PO  Box 126 Mitcham Vic 3132 ( Victoria, Australia )

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Gang Gang Cockatoo
Glossy Black Cockatoo
Goffin's Cockatoo
Little Corella
Major Mitchell's Cockatoo
Red tailed Black Cockatoo
Salmon crested Cockatoo
Slender billed Corella
Sulphur crested cockatoo
Western Long billed Corella
White Cockatoo
White tailed Black Cockatoo
Yellow crested Cockatoo
Yellow tailed Black Cockatoo

. Cockatoos

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All cockatoos are parrots.
Although the Cockatiel is a Cockatoo, it has been placed in the "Australian Parrots" web page. Their care, housing and husbandry is more closely aligned to the smaller Australian Parrots.
Only Cockatoos held by private aviculturists will be listed and for simplicity no hyphens have been used in the common names.

General Information:

  • Some Cockatoos can live for up to 60 years of age.
  • There are 13 species of Australian Cockatoos.
  • All have a crest they can raise when they become excited or alarmed. The Sulphur crested Cockatoo has one of the most prominent crests which is a bright yellow colour and curves forward when raised.
  • All parrot eggs are white and are generally laid in the afternoon or early evening.
  • One sixth of the world's species of parrots are Australian.
  • All Australian parrots will breed in hollow logs. Large solid logs are preferred for the larger cockatoos. Success has also been achieved using old wine barrels.
  • All the larger cockatoos need a large steel framed aviary with strong weld mesh wire. Many breeders having 8 metre long and up to about 1.8 metre wide flights for their breeding birds.
  • In the wild, cockatoos often live in large flocks. Their beaks have adapted to suit their preferred food source e.g. the Long billed Corella digs into the ground to get to roots and other food items where as the Yellow tailed Black Cockatoo can tear open thick branches to get to the grubs and insects deep within the branch.  All but the Cockatiel can use their feet to hold food items, such as seed cones, while they extract the seeds. Cockatoos love to chew on branches and timber so an ample supply of these items should be placed in each aviary for them to chew up. This exercises their beaks and as an occupational therapy to relieve boredom. The timber perches are usually chewed so have a supply on hand to replace the chewed up ones as required. Lots of chewed up perches and other branches is a healthy sign of active birds. Fresh Eucalypt tree branches with the leaves still attached are a favourite of most cockatoos.
  • In captivity the cockatoos have a diverse diet ranging from dry seeds, a variety of vegetables, seeding grasses, live foods such as mealworms and grubs, pelletized manufactured feeds, and the nuts fruits and berries on the branches placed in the aviary.
  • Australian parrots, with the exception of the cockatiel and cockatoos, the hen alone incubates the eggs and broods alone.
  • Nest box size - rough rule of thumb - The internal length of each side of the base of the nest box is equal to the length of the bird minus the tail i.e. beak to vent length.  Minimum height of the nest box to be at least three times the  internal width of the nest box.
  • Give the choice of about three logs or nest boxes at the start of the breeding season to allow the birds to choose the one that they prefer.
  • If you buy birds from the breeder, especially hens, try and find out what type and size of nest box or log they were bred in and offer the same type and size to the young birds when they reach breeding age.
  • The larger cockatoos are slow to mature, generally raise one baby per clutch, but are long lived. For the larger cockatoos incubation and the time before they leave the nest can take 4 or more months. The smaller cockatoos generally average about 2 babies per clutch and can take about 3 months to hatch and leave the nest.

Housing Cockatoos:  Also refer to "Housing birds" web page for more information.

There is a huge range of shapes, sizes and designs of aviaries and cages in use today. If you have a unit that works for you, that is great and why change. The following is what is generally recommended but is subject to change to suit the available space and available resources.

One of the most popular types is the open flight aviary with a solid shelter at the rear of the unit. A walk way is generally attached to and behind the shelter section. Access to the flight is from the rear of the shelter.

In Australia the general orientation of the aviary is to face the front (of the aviary) north or north-east. Providing there are no buildings, large trees, etc in the way, the north or north east orientation should provide good light levels within the flight and allow the birds adequate access to direct sunlight to ensure proper calcium & vitamin D uptake.

  • Aviary size: As a general statement, the larger the Cockatoo the larger the aviary will have to be.  A large aviary is required to allow a bird or pair of birds and any fledgling birds to have sufficient space to fly and maintain optimal health and fitness.  Large birds will need more space so each bird can have an area to their own so they can get away from other birds if they choose to do so.  Birds do need some privacy and to be allowed to escape from the pressures of the dominant bird.
  • Steel / timber frame: As cockatoos are large powerful birds and like to chew on timber, it is essential to build the frame and doors out of steel. Steel frames are easier to clean and generally provide less places for mites and other insects to hide.
  • Wire netting / mesh: General statement = The bigger the Cockatoo's beak, the harder it can potentially bite.  Safe rule is, "The bigger the beak the stronger the mesh has to be".
    Ensure the wire mesh or weld mesh is the best you can buy and is very strong. Remember it has to be up for a long time and in all weather conditions and in the future you may want to buy bigger and stronger birds. It also has to keep un-welcome animals out. Within reason, the stronger the better. For the strong cockatoos, weld mesh will most likely be the preferred choice. If you want to make the aviary vermin proof an additional outer layer of mouse proof wire (about 7 mm) can be added with a gap of about 50 mm between layers. It is expensive to install initially but can pay its way, when installed correctly, very quickly. Keeping vermin out is better than trying to kill or catch the little pests once they get inside. The wire or mesh can be painted black (with non toxic paint) to make it easier to see the birds inside the aviary.
  • Shelter section: Usually has a solid back wall and side walls and a solid roof which if conditions require it can be insulated. This is generally the area where logs / nest boxes are placed and the various feeds are located. Personal preference of ours is to have a vibration free, quiet extractor fan, connected to a thermostat, and shielded by suitable stainless steel mesh guard,  installed in the back wall and ducted to the outside of the aviary complex, to remove excess heat especially in summer. The same extractor fan can be great for removing excess humidity or removing dust while cleaning the flight.
  • Walk way:  The walk way should have a concrete floor. Personal preference of ours is to have a vibration free, quiet extractor fan/s connected to a thermostat and shielded by suitable stainless steel mesh guard, installed to a suitable exterior wall of the walk way to remove excess heat especially in summer. Extractor fan/s can also quickly remove dust  and excess humidity if required.
  • Roofing:  Corrugated clear or opaque materials are strong, durable and popular.
  • Area of roof covered:  Two basic options. 1. The whole roof and shelter could be covered. 2. Many people have the shelter fully covered and half of the rest of the roof covered.
  • Floor: Concrete floor with a sand cover, although expensive initially, is often the best option, and easy to keep clean. Soil floors are cheap initially but require a lot of maintenance to keep clean and dry.

Diet / Feeding:   Also refer to "Feeding birds" web page for more information.

All birds in the wild have a diet that changes throughout the year.  Birds generally breed when their preferred foods (including insects) are most abundant and most nutritious.  Captive birds should be educated to consuming a variety of foods.  Some foods like corn on the cob can also provide hours of activity and entertainment for the birds.  Remember, the wider the variety offered the longer it takes to prepare.

If the birds can accept a variety of foods, then one is able to adjust or modify the birds nutrition intake to cater for the changing seasonal requirements.  For example, prior to the breeding season the protein and calcium levels can be increased.  Protein levels can also be increased during the birds moult.  If birds start to become overweight, or even worse, obese the diet can be adjusted to allow the usual volume of food to be consumed but the energy value can be decreased.  

  • Seeds: Commercial mixes include seeds such as canary, millets, hulled oats, safflower, sunflower, corn, Niger, and rape seed.  Budgie mix, finch mix and parrot mix  are the most common pre mixes available.  Pine cones provide seeds and the birds like to chew them to little pieces.
  • Corn-on-the-cob. Enjoyed by most parrots especially around breeding season.  A valuable food source for baby birds.  Whether it was purchased frozen or fresh, it does not seem to matter to the birds. 
  • Fruits: Most fruits people eat, with the exception of some varieties of avocado (some varieties of avocado are toxic to birds), will be consumed by parrots/cockatoos.
  • Vegetables:  Most vegetables people eat, will be consumed by parrots/cockatoos.  Some vegetables such as silver beet and carrots benefit from being boiled before being fed to the birds.
  • Nuts & berries: Almonds, peanuts in the shell. Most berries people eat will be consumed by parrots/cockatoos.
  • Calcium and grit supplies: Cuttlefish bone, shell grit, calcium blocks etc should always be available, especially around breeding season. A supply of grit may aid in the digestion of the grains.
  • Commercial pellets: Becoming more widely available and may be of benefit as a portion of  the diet.
  • Water: Clean fresh water must be available at all times.  Some birds bathe in the drinking water.  Others like Asiatic parrots will not bathe in their drinking water so provision may have to be made for a second water bowl.
  • Insects: Some parrots / cockatoos like to eat insects such as mealworms.  The pupae and beetle stages of the mealworm can be offered as well as the larvae stage.  In the wild grubs are often removed from tree trunks or branches and eaten by the birds.  These grubs if available can be offered to the birds especially around breeding season.  Crickets (preferably brown crickets before the cricket develops wings) and caterpillars can also be offered. General rule: Never feed black crickets to any birds, reptiles, frogs etc.  Black crickets have very sharp, difficult to digest "spikes" on their back legs which can easily cut or damage the digestive tract of birds and some animals.
  • Treats: Madeira cake in moderation.  Wholemeal or multi-grain bread.
  • Seeding grasses: Most birds love to nibble on the seeds in seeding grass heads including wheat and oats heads.  Seeding grass heads have good nutritional value and provide the birds with a reason to be very active.  Many birds also like chewing the stalks.
  • Sunlight & Vitamin D: With aviaries having fully covered roofs, care must be taken to ensure no deficiency occurs.
  • Mineral & vitamin supplements: If used, it is best mixed into or sprinkled over the soft food.  Keep in mind with supplements that the correct dose rate you should get good results, but, if more than the prescribed dose is administered it could be toxic or even fatal to the birds and / or the babies.
  • Soaked or sprouted seed:  An optional extra that has to be prepared and stored carefully. Perfect hygiene is essential.

General References:  Refer to references listed on " Book References " web page.

"A Guide to Black Cockatoos as Pet and Aviary Birds"  Publisher Australian Birdkeeper Publications.  Authors Neville & Enid Connors.  Published 2005.  Cost about $50.
A/A Vol 59 No. 10 Oct 2005 Page 229-230 (Book review-"A Guide to Black Cockatoos as Pet and Aviary Birds").

A/A Vol 59 No. 10 Oct 2005 Page 229-230 (Book review-"A Guide to Black Cockatoos as Pet and Aviary Birds").

Specific References:

  • Australian Aviculture
  • A/A Vol 60 No. 8 Aug 2006 Page 157-159 (Life with birds - J. McGrath).

  • A/A Vol 60 No. 5 May 2006 Page 98-100 (Birding in the Kimberleys - 2005).

  • A/A Vol 60 No. 4 Apr 2006 Page 69-71 (Advantages & disadvantages of Bird keeping in hot climates)
  • A/A Vol 60 No. 2 Feb 2006 Page 36 (Quirky Australian cockatoos).
  • A/A Vol 59 No. 11 Nov 2005 Page 252-253 (Use of crop needles)
  • A/A Vol 59 No. 10 Oct 2005 Page 233-235 (The case for feeding Green foods - by Dr D. Madill).
  • A/A Vol 59 No. 10 Oct 2005 Page 229-230 (Book review-"A Guide to Black Cockatoos as Pet and Aviary Birds").
  • A/A Vol 58 No. 9 Sept 2004 Page 210-211 (Book review-Atlas of Aust. birds).
  • A/A Vol 52 No. 2 Feb 1998 Page 42-43 (DNRE returns 96/97)
  • A/A Vol 51 No. 11 Nov 1997 Page 243-250 (S. Gelis - Nutrition)
  • A/A Vol 51 No. 5 May 1997 Page 101-107 (Victorian population trends 1993-96)
  • A/A Vol 50 No. 10 Oct 1996 Page 236-241 (A guide to the status of Aust. parrots & cockatoos in Victorian aviaries)
  • A/A Vol 50 No. 9 Sept 1996 Page 216-217 (Nest inspections)
  • A/A Vol 48 No. 4 Apr 1994 Page 83-88 (Studbooks)
  • A/A Vol 48 No. 2 Feb 1994 Page 31-34
  • A/A Vol 46 No. 8 Aug 1992 Page 181-187 (Bird feeding survey)
  • A/A Vol 46 No. 7 July 1992 Page 161-163 (Mixed collections)
  • A/A Vol 46 No. 5 May 1992 Page 101-103 (Palm Cockatoo) (Spain)
  • A/A Vol 44 No. 2 Feb 1990 Page 32-34
  • A/A Vol 41 No. 2 Feb 1987 Page 32-35 (Common names)
  • A/A Vol 40 No. 10 Oct 1986 Page 253-255 (Common names)
  • A/A Vol 34 No. 9 Sept 1980 Page 181-182
  • A/A Vol 27 No. 6 Jun 1973 Page 85-89 (Cockatoos)
  • A/A Vol 25 No. 11 Nov 1971 Page 176-177 (Black Cockatoo).
  • A/A Vol 20 No 4 Apr 1966 Page 59-60 (Black Cockatoos).
  • A/A Vol  8 No 6 Jun 1954 Page 68-70 (Black Cockatoos).
  • A/A Vol  6 No 7 Jul 1952 Page 77-78, 80 (Black cockatoos).
  • A/A Vol  2 No 3 Mar 1948 Page 24-25 (Birds of yesteryear, Still valid in 2005).
  • Australian Birdkeeper
  • ABK Vol 18 Issue 12. Dec-Jan 2006 Page 741-745 (The social lives of wild parrots)
  • ABK Vol 18 Issue 12. Dec-Jan 2006 Page 733-737 (Enrichment for juvenile parrots)
  • ABK Vol 18 Issue 11. Oct-Nov 2005 Page 669-673 (Corellas & Cockatoos of  inland Australia)
  • ABK Vol 18 Issue 11. Oct-Nov 2005 Page 665-668 (Beaks for every purpose - R. Low)
  • ABK Vol 18 Issue 10. Aug-Sept 2005 Page 608-611 (Cracking the chemical code behind the red colours of parrots).
  • ABK Vol 17 Issue 4. Aug-Sept 2004 Page 214-218 (Parrots needs and intelligence - R. Low)
  • ABK Vol 17 Issue 3. Jun-Jul 2004 Page 149-151 (Cockatoo Care Project) (
  • ABK Vol 17 Issue 1 Feb-Mar 2004 Page 14-18 (Parrot ownership).
  • ABK Vol 15 Issue 4. Aug-Sep  2002  Page 197-201
  • ABK Vol 15 Issue 4. Aug-Sep 2002 Page 220-222
  • ABK Vol 15 Issue 3. Jun-Jul 2002 Page 146-147
  • ABK Vol 15 Issue 2. Apr-May 2002 Page 84-86.
  • ABK Vol 15 Issue 2. Apr-May 2002 Page 97-100.
  • ABK Vol 14 Issue 12. Dec-Jan 2002 Page 710
  • ABK Vol 14 Issue 10. Aug-Sept 2001 Page 548-551
  • ABK Vol 14 Issue 9. Jun-Jul 2001 Page 500-504 (Black Cockatoos)
  • ABK Vol 13 Issue 2. Apr-May 2000 Page 103-105 (Palm Cockatoo)
  • ABK Vol 13 Issue 2. Apr-May 2000 Page 108
  • ABK Vol 13 Issue 1. Feb-Mar 2000 Page 24-26
  • ABK Vol 12 Issue 12. Dec-Jan 2000 Page 607-609 (Palm Cockatoo)
  • ABK Vol 12 Issue 11. Oct-Nov 1999 Page 527-529 (Calyptorhynchus)
  • ABK Vol 11 Issue 2. Apr-May 1998 Page 72-76 (Black Cockatoos)
  • ABK Vol 10 Issue 9. Jun-July 1997 Page 450-452 (Palm Cockatoos)
  • ABK Vol  9 Issue 6. Dec-Jan 1997 Page 267-270 (Black Cockatoos)
  • ABK Vol  9 Issue 2. Apr-May 1996 Page 62-65 (Hand raising)
  • ABK Vol  9 Issue 2. Apr-May 1996 Page 69-71 (Mutations, R. Low)
  • ABK Vol  9 Issue 2. Apr-May 1996 Page 72-73 (Ducorp's Cockatoo)
  • ABK Vol  9 Issue 2. Apr-May 1996 Page 86-87 (Nutrition)
  • ABK Vol  7 Issue 4. Aug-Sept 1994 Page 172-175 (Black Cockatoos)
  • ABK Vol  6 Issue 11. Oct-Nov 1993 Page 530-532 (Native Foods)
  • ABK Vol  6 Issue 8. Apr-May 1993 Page 373-377 (Plantscaping)
  • ABK Vol  5 Issue 6. Dec-Jan 1993 Page 290-296 (As pets)
  • ABK Vol  5 Issue 5. Oct-Nov 1992 Page 236-240 (Indonesian Cockatoos - R. Low)
  • ABK Vol  3 Issue 2. 1990 Page 70-71
  • ABK Vol  3 Issue 2. 1990 Page 78-82
  • ABK Vol  2 Issue 12. 1990 Page 478-483 (Suspended Cages)
  • ABK Vol  2 Issue 11.1989 Page 445-448 (Suspended cages- Not recommended for cockatoos)
  • ABK Vol  2 Issue 8. 1989 Page 292 (Suspended Cages)
  • ABK Vol  2 Issue 8. 1989 Page 296-299 (Palm Cockatoos)
  • ABK Vol  2 Issue 7. 1989 Page 244-245 & 252
  • ABK Vol  1  Issue 6. 1989 Page 191-194
  • ABK Vol  1  Issue 4. 1988 Page 120-121 (Parrot Nutrition)
  • ABK Vol  1  Issue 1. 1987 Page 7-10

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