The Cockatoo!

The cockatoo family originates from and is commonly seen in Australia. Cockatoo species include:

  • Galahs
  • Sulphur Crested Cockatoos
  • Bare-eyed Cockatoos
  • Black Cockatoos
  • Major Mitchell’s Cockatoos

Cockatiels are also from the cockatoo family – for more information please see our Cockatiel blog entry.

Most cockatoos generally can be taught to talk well and can be very vocal.  They are long lived and can make fantastic pets.


It is important to avoid diets high in seed as cockatoo species are prone to obesity and can develop fat deposits and other lumps around their body. In general, we recommend the following:

  • 40-70% premium commercial parrot pelleted diet, such as our Avian Complete, Avian Deluxe and Avian Wholegrain.
  • 20-35% vegetables (recommended vegetables include: capsicum, broccoli, chili, corn, carrot, zucchini, squash, spinach, pumpkin, sweet potato, beans and peas)
  • 7-15% fruits (i.e. melons, strawberries, banana, blue berries, grapes, peaches, pear, apple).  Please ensure that all stone fruits and apples are free of their seeds.
  • 1-2% snacks for training and as treats (unsalted nuts (i.e. macadamia, cashew and walnut), pasta, eggs and brown rice.)

*These ranges are guidelines; each bird will require slightly different dietary requirements – please contact us for more information on what to feed your bird.


  • Cage – We advise a good quality electroplating or stainless steel cage of an appropriate size. Some painted and powder coated cages can contain metal elements, which can be toxic to your bird so please take care when selecting your cage. Cages that have been galvanized with a zinc coating can also cause problems so please select carefully.
  • Bowls – stainless steel or ceramic bowls, these materials are not porous therefore cannot harvest bacteria if cleaned properly. Plastic bowls can become porous after a while and can cause problems if bacteria build up in these areas.
  • Perches – perches of various sizes are important for exercise of the toes and feet health. Natural perches from native trees are ideal as they generally vary in size anyway. We generally advise against calcium perches as they can dry out the bottom of the feet and can easily harvest bacteria due to the porous nature of the material. We generally advise against sand paper covered perches as they can harm the skin on the feet due to their abrasive surfaces.
  • Toys – please do not provide string or rope toys, they fray over time and can cause obstruction if swallowed.
  • If you are feeding a balanced diet, then cuttlefish and other supplements are not needed.
  • Environmental enrichment is recommended. Paper roll and toilet rolls make great toys; they can be used to hide food in, by placing treats in the middle and placing newspaper or shredded paper on each side. This can provide hours of entertainment for many birds.
  • Daylight – It is important that your bird gets enough sleep as long-day light exposure can stimulate excessive molting and increased reproductive activity. We recommend you keep to the natural day length. If your bird is kept inside in a well-lit area, then you can cover the cage when the sun goes down and place them in a dark room to ensure that their day length is not too long.
  • Cage mates – any new bird should be introduced very slowly and gradually as many cockatoos (particularly hand raised birds) do not like the idea of a new bird taking up residence in their cage.

Common diseases:

  • One of the most common diseases that we see in cockatoos is an upset gastrointestinal track; may it be regurgitating, vomiting or diarrhoea. It is advised when any of these signs are noted to take them to a bird vet for an appointment as there are various causes. The causes can be infectious or non-infectious.
  • Upper respiratory tract infection is characterized by sneezing or ocular discharge and is common in young birds. Once again it is highly advised to take them to a bird vet for an appointment as there are a range of different causes of upper respiratory tract disease. Swelling around the eyes can occur, a disease like this is serious and sometimes requires surgery. Chlamydia infection is common in young birds, this is a serious disease that can be transferred to other birds AND humans.
  • If you clip your bird’s wings it is highly advisable that it is performed by someone with experience. Incorrect wing clips can lead to serious problems. It is common for birds with incorrect wing clips to hurt themselves when they fall.
  • Obesity is very common in cockatoo species. In many cases this is related to diets high in seed. Fatty lumps can develop and interfere with your bird’s movement. In many cases the size of the lump can be reduced by placing them on a more appropriate diet. Sometimes these lumps can be more sinister and it is best to bring your bird in if you notice any lumps or swellings present. In many cases surgery is required to remove the abnormal growths.
  • Cockatoos are generally very curious and sometimes get themselves into trouble with foreign objects. It is quite common for them to eat or chew on items that they shouldn’t (jewelry, plastic toys, rope toys, electrical cords etc.). If you are concerned that your bird may have eaten or chewed on something that they shouldn’t have, then please get in touch with a bird vet.

Veterinary care:

  • Regular checkups and wing clipping every 3 – 6 months are very important, as birds are very good at hiding any illnesses that they have. These checkups allow problems to be detected early before they worsen.
  • Microchipping is also recommended. We use a specialized small microchip that is inserted into your bird’s pectoral muscle.

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