Cockatoo - Relationship With Humans - Aviculture


Kept for their appearance, their intelligence and engaging personalities, cockatoos can nonetheless be problematic pets or companion parrots. Generally, they are not good at mimicking human speech, although the Little Corella is a renowned talker. As social animals, wild cockatoos have been known to learn human speech from ex-captive birds that have integrated into a flock. Their care is best provided by those experienced in keeping parrots. Cockatoos are social animals and their social needs are difficult to cater for, and they can suffer if kept in a cage on their own for long periods of time.

The Cockatiel is by far the cockatoo species most frequently kept in captivity. Among U.S. bird keepers that participated in a survey by APPMA in 2003/04, 39% had Cockatiels, as opposed to only 3% that had (other) cockatoo species. The white cockatoos are more often encountered in aviculture than the black cockatoos. Black cockatoos are rarely seen in European zoos due to export restrictions on Australian wildlife but birds seized by governments have been loaned.

Cockatoos are often very affectionate with their owner and at times other people but can demand a great deal of attention. Furthermore, their intense curiosity means they must be given a steady supply of objects to tinker with, chew, dismantle and destroy. Parrots in captivity may suffer from boredom, which can lead to stereotypic behaviour patterns, such as feather-plucking. Feather plucking is likely to stem from psychological rather than physical causes. Other major drawbacks include their painful bites, and their piercing screeches. The Salmon-crested and White Cockatoo species are particular offenders. All cockatoos have a fine powder on their feathers, which may induce allergies in certain people. In general, the smaller cockatoo species such as Goffin's and quiter Galah's Cockatoos are much easier to keep as pets. The Cockatiel is one of the most popular and easiest parrots to keep as a pet, and many colour mutations are available in aviculture.

The larger cockatoos can live 30–70 years depending on the species or occasionally longer and Cockatiels can live for about 20 years. As pets they require a long-term commitment from their owners. Their longevity is considered a positive trait as it reduces instances of the loss of a pet. The oldest cockatoo in captivity is a Major Mitchell's Cockatoo named 'Cookie', residing at Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, which was 79 years old in June 2012. A Salmon-crested Cockatoo named 'King Tut' who resided at San Diego Zoo was nearly 69 when he died in 1990 and a Palm Cockatoo reached 56 in London Zoo in 2000. However, anecdotal reports describe birds of much greater ages. 'Cocky Bennett' of Tom Ugly's Point in Sydney was a celebrated Sulphur-crested Cockatoo who was reported to have reached an age of 100 years or more. He had lost his feathers and was naked for much of his life. A Palm Cockatoo was reported to have reached 80 or 90 years of age in an Australian zoo, and a Little Corella that was removed from a nest in central Australia in 1904 was reported still alive in the late 1970s. In February 2010, a White Cockatoo named 'Arthur' was claimed to be 90 years old; he had lived with a family for generations in Dalaguete, Cebu, before being taken to Cebu City Zoo.

Trained cockatoos are sometimes seen in bird shows in zoos. They are generally less motivated by food than other birds; some may more respond to petting or praise than food. Cockatoos can often be taught to wear a parrot harness, enabling their owners to take them outdoors. Cockatoos have been used in animal-assisted therapy, generally in nursing homes.

Cockatoos often have pronounced responses to musical sounds and numerous videos exist showing the birds dancing to popular music. Research conducted in 2008 with an Eleonora Cockatoo named Snowball had indicated that this particular individual is indeed capable of beat induction—perceiving human-created music and synchronizing his body movements to the beat.

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