Cockatoo Personality (Avian Vet Reviewed)

Last Updated on January 22, 2024 by Ali Shahid

Cockatoos are known for their lively and loving personalities, making them a favorite among bird enthusiasts and those who have pets. The personality of cockatoos makes them stand out from other parrots. These birds are playful, cuddly, loyal, smart, and loving towards people, which makes them great companions. According to AFA WatchBird, these birds are intelligent, curious, and appreciate an orderly environment.

These charming birds stand out not just for their stunning looks but also for being friendly and affectionate. They enjoy spending time with people and often become an important part of the family.

Understanding how cockatoos behave is crucial if you’re thinking about bringing one of these delightful birds into your home. They thrive on interaction and build strong connections with their human friends. Without enough attention and mental stimulation, they might develop behaviors you wouldn’t want.

But, it’s important to know that their love and loyalty require a lot of attention. For those thinking about having a cockatoo as a pet, it’s important to realize the commitment needed to meet these intelligent creatures’ emotional and social needs. Getting to know and accepting a cockatoo’s unique personality can lead to a fulfilling companionship. But remember, it’s a journey that requires time, patience, and a whole lot of love.

Cockatoo Personality

A Deep Dive into Cockatoo Behavior

Cockatoos are really social birds that enjoy spending time with people and other cockatoos. It’s not just a preference for them; it’s something they need for their well-being. Studies have found that these birds can pick up on complex behaviors by watching and copying others, like figuring out how to open a garbage bin to get food. 

This kind of social learning is not only interesting but also shows how smart they are and how much they need mental challenges. Their intelligence is on par with that of young children and great apes, especially when it comes to understanding things like object permanence and spatial reasoning. 

This means cockatoos are not just clever; they can also have fun solving problems and figuring out how to interact with their surroundings. They can even create tools to get to their food, showing they can plan ahead and adapt.

But, their intelligence and friendliness can sometimes lead to noisy and mischievous behavior. Cockatoos are known for making loud calls, which could be their way of talking or a sign that something’s bothering them, like not getting enough attention. 

If they are feeling ignored or bored, they might start chewing on furniture or walls. Cockatoos don’t feel human emotions like spite, so it’s more of a reaction to what’s happening around them and the attention they’re getting.

Cockatoo Personality Types

Cockatoos have unique personalities that differ among species and individual birds. Let’s break down some key traits:

  1. Friendly and Sociable: Cockatoos are known for being affectionate and enjoying the company of their human partners. They’re social birds that thrive on interaction and attention.
  2. Smart and Curious: Cockatoos are intelligent and inquisitive. They like exploring their surroundings and solving puzzles.
  3. Fun and Amusing: Cockatoos are playful and entertaining. Some can talk a lot, while others are known for dancing and putting on a show.
  4. Noisy and Talkative: Cockatoos can be loud, which might be a challenge if you live close to neighbors.
  5. Emotionally Sensitive: Cockatoos have complex emotions and can reflect the moods of their human companions. They may show self-stimulatory behaviors like constant screaming if they feel neglected.
  6. Different Types, Different Personalities: Various cockatoo species have distinct traits. White cockatoos adapt well to both city and nature, Black cockatoos are rare and popular among bird watchers, Gang-gang cockatoos have a unique appearance and sound, and Pink cockatoos prefer desert environments.

Remember, each cockatoo is unique, and factors like upbringing, environment, and individual personality can influence their behavior. While these traits give a general idea, they might not apply to every bird.

Male Cockatoos Personality

Male cockatoos are known to be sensitive and understanding, often reflecting the feelings and character of their human companions. They’re really social and need lots of interaction, thriving on attention from their human pals. These guys can get attached and sometimes show aggression, making long-term relationships a bit tricky. They’re also playful and a bit mischievous. 

When male cockatoos grow up, they might try to mate with things or even their human friends – it might be a bit awkward, but it’s not harmful. Generally, male cockatoos can be more assertive than females, but keep in mind that each cockatoo has its own personality. There can be dominant males and females.

Remember, a cockatoo’s behavior depends on things like its upbringing, surroundings, and individual personality. So, while these traits give a rough idea, they might not fit every single bird.

Female Cockatoo Personality

Female cockatoos share similar characteristics with their male counterparts, being smart, curious, and social birds. They have intricate emotions and can create strong connections with their human companions. While the overall behavior is alike between male and female cockatoos, dominance can be seen in both genders. Like males, female cockatoos can show affectionate behavior, seeking attention.

Females may also exhibit cavity-seeking behavior due to their natural nesting instincts. If they feel neglected, they might develop self-stimulatory actions like constant screaming or feather plucking. Just like with males, each female cockatoo has a unique personality, influenced by upbringing, surroundings, and individual traits. So, while these traits provide a general insight into female cockatoo behavior, they may not fit every individual bird.

Behavior Experts and Owners Opinion About Cockatoo Personality

Pamela Clark, a Certified Parrot Behavior Consultant (CPBC), sheds light on common misunderstandings surrounding cockatoos, challenging the notion that they are naturally cuddly and needy. She suggests that these characteristics may be a result of how they are bred and raised. 

On Reddit, an anonymous cockatoo owner describes these birds as having the personality of a Pomeranian, the energy level of a Jack Russell Terrier, the destructive tendencies of a Husky, and the intelligence of a wolf—all wrapped up in a feathered body. 

Another Reddit user, raised in a family of parrot breeders, stresses the immense social needs of cockatoos and warns that they can develop neurotic or self-destructive behaviors if not given sufficient attention.

The Spruce Pets offers a comprehensive perspective, noting that while cockatoos are lively and affectionate, forming close bonds with their owners, they may display neurotic behavior if they lack the necessary affection and attention. 

According to BirdSupplies.com, Bare-eyed Cockatoos are characterized as playful and affectionate with excellent talking and training abilities, while Moluccan Cockatoos are recognized for their gentle and loving personality.

 An article in AFA Watchbird highlights the intelligence and inquisitive nature of cockatoos, emphasizing their need for a stable environment. It also warns that these birds can become dominant and may seek attention to the extent of trying to dominate their owner’s life.

Are Cockatoos Good Pets?

Cockatoos, known for their vibrant personalities and affectionate nature, can be captivating pets but aren’t suitable for every household. Despite their sociability, intelligence, and playfulness, they demand significant attention and care. Ideal for families with older children due to potential jumping and strong bites, these “velcro birds” form strong bonds with caretakers.

Lack of social interaction can lead to depression, neurotic behaviors, or self-mutilation. High-maintenance emotionally and physically, cockatoos require daily attention and careful supervision outside their cages. Their loud calls serve as communication or distress signals when attention is lacking.

Prospective owners should be aware of the challenges, such as a long-term commitment (up to 80 years), potential aggression upon sexual maturity, and the risk of medical conditions like reproductive disorders, liver disease, and obesity. Understanding and preparing for these aspects are crucial for those considering cockatoos as pets.

Cockatoo Pet: Care and Maintenance

Caring for a pet cockatoo involves crucial considerations, including a spacious cage with perches and toys, a well-balanced diet, engaging activities, and regular veterinary check-ups for health monitoring.

Cage and Environment: Cockatoos need a roomy cage with horizontal bars for climbing. It should have perches and toys without overcrowding. Place the cage away from drafts, direct sunlight, and damp conditions. Provide wooden chews to prevent cage damage. Regular cleaning is vital, with daily tasks like changing the liner cleaning food/water dishes, and weekly and monthly deep cleanings.

Diet: Cockatoos need a balanced diet to avoid health issues. Include proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins from fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and pelleted bird food. Limit high-fat items like peanuts and sunflower seeds due to their deficiency in calcium and essential nutrients.

Toys and Activities: Mental and physical stimulation is crucial. Foraging toys, both chewable and reusable, mimic wild foraging behavior. Swings and activity toys engage the bird’s entire body, providing entertainment.

Health Check-ups: Annual veterinary check-ups are necessary. A physical examination helps monitor health, nutrition, and behavior. Early signs of illness include changes in droppings, nostril discharge, labored breathing, puffed-up appearance, resting with head under the wing, and unusual perch behavior. Regular vet visits aid in early detection and preventive care.

Cockatoos as Pets: Training and Bonding

Caring for a pet cockatoo goes beyond a suitable environment and diet—it involves training, bonding, and preventing undesirable behaviors. Cockatoos, known for their intelligence, can learn activities like singing, playing, and tricks, requiring consistent training to avoid unwanted behaviors.

Learning and Performing Activities: Cockatoos can be trained to sing, play, laugh, and dance. Tricks like shaking hands or giving a kiss follow a sequence of commands, desired behavior, bridge, and reward. Training sessions, lasting 10 to 15 minutes, should engage the bird’s full attention.

Training and Setting Boundaries: Establishing boundaries, especially with young cockatoos, is vital. Consistent rules prevent problematic behaviors like aggression or destruction. If a cockatoo bites, calmly withdraw your hand and engage verbally. Offering a toy can redirect the behavior.

Potential for Undesirable Behaviors: Insufficient attention or restriction of natural behaviors can lead to problems like excessive screaming, feather plucking, biting, or apathy. These indicate psychological issues caused by boredom, loneliness, or social isolation. Providing toys and social interaction prevents these problems. Addressing the root cause is crucial if these behaviors emerge.

Pet Cockatoo: Considerations Before Adoption

When contemplating the adoption of a pet cockatoo, several crucial factors deserve consideration. These birds boast dynamic personalities that can bring joy to a household, but they also present specific challenges that prospective owners should acknowledge.

Potential for Loud Noise and Destruction: Cockatoos are renowned for their loud vocalizations, potentially posing issues for owners in close proximity to neighbors or with noise sensitivities. Their natural behavior involves vocalizing to communicate with their flock, translating to disruptive calls in a home setting. Additionally, their strong beaks, designed for chewing and foraging in the wild, can lead to furniture and belongings damage if not provided with suitable toys and supervision.

Long-Term Commitment: Cockatoos have extended lifespans, with some species living up to 80 years in captivity. Adopting a cockatoo entails a commitment lasting decades, necessitating planning for their care in case they outlive their owners. This commitment involves providing a stable environment and ongoing care, encompassing social interaction, mental stimulation, and proper veterinary attention throughout the bird’s life.

Potential for Allergies Due to Feather Dust: Cockatoos, especially Powder Down Birds, produce a fine, waxy powder from their feathers, impacting indoor air quality and triggering allergies. The feather dust produced during preening or wing flapping can cause allergic alveolitis, a lung condition characterized by breathlessness and flu-like symptoms. Prospective owners with allergies or respiratory concerns should weigh this factor seriously before adopting a cockatoo.

People Also Ask

Are cockatoos emotional?

Yes, cockatoos are quite emotional beings. When they feel neglected or lack attention, they can display neurotic behaviors, underlining the importance of their emotional well-being. These birds form strong bonds with their owners and express affection by snuggling against their chests or resting their heads on their shoulders. 

However, their grasp of human emotions, like sadness, can vary. Some owners share experiences of their cockatoos comforting them during moments of tears, while others don’t observe a behavior change.

It’s worth noting that if their needs aren’t met, cockatoos might become noisy, engage in destructive behavior, and become overly dependent, showcasing the depth of their emotional complexity.

Can cockatoos cry?

Cockatoos don’t cry like humans do because they don’t produce tears for emotional distress. Instead, they might show what seems like crying through loud vocalizations or “screaming” when upset, stressed, or wanting attention. Cockatoos are known for their powerful vocal abilities, so these behaviors can be pretty intense. It’s crucial to see these actions as a way of communication for cockatoos, expressing their needs and emotions.

Do cockatoos get sad?

Yes, cockatoos can indeed feel sadness or experience depression. Being highly social and intelligent birds, they need a good amount of interaction and mental stimulation. When these needs aren’t fulfilled, they can become depressed. Indications of depression in cockatoos may involve changes in behavior, loss of appetite, feather plucking, and increased vocalizations or “screaming.” 

To prevent depression, it’s crucial to provide them with ample social interaction, mental stimulation, and a stable environment. If you notice signs of depression in your cockatoo, seeking advice from a veterinarian or a bird behavior specialist is recommended.

Can cockatoos feel love?

Yes, cockatoos can experience a form of love, or at least display behaviors that humans interpret as such. They have a sensitive nature, often reflecting the moods and personalities of their human companions. Cockatoos establish strong bonds with their human partners and crave a considerable amount of attention. 

They can be notably affectionate, actively seeking physical contact and cuddling. Furthermore, when it comes to their offspring, cockatoos display nurturing behaviors like feeding, brooding, and pampering, akin to a form of parental love. It’s essential to recognize that while these behaviors might resemble human expressions of love, they may not exactly mirror the same emotions as understood by humans.

Conclusion

Understanding the personality of a cockatoo is crucial before deciding to adopt one of these charming birds. Their unique traits, characterized by affection, intelligence, and occasional demands, necessitate a committed owner capable of providing proper care and attention. 

For those ready for the commitment, a relationship with a cockatoo can be highly fulfilling, as these birds can form profound bonds, bringing joy and entertainment to a household. However, it’s vital to recognize that cockatoos thrive with ongoing care and attention. 

They require a stimulating environment with numerous toys and activities for engagement, a balanced diet for health maintenance, and regular interaction with their owners to meet their social needs. Without these, cockatoos may develop behavioral issues like screaming, feather plucking, and aggression.

References:

1.       https://watchbird-ojs-tamu.tdl.org/watchbird/index.php/watchbird/article/view/2655

2.       https://blogpamelaclarkonline.com/2019/08/14/the-inconvenient-truth-about-cockatoos/

3.       https://www.thesprucepets.com/cockatoos-as-pets-1238604

4.       https://www.reddit.com/r/parrots/comments/1rxdep/what_are_the_downsides_of_owning_a_cockatoo/

5.       https://www.reddit.com/r/bestof/comments/42y64h/cockatoo_owner_perfectly_describes_the_experience/

Author

  • Dr. Sajjad Ali

    Dr. Sajjad is an Avian expert and loves to treat and help parrots. He has two years of clinical experience in treating and helping parrots as a vet.

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