MyToos.com
MyToos.com
MyToos.com

Home | Cockatoo Article Library | Message Board | Letters | Rescue | Announcements

" If you're reading this right now,  it's most likely because you have
A "problem" cockatoo.  The problem with the cockatoo however
is usually caused by the person reading this right now."

My Personal Observations on
Cockatoo Behavior

I know your story... I've heard it hundreds of times.
Its goes something like this:

1.... "I bought a Moluccan (or Umbrella) Cockatoo at
the pet store because it was so cute and friendly!  Now
all it wants to do is scream from morning till night!
I'm going to be evicted if this doesn't stop!

2....   "I am the third (4th,5th,6th) owner of a cockatoo
and it screams or attacks all the time.  Acts like its crazy!
 

3... " I bought a 6 week old Cockatoo from a pet store/
breeder and it wont eat the seed/pellet/ (insert anything
but the right thing here) that I'm trying to feed it.  I have
never owned a bird before. What could possibly be the
problem??"

4... "We work all day and my Cockatoo is plucking
out all it's feathers and now is digging into it's skin to
the point of bleeding. What's wrong with this bird and
how do I get it to stop??"


I'm going to give you the quick 10 minute lesson because you'd fall asleep reading everything that COULD be written about Cockatoo behavior.  Just keep ONE thing in mind while reading all this: Cockatoos grow up after so many years.  You then can have a "wild" animal on your hands.  What do you do then?



Cockatoo's have THE reputation of being the most "cuddly" of ALL the parrots.  However, unlike dogs, cockatoo's will only respond "in kind". What that means simply is this:  They will only Give what they Get.

If you bought a cockatoo as an ornament, to be placed in a cage with interaction on YOUR terms, you'll have a problem.  You don't work the cockatoo around your day...you work your DAY around your cockatoo!   These extremely intelligent creatures are as emotional as a human beings.  And THAT'S what separates them from the rest of the flock.  Many people think that just because a bird talks, they must be intelligent.  Ever seen a Myna bird?  It can mimic with the best but is little more than a crow.  And if you look around, you'll notice that the best talkers are usually also biters. Cockatoo's aren't the big talkers of all the species, they're lovers. (At least for a couple of years)

The problem is that like all wild animals,  cockatoos soon grow up!  So that "cuddly" baby the petstore promised you is now attacking your husband, your wife or your kids!  Understand that birds choose a "mate".  Once they do... everyone else is pretty much the enemy.  Do you have small children?  Are you willing for them to possible be mutilated by a big parrot?  Feel lucky today?
 
 

No... I'm talking about emotional behavior here.
 

I do not recommend any single working person to own a cockatoo, or even couples who work all day. "Interaction" is the magic word  for a single bird.

These birds want it... even if it's just being able to see you as you go throughout your day around the house.  And to be left alone all day is something that most cockatoos will not tolerate.  They will go "crazy" in no time and YOU will be here reading this. Cockatoos' need "hands on" attention at least a couple times a day or more. And 7 in the morning and 7 in the evening just aint gonna get it if you work all day. It will get it however, if someone is home most of the time and the bird knows that... or if your bird has another bird companion.

But I'm not talking about spoiling the bird either!

Many folks think that YOU can dictate the  terms of the cockatoos behavior.  Well, agree that you CAN spoil a cockatoo to the point that he will expect the very same treatment for the rest of his life, and when you die and he still has another 30 years to live, and the next owner doesn't do what YOU did,  then both the bird AND the new owner are going to be very sick.  So be a Parent, not a Grandparent.
 

So limits must always be in place so that the bird knows this.  It's up to you to define a time and place for all interactions with the bird, and make sure that you dont keep a set time for interaction.
If you do,  your bird will expect interaction at the same time each day. Spoiling this bird can be dangerous to his health and you will be trying to find another home for it in no time!  At the same time,  not enough interaction can result in the same thing.  So find a happy medium for the both of you.
 

On the other hand, you are required to meet this birds NEEDS.  And no matter what anybody says... It's needs are more than parrots of other species!  They didn't tell you that in the pet store did they?  Of course not!  They want to sell birds, and they're not about to tell you that owning a cockatoo is like adopting a child. They wont  tell you anything but the  basics. Otherwise you'd never  buy it, unless you were ready for a real commitment.
 


Cockatoo's are the most active of birds.  They were BORN to destroy everything in their path. Its what keeps the jungle replenished in their homeland and its  what they MUST do to be happy!  This means lots of toys and things for them to play with and chew up. And not a lot of that plastic junk either!  I'm talking about things that they can see results from when they work on it.  Everything from plain old wood to heavy cardboard can keep them BUSY for hours.  Puzzles fascinate cockatoo's. Place something inside of something else, and they will spend half the day trying to get it out.  Note: It MUST be able to be removed at some point by the bird  or he will lose interest in it.SAFE toys are another entire subject for which I will not go into here.  See My Dangerous toys link for more info.


I could go on for days on the subject, but I wont. I would like to address statement #3 at the top of the page however: No inexperienced person should purchase an unweaned cockatoo (or any bird for that matter) without complete and formal instruction from the seller. And no inexperienced person should attempt to feed a M2 or U2 less than 6 months old in my opinion. Final weaning  stages are fine, but long term feeding is not for the "Newbie" and is very dangerous.


The bottom line is this:  Interaction and "busywork" are the emotional keys to happy healthy 'Toos.  Proper diet is a MUST also  (See my food page)  because behavior is often related to diet.  And one other thing:  If you feel that you have given plenty of time, toys, and good diet to your 'Too, and he's still plucking.......  take him to a vet and have a CBC, grams stain, fecal check and heavy metal screening done just to make sure there are no other illnesses present.


COCKATOO STRESS METER?   Yes!   Click Here.

Some will disagree with this opinion, and that's to be expected. But most of those people do not own large 'Toos , are sellers,  or just don't have a clue.

But when  8 out of 10 people cant talk about their cockatoo unless its some sort of "problem" then it's time that these facts are known. And once again, it's up you you to provide for the animals needs... not the other way around.  If you  cant do this...find someone who can. Read everything you can find...then read some more.


Who's the Boss... and does it matter?
I get letters like this every week

I was reading through your site and I believe that people do need more knowledge when purchasing birds in general and cockatoos in particular.  With that in mind,  I have a question maybe you can help with.  My girlfriend took in a 6 year old male (guesstimate) in the last year or so.  Who knows what he went thru before. She has had and does have many birds already.  She is the kind of bird owner other bird owners call to ask questions of and we use the 2 best aviarian veterinarians in the area.  They have not been able to help. Here goes.  Best guess is that now at approxiamately 8 years of age,  this bird is at his sexual beginnings,  "finding himself".   He has decided apparently that she is his chosen.In the beginning,  he was very  affectionate and because they are home often,  got to get out and play and roam like her other birds.  He gets to go out in the summer and has plenty of company and exercise.   He then became very excitable if she went to move or if a paper was crumpled,  for example.
He became protective of her around the other birds that she did not need protecting from.  She has been bitten  and attacked and he now chases her and bites her feet if allowed out.  She has a hard time getting him back in the cage when this happens and is finding it increasingly difficult to give him attention or let him out at all! Now he has also bitten her husband.    She has tried to cage him when he misbehaved, moved him to another room,  and tried to comfort him and got bit then too!  We have looked for answers everwhere.  Exhausted our knowledge and any suggestions short of giving him to a breeder. The vet even took him home for a week,  but lost her bird due to a heart attack during his stay and returned him.  The time away did no good.  He is absolutely pitiful when left in the cage and craves attention,  but how can he get it this way?? We are open to any and all suggestions to turn this behavior around!  Looking forward to hearing from you,
Jane



DEAR JANE....

*sigh....  He is doing what he was genetically programmed by nature to do.  Cockatoos are not 
domestic animals that we can train away what  we consider to be bad behaviors.  He is protecting his mate and is attempting to get her out of harms way (or removing her away from  what he considers to be other suitors) by biting her.  He doesn't  understand that she has no feathers to protect her from the biting.  If he's past that stage however, he simply wants to mate.   If its a  Moluccan (in particular) he will go so far as to mutilate the female  that doesn't want to breed with him.  At this point he is very jealous of all the other birds in the house.  Now, after having said all that......  A large cockatoo has a SERIOUS pecking order.  In the wild it would be HIM,  his mate, any offspring, then all other 'Toos.

In captivity its (supposed) to be YOU...then HIM....then YOUR mate ...then all others.  ( Sorry, but there can only be ONE boss in his life and  he doesn't like that one bit either, but with proper handling, it CAN be done.

I have found that Moluccans (for instance) usually are willing to  accept a man as boss over a woman easier.  Why?  For the exact  same reason WE do.  I know this isn't politically correct but stay  with me here:  To a Moluccan, a man has a stronger feel  (especially  in everyday handling) and louder stronger deeper voice.  The cockatoo  can FEEL the power of a man.  And if that man knows what he's  doing, he can pretty much become the boss of the bird. 

BOSS:  (My definition)  A person who has more control over the bird than anyone else in the house.As "boss"... you are at best meeting the bird halfway,  but are in no position to have complete control over this wild animal any more than you have control over a cat!  Actually,  a cat is a good way to think of the type of relationship you'll have with these birds.  Now really... are you the "boss"of your cat?  Of course not.  You both have an agreement to live together and that's about it.
 

The are SOME women that can pull this off also, but it doesn't come naturally.  Cockatoos aren't stupid.  They know who in the house has  the real power, whether by observation or interaction. ( If that person happens to be the woman, the 'Too will know it also) and are  somewhat willing to submit to this power (assuming of course that the person having the power loves the bird.)  Even then, that doesn't mean that an adult cockatoo will bow to any man!  It simply means  that he will ALLOW you to be boss.  Cockatoos gravitate towards  the  person who loves them most, interacts and feeds them most.  But that doesnt mean that the person will wind-up being the "mate".  Natures funny that way.

Now.... if that's a woman, she may think "He loves me and doesn't like my husband so I must be the boss and trainer." Sorry!  WRONG!  The cockatoo loves you until he gets breeding age and then HE becomes YOUR boss. He knows he can get away  with it because you REALLY don't have the power, the roughness, the feel, the strength all of the things that he NEEDS to decide that  you really ARE the boss in the pecking order.  (Sorry about that  womens libbers but you just cant fool Mother Nature no matter how hard you try...)  The question then boils down to: How hard a bite can you take and howmany times can you take them?   Unless you're willing to get scarred up a little,  forget it.

He (like children) needs a strong "Father" figure to look up to.  This is why human children are more scared of their fathers than mothers.   Again however, his "place" may not be YOUR place.  In other words, you can only ask so much of him.  Because like it or not, he is a WILD creature!  And though he may seem cuddly and  domestic for years, nature will eventually come to call.  And when that happens, there's not a damned thing you can do about it but  hang in there.  Its not a "problem" to them ...it's what they do.  Its  only a problem to you.  Its called nature, and sometimes it isn't pretty.  This is another one of the many reasons I dont think large cockatoos make good pets.  They ARENT pets...see?
 
 

Alpha leader today, but who knows in the future... as I get older... 
and weaker... they are always watching ... 


Back to the Main Page Contents

To the Food page