Umbrella Cockatoos as a Pet

Intelligent birds need caring owners

Umbrella Cockatoo
Arthur Morris/Getty Images

For a person that can meet the needs of these magnificent birds, umbrella cockatoos can be the best feathered friend in the world. Most are gentle enough to be handled by older children and many umbrella cockatoos are beloved family pets. They can be taught to do tricks and mimic speech, making them delightfully entertaining companions for bird lovers both young and old. No wonder these big white parrots are so popular—their comical charms will steal your heart.

Facts About Umbrella Cockatoos

Here is some quick information about this breed:

  • Common Names: Cockatoo, Umbrella Cockatoo, White Cockatoo, White Crested Cockatoo
  • Scientific Name: Cacatua alba
  • Origin: Indonesia
  • Size: About 24 inches in length from the beak to the tip of the tailfeathers.
  • Average Lifespan: Umbrella cockatoos can live up to 80 years or more in captivity when properly cared for.
  • Temperament: Umbrella cockatoos are gentle, docile, and sweet-tempered by nature, making them well suited to be companion birds. They are very rarely aggressive, and quickly form strong bonds with their caretakers.
  • Colors: Umbrella cockatoos are primarily white with yellow on the underside of their wing feathers. They have black beaks and gray or black feet. Some exhibit a tinge of light blue in the rings around their eyes.

Umbrella Cockatoos as Pets

The vast majority of hand-fed umbrella cockatoos make extremely sweet, charming, intelligent, and well-behaved pets.

Just as with any bird, however, prospective owners should be sure that they can meet the needs of an umbrella before rushing out and acquiring one.

Umbrella cockatoos are large birds and they need a large cage and area to play in. They can also be quite loud when they decide to be, being able to produce a call that can be heard for very long distances.

This may mean that an umbrella may not be the best choice for those who live in apartments or condos or those with close neighbors.

These birds require a sound, uninterrupted sleep every night of 10 to 12 hours. This is very important for companion birds in maintaining their health and well being. 

Umbrellas are also very social and very intelligent, meaning that their brains need stimulation on a daily basis. A properly prepared cockatoo owner should have an arsenal of safe bird toys at his or her disposal and should be able to devote a minimum of one to two hours a day to socialize with their pet. Most cockatoos thrive on being handled, loved and petted, so affectionate owners are a good match for these parrots. The umbrella cockatoo requires a lot of time for training, attention, and enrichment in order to maintain a healthy relationship with her.

Feeding Umbrella Cockatoos

Like all large parrots, umbrella cockatoos are big eaters. The best diet for one of these birds should consist of a wide variety of vegetables including leafy greens, root vegetables, high-quality grains such as quinoa and other ancient grains, fresh sprouts, fresh fruit, and occasional healthy nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, or walnuts.

Healthy seed such as hemp, milk thistle, or flaxseed can also be offered occasionally. This diet should be supplemented with a high quality formulated pelted diet. Fresh water should be available at all times.

Exercise for Umbrella Cockatoos

Umbrella cockatoos are active birds. Like all parrots, they need ample time out of their cage each day for play and exercise. The strong beak of the umbrella cockatoo must be exercised as well, so it is critical that you provide these birds several chewable bird toys and rotate the toys so she has something different to play with now and again.

Toys provide exercise, stimulation, and enrichment and are an important part of their training. Teach your cockatoo to play games on the floor with a whiffle ball such as playing catch. These structured play times give both of you time together while allowing her to stretch her muscles and burn off some energy.

To encourage and increase activity with the enclosure, ladders and swings are a wonderful addition to the environment that will allow your cockatoo to move about and burn off energy in a positive way. 

Edited By: Patricia Sund