against the white plumage, offset by yellow feathers on the undersides of the wings and tail, is startling. Read More »

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

The Magnificent Cockatoos – Pros and Cons for Potential New Owners – Part 1

Cockatoos are among the most highly-desired of all parrots – even attracting folks who never considered bird ownership before laying eyes on one.  But these entertaining and intelligent beauties come with good and not-so-good surprises, even for those who have kept other large parrots.  Today I’d like to present their finer points, next week the “less fine”.


Whether white, black or infused with color, Cockatoos are incredibly striking in appearance and possessed of strong, interesting personalities.

Cockatoos take well to people, and are far easier to “get to know” than are many other parrots.  Socialized individuals are very playful, and love being handled – many folks consider them more like cats or dogs than birds in this regard.  Inquisitive and athletic, Cockatoos sometimes learn an astounding array of tricks.

Even the largest species are rather docile and far less likely to bite than are most other parrots (nesting birds are an exception).

In contrast to many captive birds, well-maintained breeding pairs of Cockatoos almost always raise their young successfully.

Cockatoos are hardy in general, and even those species native to warm regions will, if acclimated properly, fare well at quite low temperatures.  With a properly constructed shelter and protection from drafts, year-round outdoor housing is often possible, even in temperate climates.

Further Reading

A most amusing “dancing Cockatoo” video is posted here.

I was very fortunate in having worked with the rare and beautiful Palm Cockatoo.  Please see Hand Rearing Palm Cockatoos for more information.

The Brookfield Zoo’s beloved 76 year old Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo is a wonderful ambassador for parrot conservation.  Read more here.



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