Are Cockatoos Good Pets? A Guide to Owning!

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Last night, I was sitting on my couch and watching some cockatoo videos. They are just crazy in the videos—the screams, the shouting, and the ramblings. Oh god! So, I thought, why not write an article on the prospect of having them as pets? I woke up early and researched all about them. This is what I found out.

Are Cockatoos good pets?

Cockatoos are not got pets to have. They are quite moody and emotional. [1] That’s why, they are one of the most abandoned parakeets out there.

It takes a lot of time to handle and manage a cockatoo, and even when they know you for years, they can bite you if they don’t like anything.

As Tolstoy once said, “it would be a sin to let you destroy yourself.” Hence, I am providing you with anything and everything I have found. Don’t purchase a cockatoo without reading this article completely.

Why cockatoos don’t make good pets?

YouTube video

You must have seen those pretty cockatoos doing things, playing well with other pets, but I don’t believe that’s the case for most toos.

Why? Let’s list things out.

1. Cockatoos are not for everyone. They are very demanding birds. Think of a 2-year-old toddler with a large siren. Getting it now?

2. Cockatoos can’t be left alone for long hours. You may see those loving cockatoos in those Instagram images, but the reality is different. Those people spend a lot of time with their birds; else, all you’ll see is screaming, biting, and destroying items.

Yes, there are different types of cockatoos: Rose-breasted (Galahs), Umbrellas, Moluccans, etc. And all of them have different personalities, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get an angel.

3. Cockatoos live for a long time – over 55 years, but some cockatoos have been known to live over 100 years. 

4. They do enjoy watching movies, using block toys (joining to things together) but will have anxiety issues in case you left their eyesight. They can start plucking their hairs in a panic if they don’t see you. The anxiety is so surreal that they won’t even sleep unless there is pin-drop silence.

5. Cockatoos work well on a routine, but they are like a toddler. You will need to shift your routine according to their demands and still be prepared to get those annoying screams often.

Their neuroticism is very unpredictable, and they can scream or bite if they don’t like anything, feel anything, or just like that.

6. They are like a jealous girlfriend and hate to see you with anyone else. They don’t accept people easily in your life, and anything can get them mad, from nearby dogs to random emotions. A picture moved there, or the dishwasher’s sound can be a trigger for these neurotic episodes.

They don’t get along well with other birds either.

7. Cockatoos work well only when they are the center of attention. They see themselves at the top of the pecking order. Still, if you really want a cockatoo, then get the umbrellas. They are much calmer than the rest.

8. They won’t leave you alone for a second, and if you try to get away from them, they’ll scream the hell out of the environment. You will have to include them in every activity you do, from going out to eating food to bathing.

That’s why most of them are given up for adoption.

You will have to cuddle them, constantly provide them new toys (which they’ll destroy after some hours), fresh food daily, and care for them like children. If you don’t have time to do that, don’t get one.

9. They will eat up your shirts (make holes in them), chew your furniture, damage your keyboard, your TV. It’s a full-time job to handle them. You will have to keep them engaged in activities all day till they sleep.

10. Cockatoos aren’t great for the apartment as they are shouty, noisy, dusty, and will damage everything they can put their beaks through. You will get complaints from neighbors all the time.

11. The diets aren’t that expensive as you will have to provide only pellets and fresh veggies/fruits every day, but the toys are the biggest headache. They will chew through them in days, and each time, you’ll have to buy new toys costing you anywhere between 25-55 bucks.

Make sure not to provide them with chocolate, avocados, dairy products, or alcohol as they can be dangerous for them. Don’t offer anything cooked on a non-stick pan/Teflon/grills.

12. Cockatoos, like other parrots, can have respiratory issues, so anything that can have scents is a big no-no. Scented candles, scented cleaning products, air fresheners are not allowed. You’ll have to be careful of hair products like flat and curly irons as well.

If you still must do it, do it afar with windows open. At least have 2 to 3 rooms from the bird’s place.

Cockatoos can also harm themselves if there are heat-emitting bulbs.

Overall, cockatoos are difficult animals to look after, and they scream for no reason.

13. They can scream if you don’t make eye contact with them. They will remove their fur if frustrated for a long time. If there is slight dirt in their water. 

If the food bowl is empty or if they don’ t like what’s inside it. If the dog just passed by or if a car blew its horn. Anything, anything can turn them off.

They need a large lead-free cage where they can freely stretch their wings at least twice. Cockatoos and especially umbrellas require enormous cages, even the size of beds.

14. They don’t bite extremely hard every time, but when they do, they can even remove chunk size skin from your body and cause lasting scars.

Keeping all these points in mind, It would be a better idea if you can choose other parakeets as your first per.


Read more: Read our detailed guide to adopting a cockatiel here.

Are cockatoos friendly?

Cockatoos are friendly to a limit. They exhibit extreme emotions from one side to the other like a person with bipolar disorder. They can be extremely friendly at one instance (like you have never seen before) and then start making screeching noises that can boil your brain (figuratively).

Are cockatoos aggressive?

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Cockatoos are very territorial and aggressive. In the absence of a bird flock, they appropriate the human caregivers in their flock and start behaving like that. They don’t like their flock members having contact with other humans or pets. [1] They can also get aggressive if you don’t give them attention or something not according to their likings, like a temperature shift or other pets’ sounds.

Aggression is not always bad. In 2003, according to BBC, a cockatoo named “Bird” attacked the attacker of his human caregiver and bravely lost his life while protecting the family. However, the sacrifice didn’t go in vain as he provided critical evidence in the murderer’s conviction two years later. [2]

How long do cockatoos live as pets?

Cockatoos live for a long time. According to Wikipedia [3], they can live anywhere between 30 to 70 years in captivity. A cockatoo named Fred was alive at 100 years of age in 2014.

Which cockatoo makes the best pet?

Umbrellas, rose-breasted cockatoos (Galahs), and Moluccan cockatoos are considered the best among cockatoos as pets. In the three, the Galahs are considered the prime choice for a new bird owner if they want to start with a cockatoo.

Can a cockatoo bite your finger off?

A cockatoo cannot bite your finger off. According to Discovery, you need at least 900 lbs. of force (4,000 newtons) to break a finger. [4] But a large cockatoo beak can only exert roughly 400 to 500 lbs. of force per square inch. [5] They can fracture small bones, though, as small bones can get fractures with a small pressure of 25 lbs. [6]

Does a cockatoo bite hurt?

Via reddit user u/BaronCoqui

Cockatoo bites hurt, and they are one of the main reasons why people abandon them. The hurting can range from small nibbles to dangerous scars that could bother you for a month.

How long can a cockatoo be left alone?

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Cockatoos cannot live alone for a long time. Some of them would start blabbering for attention as soon as you leave their room. If you have a great connection with your cockatoo and you play with him for hours, you can leave him for 4-6 hours but not more.

If you go out for work for a long time or work on night duty, it’s not a good idea to get a demanding bird like a cockatoo.

Do cockatoos bond with one person?

Cockatoos bond with only one person. They are not prone to bond with everyone. They can aggressively react if they think that their bonded human is trying to cozy up with another human or pet.

How do you know if a cockatoo likes you?

Cockatoo body language chart

If a cockatoo likes you, he will try to play with you, get your attention or nibble you lightly. Even when a cockatoo likes you, they can bite because sometimes biting is the only way to convey their feelings to you. So, don’t take it as something bad unless they are constantly biting you hard.

Are Cockatoos high maintenance?

Cockatoos are high maintenance because of the initial high costs and because they require a lot of work to cope with.

An umbrella cockatoo would cost you anywhere between $ 1000-$ 3000 depending on the area and the seller. These are exotic birds, and owning them is not easy, so the prices are so high.

After that, you have to be prepared for the monthly costs.

The cage is the highest initial cost after the purchase. A big cockatoo cage can cost you anywhere between $ 100-$ 150, but some can go way over $400.

We recommend this cage on Amazon.

Credits to Instagram user cockatoomrbigb (Original post here)

There could be some initial costs because if you want to go for an initial checkup or want to buy them perch, bowls, and other dishes for the cage.

They are not that high because cockatoos don’t need to eat anything special but fresh vegetables and pellets. Pellets can be bought both online/offline at a cheap price, and they would last you for 2 to 3 months because they don’t eat that much. Most of their diet comes from fresh fruits and vegetables.

Hence, the monthly food costs would be anywhere between $ 25-$ 35 a month.

However, there is a problem. Cockatoos are known to destroy things, and they could destroy the toys that you have worked for them quite quickly. The toys can cost anywhere between $ 25-$ 55, and you have to buy them depending on your bird’s aggressiveness every week or so.

A regular vet visit is about $100-$150, but emergency costs and checks can bill you close to half grand.

Related Questions

What does it mean when a cockatoo bobs its head?

Cockatoos generally above their head in excitement to grab the attention of their owners. Cockatoos love this behavior when they are young, and they use that to ask for food. Then, when they are captive, they start using it to get attention.

Do cockatoos need baths?

Cockatoos do need to bathe like any other parakeet. Cockatoos get dirty and smelly if they are not bathed for a long time. You can either mist them in their cage or provide them a safe place to use water, and they will take care of it on their own.

What foods are bad for cockatoos?

Foods like avocado, dairy products, alcohol, chocolate, and fruit seeds are bad for cockatoos. Providing bird seeds in large amounts is also bad as it can lead to obesity problems in birds.

Are cockatoos good for beginners?

No! A cockatoo is not a good bird for beginners. Cockatoos are very demanding birds, and they aren’t cheap either. Rather than a cockatoo, you can own flitches and budgies, and new bird owners prefer both.

Do cockatoos attack humans?

Cockatoos can attack humans due to various reasons. Sometimes they attack due to fear, but other times, they just want to tell you something, and they see biting as the only way to do it.

What it’s like owning a cockatoo?

Owning a cockatoo is not easy, and several people have told their stories. I am attaching a few videos to understand how it is like to own a cockatoo.

YouTube video

YouTube video


What is the bite force of a cockatoo?

A cockatoo bites with a force of 350 PSI or close to 25 kgs. The bite range can vary based on the bird’s intention, i.e., they will bite harder if they are irritated and angry. You can understand their behavior by looking at this beautiful infographic (credits to Animalbehaviorcenter).


Why do cockatoos scream so much?

Cockatoos are very emotional birds, and even small things can irritate them. Sometimes they can also be going through molting season, leading to the loud screaming they do. This also happens when you reinforce the behavior by giving them attention.

Why does my cockatoo bite me?

A cockatoo can bite for several reasons, including asking for food, irritation due to a new pet, not getting enough attention, sexual frustration, etc. You will have to analyze their behavior on a case-to-case basis.

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