Bird Food for Your Cockatoo
Food for cockatoos should be nutritious, but should also include a foraging element as well. Cockatoos are fun loving, intelligent, and energetic, and their food should reflect those traits. Wild cockatoos forage all day for seeds and nuts, as well as coconuts and grain crops. Like all companion parrots, cockatoos do not thrive on birdseed alone. Cockatoo food shouldn’t be boring to eat, either. Try Avi-Cakes, Nutri-Meals, Pellet-Berries, Nutri-Berries, and Lafeber’s Premium Daily Diet Pellets.
The Moluccan Cockatoo
The Moluccan Cockatoo (C.moluccensis) is originally from Indonesia, and is a favorite among bird fanciers due to its striking appearance and wonderful temperament. Mollucans are also called Salmon-crested Cockatoos because of the salmon-pink feathers that comprise most of their head crest, which they will display when they are excited, angry, afraid, or thrilled with something.
The Moluccan is a large bird, but can range in size, reportedly because the region in which they are found in the wild is large enough to support “sub species,” though I have not heard that information confirmed. The Moluccan is a rosy-pink color, with the depth of the pinkness varying per individual. The feet and beak are black, but are generally covered with powder down, which make them look grey – don’t worry, this is absolutely healthy.
In terms of noise, the Moluccan can out-volume and out-yell any other bird. They seem to scream for no reason, whether they are happy or afraid, and even in the middle of the night! Because of their loud voice, they seem to be given away or become neglected more than any other species of bird—it takes a very special household (and special neighbors) to be able to live peacefully with a Moluccan. They are not known to be great talkers, but they will mimic a few words—actually, they will be more likely to yell them. But talking is not why people love Moluccans—this bird is most prized for its affectionate nature.
Moluccans would like nothing more than to be sewn to your body twenty-four hours a day. They crave attention and love, and can become pests because of this trait. They are not very good at “playing alone” and will constantly vie for your attention. If you have the attention to give, great – you will have a happy bird. They are the perfect bird for a shut-in, or someone who is home much of the day. All they want is to be held and cuddled all the time.
Like most cockatoos, Moluccans are incredibly sensitive, and can become neurotic and upset when they are neglected. They are prone to self-mutilation due to this sensitivity, and they hate confinement—the owner of a Moluccan had better provide for a lot of out-of-cage time daily. A large play gym, or even a habitat-type enclosure would suit a Moluccan well. Moluccans are quite destructive, so be prepared to replace the play gym and perches often—and never let a Moluccan near your furniture.
Moluccans are not known biters, but they have very powerful beaks, and care should be taken around small children. Remember, even though your bird is sweet as honey (and Moluccans are), if it has a mouth, it can bite.
House your Moluccan in the largest cage you can afford because they are large birds and need a lot of space. Moluccans are very social animals, and get along well with each other, so if you are not home often, you may want to consider getting two. This should not affect their pet quality. However, nesting Moluccans are notorious for killing their mates—they are known for bird-on-bird aggression in a breeding situation.
The Umbrella Cockatoo
The Umbrella Cockatoo (Cacatua alba), also known as the White Cockatoo or the Great White Crested Cockatoo, is well-known in bird circles as being one of the most affectionate and affable companion birds widely available on the market today. An Indonesian native, the umbrella is slightly smaller than the Moluccan cockatoo, but is not smaller in personality or charm. This out-going cockatoo is infamous for its outlandish antics and for being clingy with its owners.
The umbrella desires nothing more than to cuddle with the object of its desire, and can become overly attached to other birds or objects in the pet shop, leading to serious disappointment when these birds or objects are sold—these birds are extremely sentimental! In the wild, the umbrella is never without a companion, and the captive umbrella has the same instinctual patterning to bond to a mate, or at least to have a special friend. The best way to make an Umbrella Cockatoo unhappy is to keep it in isolation.
The umbrella can be distinguished from other White Cockatoos by its wholly white crest that raises like an umbrella when the bird is excited, agitated, or ready to play (or bite!). Both the beak and legs are a dark grey, and the feathers on the undersides of the wings and tail are light yellow.
The noise level of this bird is extremely high. It is prone to bouts of loud screaming, especially if it is isolated, locked in a cage, or doesn’t get its way. Screaming is often a measure of the bird’s displeasure—the louder the more significant the disapproval of its circumstances. Many cockatoos are re-homed because of their superior voices. On the up side, the umbrella can be taught to talk and may acquire a vocabulary of more than 50 words, though most will not learn that many. Often, a bird that learns to talk may substitute screaming for talking—but not all of the time.
Because this bird is large and hates being confined to the point of chewing and picking out its feathers, it requires a large space to live in, preferably an enormous, well-build cage with a top that opens into a playstand. An umbrella can’t live happily in a small space, and will become weary and apathetic or agitated and aggressive if confined.
The umbrella owner should have experience with parrots before taking on this feathered handful. This is not a good first bird, nor is a good child’s pet. The umbrella also tends to become spoiled very easily, and will not take well to changes in routine, or additions to the family, such as an infant or new puppy.
The umbrella is a long-term commitment for an owner—this species can live up to 70 years with proper care and attention. Unfortunately, many of these sensitive birds don’t live that long. They are prone to self-mutilation and the infections that result from that abnormal behavior.
Another serious consideration for a new owner is the powder dust that these cockatoos emit, which can irritate those owners with sensitive respiratory systems or allergies. Use air purifiers if you have room for them, as these items help to cut down on the dust. Regular bathing with clear, warm water will also help.
The Umbrella Cockatoo certainly makes a charming, affectionate pet, but it’s not for everyone. This bird can be as fickle as the weather, playing one minute and screaming and nipping the next. Birds will be birds, with all of their quirks and caprices, and umbrellas are no exception, though the informed umbrella owner is fortunate to live with this extraordinary bird that was named after something ordinary—and indispensable.