There is an industry built around Cockatoos. There are types for every taste. Shall we learn about it

CockatooVery active, imitador of human speech, elegant and attractive, able to perform acrobacias and to grow attached to people, this bird has been conquering more and more space as a pet.

In Europe, and specially in the USA, where it has been bred in captivity for years, it has become rather popular, and the Americans are one if its greatest exporters. In these countries, there are toys and sophisticated cages specially made for it, several publications and videos about its breeding. Some of them teach how to tame it and teach it tricks such as roller skating, getting objetcts, etc. It costs a lot, varying from a thousand to 20 thousand dollars, depending on the species. It is raised on the hand since it's a baby, to enhance its qualities as a pet, and this is exactly one of the reasons for its high cost.

In Brazil the Cockatoo is not as popular. Only a few breeders and zoos work with thei reproduction. The ones available in stores are usually imported, mostly from foreign breeders, where most species are bred. The ones caught in nature (Indonesia and Australia) are controlled by protective legislation.


The name Cockatoo comes from the malayan Kakatua, which means Big Parrot, for its size can reach 30 to 70cm. Most species have a charming crest (with specific sizes, colors and shapes), which is raised or lowered when bird is excited or alarmed. In some, plumage is specially attractive.

Due to its relatively large size, it demands individual cages to stay at home, or a bigger aviary for reproduction. However, since it is very active, if raised with little space, it needs entertainment and constant activities. If not, it may develop vices such as screaming loudly, destroying everything around it with its beak, or even plucking its own feathers. The solution to this problem is to keep it busy with things to bite and chew: perches and wood toys, or any toy specifically made for cockatoos, dog's leather bones, and food which takes longer to "find" such as walnuts, seeds, nuts, green beans, etc. Because of its monogamy, it is advisable to have a couple, instead of only one bird.. If there are more than one couple, they should be kept apart, because they attack each other causing wounds and even death.

There are some variations of behavior among species, which deserve attention, for they may influence direclty the breeding. There are the ones, for instance, who learn to talk faster, other are very noisy, and others yeat who grow so attached to the owner, they don't admit being touched by other people.


This bird's beak is very strong, and usually heavy, allowing to eat all kinds of nuts, grains, seeds, but it also eats leaves, flowers, fruit and insects and their larvae. Some species eat exclusively on trees, and other do it on the ground, too. In their habitat, they can be found in couples in the mating season, and during other periods, in groups, big or small (sometimes groups of hundreds), looking for food. They make nests in hollow parts of trees. They love water: playing in the rain, or flying through wet foliage after a storm. It is generally very noisy; it makes a particular sound whenever happy or threatened.

It lives a long time. If treated correctly, it may last from 40 to 80 years. For that reason, before buying, remember whichever you choose, it may spend the rest of its life in your company.


There are 5 genus, totalling 17 species, plus 15 other sub-species (in: Parrots of the World, ed. 1981):

  1. Cacatua calyptorhynchus: also known as Black Cockatoos. Species: Black (C. funereus) measuring 67cm; Red-tailed (C. magnificus) measuring 60cm, and Glosy (C. lathami) measuring 48cm;
  2. Cacatua cacatua: known as White Cockatoos. Species: Major Mitchell (C. leadbeateri) measuring 35cm, light pink body, white wings and white, red and yellow crest; Lesser Sulphurcrested (C. sulphurea) measuring 33cm, white plumage with yellow crest, curved towards the beak; Sulphur-crested (C. galerita) measuring 50cm, looks like the C. sulphurea in plumage and crest; Blue-eyed (C. ophtalmica) measuring 50cm, and similar to C. galerita, but with yellow crest curved backwards, and blue rim around eyes; Salmon-crested (C. moluccensis) measuring 52cm, light pink and salmon body, and pink crest; White (C. alba) measuring 46cm, white body and crest; and the ones with smaller size with smaller crests and beaks: Red-vented (C. haematuropygia) measuring 31cm, Goffin's, measuring 32cm, Little Corella (C. sanguinea) 38cm, Long-billed (C. tenuirostris) 38cm, and Ducorps (C. ducorpsii) 31cm;
  3. Cacatua probosciger: Palm (P. aterrimus) 60cm, blueish black plumage, red cheeks, large beak;
  4. Cacatua callocephalon: Gang-Gang (C. fimbriatum) measuring 34cm, gray plumage, male has red crest, filamentous and curved legs; and
  5. Cacatua eolophus: Galah (E. roseicapillus) 35cm, crest and part of head are light pink, pink body and gray wings. There are 15 sub-species with small variations in crest, size, beak, etc.


Purchase: Best about 3 months old, so it gets used to you, and might learn to talk.
Behavior: C. galerita - gets along with people, speaks well, with a clear voice, learns tricks. C. sulphurea - very attached to owner, avoids other people, sweet, ideal for a calm home. C. moluccensis - noisy, speaks well, with a hoarse voice, loves gnawing, gets along with people. E. roseicapillus - easy care, speaks well, loves gnawing. (Tips from Gloria Allen).
Feeding: A seed mix daily (150 to 200g per bird): sunflower (10%), raw green corn (40%), and grains (50%). The grains should be soaked in water for 24 hours and then be boiled for 10 minutes, draining water (wheat, barley, oat, coated rice, rye, beans, peas, soya beans). Also serve 150 to 200g of chopped fruit with peels, green vegetables with stem (except lettuce) and vegetables. Add commercialized dog food (20g) 3 times a week, and during breeding, add germinated grains and seeds, for they have more vitamins.
Housing: Indoors: Big individual cage (at least 60cm long x 60cm wide x 60cm high), or aviary (120 x 60 x 60cm). Outdoors: aviary with no wood beams (they are natural chewers!), concrete floor, slightly inclined, measuring at least 7,2 x 1,8 x 2,4m (Stan Sindel and Robert Lynn) or 3,5 x 2x 2,5m (São Paulo Zoo). For reproduction, aviary measuring 3 x 1,2 x 1,2m built 1,2m from ground, on iron or concrete columns. Six sides covered with same canvas, plus a metal plate covering the back and 1 meter of each lateral, and covered with clay roofing tiles, facing North to receive morning sun. Branch perches, rough and round, 2 to 6cm diameter. Water and food troughs made of clay or stainless steel, installed one meter from ground.
Reproduction: After bird is 4 or 5 years old. Females lay 2 to 5 eggs, and incubation takes about 30 days. Male helps hatching and feeding babies. These eat by themselves after 4 months old. To tame separate parents 15 to 25 days after birth, and feed it in your hand every 2 hours. Outdoor nest made of hard wood, such as eucalypt, 60 x 60 x 60cm (São Paulo Zoo), or 1m x 30 x 30cm. Indoor nest in hollow part of a tree with 1m x 30cm diameter, vertical, partially inclined, with entrance on top (Stan Sindel and Robert Lynn). Entrance should always be 30cm. The couple shops pieces of wood and covers nest.
Health: Keep housing clean. Inclined to respiratory diseases. Avoid air drafts.
Importing: It is necessary license from exporter country and IBAMA, tel. (061) 316-1169, Fauna and Flora Division, Brasília).
Reading Material: Australian Cockatoos, by Stan Sindel and Robert Lynn, Singigl Press Pty Ltd., sold by Surrey Beatty & Sons, 42 Rickard Road, Clipping Norton, NSW2170, Australia, tel. (00612) 602-3888; Parrots of the World, by Joseph M. Forshaw, for sale at the Parrot Mountain Company, P.O. Box 2037, Ocean, New Jersey 07712, USA, tel. (001800) 362-8183.
Breeders: Gloria Allen, Allen Aviary, CA, USA, (001707) 963-4569; Aviculural Breeding & Research Center, FL, USA, (001407) 790-0729; Reginaldo Leone, breeder and importer in São Paulo, Brazil (011) 276-1190.

We would like to thank the assistance of Gloria Allen, North-American breeder, as well as Luis Sanfilippo, head of the Bird Department of the São Paulo Zoo; Reginaldo Leone, breeder and importer; and Lucia Helena de Oliveira, from the Fauna and Flora Division of IBAMA, for their interviews, and also for the text editing. We also thank Nelson Kawall, Psittacidae birds breeder, for further text editing.
Research and text: Carmen Olivieri

Picure: Luiz Henrique Mendes
Owner: Pedro S. Callado

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