The cockatoo is a very intelligent pet bird and can provide years of fun companionship as a household pet. In the wild, the cockatoo is native to Australia and actually refers to a group of different species (including the other popular pet bird, the cockatiel). There are 18 species of cockatoos with only a small number of these being known in the pet trade. Because of export regulations on wild birds in Australia, all cockatoos purchased in the United States have been bred and raised here rather than imported from the wild. When you see a bird for sale, ask about this.
Unlike the parrot or the macaw, the cockatoo doesn't have vibrantly coloured feathers. They are typically all one color (either light or dark), with a ridge of feathers along their heads that they can lift into an impressive plume. Cockatoos are often seen in exotic bird shows because they can learn all manner of tricks and behaviors. As a house pet, cockatoos can be a constant source of entertainment. These pet birds can even learn to talk.
As with all large birds, you'll need a very large bird cage. Since cockatoos are smart and highly trainable, owners will often let them have free run of the house and only put them in their bird cage for sleeping at night. Cockatoos have very strong beaks and can bend the bars on cheap bird cages if they are too thin or poorly constructed. Plenty of perches and bars are ideal for climbing and hopping about, which cockatoos like to do.
You can't feed a cockatoo any old wild bird seed. There are commercial bird seed mixes that are suitable bird food for the cockatoo, and they certainly like plenty of healthy treats as well. Pieces of fruit or vegetables make excellent snacks for your pet bird. Even bits of cheese, eggs or meat can be offered for some added protein and calcium.
Because they are highly intelligent, your cockatoo can quickly become bored unless there is plenty of variety in its environment. They should have lots of bird toys and you will need to spend time with them. Keep their bird cage in a busy room of the house so they will have people to watch. Bored cockatoos can develop health and behavior problems, such as picking at their feathers. To keep a cockatoo in good health, it should be bathed weekly with a light shower spray but they don't really need a permanent bird bath in their cage. Cockatoo claws should be trimmed when they get too long and rough perches can help to keep claws worn down.
Cockatoos are not pets to be taken lightly. These pet birds can easily outlive the average person, with some records showing them living more than 100 years. Buying a young cockatoo is a serious decision when you consider that you will need to arrange care for them even after you have passed on.