Eleven species of cockatoos are native only to Australia. Seven species of cockatoos can be found on the islands of the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and the Solomon Islands.

Most live in trees in forested areas. Many have suffered due to the destruction of their landscape and food sources. When this happens, they often move to agricultural areas where they are considered pests by farmers. Many cockatoos are now considered an endangered species.

Cockatoos are known for the feathered crest on their head. They can raise or flatten this crest and will often raise it when agitated or aroused.

They are usually white or gray in color, though a few species are black. On their tail or crest they sometimes have a small area of yellow or red. They do not have the bright plumage of other parrots.

Most cockatoos are large in size. They range from 12 to 24 inches in length and weigh up to 2.5 pounds. The exception is the cockatiel which is a smaller sub-species. A cockatiel is rarely longer than 12 inches and weighs around 3 ounces.


Cockatoos aren’t as well known as some of the other parrots for their ability to mimic speech, but in general, they do have pretty good speech capabilities. There is a lot of variation between individuals as well as likely some species variation.


Smaller cockatoos should have a cage no smaller than 24″x36″x48″ with a bar spacing of 3/4″ to 1″ while the larger cockatoos need a very large cage: about 24″x48″x48″ with a bar spacing of 1″ to 1.5.” The larger the cage the better. A strong cage (wrought iron, stainless steel) is necessary to withstand the cockatoo tough beak. Horizontal bar wires will allow the cockatoo to exercise by climbing on the sides of the cage.


Cockatoos love to chew and destroy things, so providing chewable toys is a necessity. Softwood toys, tree branches, vegetable tanned leather, rope toys (supervise use), bells and cardboard can all be given. Provide both hanging toys that can be picked up in the feet. Toys with hanging strands simulate preening and are popular with cockatoos. All toys must be safe, and hung safely: see “Picking Safe bird toys” for more on safety.


Cockatoos need a variety of fresh foods along with a good quality avian pellet based diet. Pellets can be up to 50% of the diet and fresh foods (vegetables, fruits, grains, etc) you prepare should Make up the rest. Seeds and seed mixes should only be used as a limited treat item since they are high in fat. Nuts can also be used as a special treat. Links to help with feeding a proper diet.