Last Updated on December 7, 2023 by Ali Shahid
The Umbrella Cockatoo, also called the White Cockatoo or Cockatoo Alba, is a captivating bird originating from the tropical rainforests of Indonesia. This medium-sized, all-white cockatoo is famous for its distinctive crest, which fans out like an umbrella when the bird is excited or agitated.
This striking display is not merely decorative but serves as a form of communication. The Umbrella Cockatoo possesses a range of talents, excelling in tricks and human speech mimicry, making it a charming and entertaining companion.
Beyond the enjoyment they bring, these birds are noteworthy for their longevity, with some individuals living up to 70 years in captivity. Despite their popularity as pets, it’s important to note that they are classified as an endangered species, confronting threats such as habitat loss and the illegal pet trade.
History, Origin and Habitat of Umbrella Cockatoo
The Umbrella Cockatoo finds its roots in the tropical rainforests of Indonesia, specifically the Maluku Islands in the central and northern regions of the Indonesian archipelago. This bird species, first documented by German zoologist Philipp Ludwig Statius Müller in 1776, thrives in diverse habitats, including tropical rainforests, mangroves, and cultivated lands.
They are often spotted in open fields like farmlands or swampy areas, typically perched in treetops while foraging for food. Native to various islands such as Tidore, Mandioli, Ternate, Halmahera, and Bacan, the Umbrella Cockatoo has also established introduced populations in Taiwan and Florida.
Despite its popularity as a pet, the Umbrella Cockatoo faces a critical decline due to the exotic pet trade and habitat loss, leading to its classification as an endangered species by the IUCN. The Malay name for these birds, “kakaktua,” gave rise to their common name, cockatoo, and translates to “older sister.” The species-specific name, “Alba,” stems from the Latin word “albus,” signifying “white” in its feminine form.
Interestingly, records indicate that Umbrella Cockatoos were kept as pets in China as far back as the Tang Dynasty in the 7th century. Today, they stand as one of the most prevalent types of cockatoos owned in the U.S.
Physical Characteristics of the Umbrella Cockatoo
The Umbrella Cockatoo, a medium-sized bird, stands out with its impressive white plumage. What truly sets this bird apart is its distinctive pure white crest, which unfurls like an umbrella when the bird is excited, agitated, or engaged in courtship. Beyond its aesthetic appeal, the crest serves as a crucial tool for communication, conveying curiosity, issuing warnings, or reflecting the bird’s mood.
During flight, the underside of the Umbrella Cockatoo’s wings and tail feathers reveals a pleasing pale yellow hue. The bird’s gray beak distinguishes it, with males typically exhibiting larger heads and beaks compared to females. Male irises are commonly dark brown, almost appearing black, while mature females typically display reddish-brown irises.
The Umbrella Cockatoo’s crest isn’t merely a physical feature; it plays a vital role in its behavior. A raised crest can signify various expressions, such as displaying for a mate, defending territory or flock, calling fellow flock members, or conveying emotions like curiosity, excitement, surprise, fear, or frustration. For those approaching a cockatoo, a raised crest serves as a clear warning not to make physical contact lest they risk a potential bite.
Behavior and Temperament of the Umbrella Cockatoo
The Umbrella Cockatoo is renowned for its affectionate, curious, and playful disposition, making it a sought-after choice as a companion bird. These social birds form strong bonds with their owners, displaying a penchant for daily attention and interaction. While their intelligence allows them to learn tricks, they are not considered the most proficient talkers among parrots.
However, keeping an Umbrella Cockatoo as a pet poses its own set of challenges. A primary concern is their need for attention, as neglect can result in behavioral issues, including excessive noise. This can be particularly troublesome for those residing in apartments, condos, or close-knit communities.
Additionally, these birds tend to become easily spoiled, emphasizing the importance of establishing routines and boundaries. This helps the bird learn to engage in both independent and interactive play.
Owners must also be mindful of the Umbrella Cockatoo’s competitive nature for attention. They may not interact peacefully with other birds regardless of species or size. Addressing these challenges requires a thoughtful approach to ensure a harmonious living arrangement for both the bird and its human companions.
Breeding Umbrella Cockatoo
Umbrella Cockatoos, native to Indonesia, thrive in various environments, including forests and plantations. In the wild, they breed once a year between December and March.
Breeding them in captivity is rewarding but challenging. Mimicking their natural breeding season, typically from December to April, is crucial. To initiate breeding, obtain a sexed pair or let young cockatoos pair up naturally. Adequate care, a nutritious diet, and a clean, spacious cage are essential.
Most cockatoos breed well in captivity, with winter and spring being the primary breeding season in North America. A recommended breeding cage should provide enough space for limited flight.
Install a large cockatoo nest box with a 5-inch entrance hole, or use a raised hollowed tree stump filled with wood chips. Umbrella Cockatoos usually produce two egg clutches, with an incubation period of around 28 days. Chicks spend about 8 weeks in the nest and may take up to three months to become independent.
It’s crucial to note that breeding should not be attempted by novice aviculturists due to potential aggression, with male cockatoos known for harming their mates. Generally, cockatoo pairs should only be together for the breeding season, and there’s a risk of aggression from the male towards the female.
Diet and Nutrition of the Umbrella Cockatoo
Umbrella Cockatoos, like all birds, need a well-rounded diet comprising carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water. Their nutrition should consist of a blend of seeds, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and grains.
Seeds and Nuts: Constituting 10% to 20% of the diet, seeds like safflower, millet, canary, sunflower, and groat seeds are ideal, but those meant for human consumption are unsuitable due to their high fat content. Nuts, while a part of their diet, should be given in moderation due to their elevated fat content.
Fruits and Vegetables: A significant portion of the diet should comprise fruits and vegetables. Healthy vegetable options encompass lettuce, spinach, corn, carrots, broccoli, kale, and chard. Suitable fruits include pineapples, mangoes, melons, bananas, tangerines, apples, and coconuts. However, fruits should not exceed 10 to 20 percent of the bird’s overall diet.
Proteins: Proteins can be sourced from eggs, fish, tofu, tuna, and yogurt.
Foods to Avoid: Certain foods are toxic to Umbrella Cockatoos and should be steered clear of. These include avocado, chocolate, and rhubarb. Avocados can be harmful, and citrus fruits are too acidic for these birds.
Caring for an Umbrella Cockatoo
Caring for an Umbrella Cockatoo demands a substantial commitment of time, energy, and resources due to their large, active, and social nature, necessitating an environment that fulfills their physical and emotional requirements.
Housing and Play Area: Given their size and energy levels, Umbrella Cockatoos require a spacious cage. A minimum size of 3 feet by 2 feet by 4 feet is recommended, but larger cages are preferable. The cage should feature perches of varying diameters to engage the birds’ feet, with strong bars to withstand their powerful beaks and proper spacing to prevent head entrapment. Additionally, providing a bird-proofed play area outside the cage is essential for the bird to exercise and explore safely.
Social Interaction and Mental Stimulation: Umbrella Cockatoos are profoundly social birds craving regular interaction with their human caregivers. They necessitate several hours of daily engagement, including talking, petting, and training. Ensuring mental stimulation is equally vital for their well-being, achievable through toys, puzzles, and foraging activities. In the absence of adequate mental engagement, these birds may experience boredom, leading to behavioral issues like feather plucking and self-mutilation.
Umbrella Cockatoo Lifespan and Health
The Umbrella Cockatoo, when provided with proper care, can have a lifespan of 70 to 80 years in captivity, surpassing their typical 30-year lifespan in the wild. As with many species, their health is significantly influenced by their diet and lifestyle.
Obesity: One prevalent health concern for Umbrella Cockatoos is obesity, often stemming from overfeeding or insufficient physical activity. Obesity can lead to issues like fatty liver disease or hepatic lipidosis, characterized by the accumulation of fat cells in the liver. This condition is preventable through proper diet and lifestyle management.
Self-Mutilation: Another common health issue is self-mutilation, where the bird chews its own body, especially the chest and legs. This behavior is often a response to stress, frustration, or lack of mental stimulation and can result in baldness or serious injury. Adequate space, mental stimulation, and companionship can help prevent this behavior.
Other Health Issues: Umbrella Cockatoos may also face health challenges such as bacterial infections, pneumonia, nutritional deficiencies, and exposure to inhaled toxins. Tumors, whether benign or malignant, can also develop in some birds.
Vigilant attention to their diet, lifestyle, and overall well-being, along with prompt veterinary care, is essential for ensuring the long and healthy life of Umbrella Cockatoos in captivity.
Umbrella Cockatoo as a Family Pet
Umbrella Cockatoos can make delightful family pets cherished for their affectionate and playful demeanor. They are known to establish strong bonds with their human caregivers and captivate with their entertaining antics and ability to mimic sounds.
Interaction with Children and Other Birds: These cockatoos can generally interact well with children, especially when socialized from a young age. However, due to their size and strength, caution is advised with very young children who may not comprehend gentle handling. Regarding other birds, Umbrella Cockatoos can be territorial and may not easily get along, particularly with smaller birds. Competition for attention may lead to conflicts.
Precautions with Children: While Umbrella Cockatoos can be wonderful additions to families with children, precautions are necessary due to their sharp beaks. These birds may bite when frightened or agitated, and their bites can be painful. Teaching children to approach the bird slowly and gently, avoiding contact with the beak, is crucial. Additionally, supervising interactions between the bird and children ensures the safety of both parties.
Places to Buy Umbrella Cockatoo and Umbrella Cockatoo Price
Umbrella Cockatoos are available for purchase from various sources, including online bird stores, pet shops, and bird breeders. Online platforms like Timies Birds, Birds Now, Hookbills for Sale, Live Cockatoo Aviary, Parrot Stars, and Morgan Birds Store offer these birds for sale.
The price of an Umbrella Cockatoo can vary widely based on factors such as age, health, and the breeder’s pricing. On average, these birds range from $1,000 to $3,000, with some listings showing prices as high as $5,700 for a baby Umbrella Cockatoo.
It’s crucial to note that the initial cost of the bird is just the beginning of expenses. Additional costs include a suitable cage, toys, food, and ongoing veterinary care. Cages for Umbrella Cockatoos, given their size, can range from $200 to $400 for a basic one, while a higher-quality cage from a reputable manufacturer is recommended. Annual maintenance costs, including food and veterinary care, can average around $1,000.
Prospective owners should carefully consider the commitment and responsibility associated with owning an Umbrella Cockatoo before making a purchase. These birds demand significant care, attention, and social interaction for their overall well-being.
Choosing to welcome an Umbrella Cockatoo into your home is a substantial commitment that should be carefully considered. These affectionate and playful birds boast a remarkable lifespan of up to 70 years or more in captivity, demanding enduring dedication. To ensure their well-being, they require a spacious living environment, a well-rounded diet, and regular veterinary attention.
Their social disposition necessitates consistent interaction and mental stimulation. While they can harmonize with children and other pets, precautions are advisable due to their size and strength.
Beyond the initial purchase cost, ongoing expenses for their care should also be factored into your decision. If you are ready to meet these demands and embrace the challenges, an Umbrella Cockatoo can prove to be a gratifying and entertaining companion, adding joy and vitality to your home.