Should I get a cockatoo?
Cockatoos have captivated people for thousands of years. They are beautiful creatures that in some ways are completely alien to us. They fly. They are covered in feathers. They, mostly, live in trees. Yet, they are also more human than most other animals. They can talk. They make tools. They are intelligent.
Man’s fascination with cockatoos has led us to keep millions of parrots as pets. Parrots are the third most kept pet in the world. They are also the number one most abandoned pet in the world.
If you are thinking about getting a cockatoo, I want to congratulate you for doing research before bringing home a bird. If everyone that has brought a parrot home has done their research like you are doing there would be less parrot abuse and neglect cases in the world.
Unfortunately, a large number of our pet cockatoos are neglected. People who purchase or adopt cockatoos are generally good people. They do not intend to neglect their pet. They might even not realize they are doing it. By doing as much research as you can you help ensure that you are providing the best home possible for your feathered companion.
First things first. Cockatoos ARE wild animals. Having a cockatoo in your home is the equivalent to having a monkey in your home. A flying monkey to be exact. If you would not bring a pet monkey home, you probably should not bring a pet parrot home.
Cockatoos are every bit as intelligent as primates. They are also every bit as wild as primates. Up until 1992 it was legal to import wild caught parrots. That means a lot of the pet parrots in the US were stolen from the wild. Captive bred pet parrots are still only a generation or two removed from the wild.
If you are still convinced that you want a parrot let’s explore if a parrot is right for you!
Cockatoos can live up to eighty years. How old are you? If you are 60, you should not get a baby cockatoo. The bird will outlive you. What will happen to your cockatoo when you pass? Will your cockatoo hate the folks you will him to? Will your cockatoo end up at a rescue or worse being advertised for sale on craigslist by your kids? Will your cockatoo become depressed without you and pull it’s feather out or self-mutilate itself? If you are older and want to share your life with a parrot, I recommend you looking at getting a senior bird from a local rescue.
Are you prepared to be constantly cleaning? Birds will literally destroy things all day. You will have shredded toys thrown all over your house. You might even have shredded furniture thrown all over your house! Don’t forget birds are known for throwing their food all over the place as well. Of course, they will also poop everywhere. Cockatoos are covered in a white dust. That white dust will not only settle throughout your house, but it will get into your lungs which can cause breathing problems.
Cockatoos cannot eat bird seed as their diet. Bird seed is very fatty and will kill your bird eventually. They need pellets and a variety of fresh foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and more. Are you prepared to spend $30 or more a week on food? You will also have to set aside twenty or so minutes each day just to prepare your bird’s meals.
Birds are loud. Some species, such as salmon crested cockatoos (aka Moluccan cockatoos) screams can clock in at 130 decibels. A jet engine is 140 decibels. Most birds scream every morning and every evening. A lot of birds will even scream throughout the day. Can you handle the noise? How will your family handle the noise? What about your neighbors?
A lot of parrots become fearful of humans because their human companions scream at the birds, hit their cages with broom sticks, or even worse lock their parrot in a dark closest to keep them quiet.
Cockatoos are some of the most intelligent animals on Earth. They can understand the concept of zero, manufacture tools, and have been shown to have culture. Depending on what study you are reading parrots have an intelligence equivalent of a 2-6-year-old child.
What would your 4-year-old child do if you locked them in cage while you went to work for 8 hours a day?
To have a cockatoo is to forever have a child that is completely dependent on you. You must plan your life around your parrot. You must make sure it has plenty of toys to keep in entertained each day. Parrots will destroy toys faster than you can buy them.
Not only will you have to provide your parrot with plenty of toys, but you will have to set aside time several times a week for training. Training is the best way to build a healthy positive relationship with your bird.
A bird is built very different than we are. Instead of mammalian lungs they have air sacs to breath. Air sacs are much more sensitive to toxins than our lungs. Once you bring your parrot home you won’t be able to burn candles, use nonstick pans or self-cleaning ovens, or even Febreze in your house. All these products will kill your bird. They are also killing us slowly in the long run. Remember that old saying, canary in the coal mine?
I know it sounds like I am being overly negative, which I am. I am telling you all of this to help you make an informed decision on whether your life will meet the needs of a cockatoo. I don’t want your house to be destroyed, I don’t want your relationships strained, and I don’t want a bird to suffer because you weren’t prepared for complex needs of having a wild animal as a pet.
If you still think you can meet the needs of cockatoo, I highly encourage you to volunteer at a local bird rescue and join a local bird club. Surround yourself around birds and bird people. See if you can handle the noise and the mess. You may run far away and never want to see a bird again or maybe you will meet the feathered love of your life.
Logan Jimenez is owned by five cockatoos. Babs and Cosmo are white cockatoos (aka umbrella cockatoos), Jazzy and Madison are salmon crested cockatoos (aka Moluccan cockatoos), and Pearl who is a goffin cockatoo. Logan studied Environmental Policy and Analysis with a focus on Education at Interpretation at Bowling Green State University. In addition to being a founding member of Save the Cockatoos Network, INC he is a the educational chairperson for Legislative Rights for Parrots.