Trying to teach your cockatoo to stop screaming is like trying to train him to stop breathing -- it's just not going to happen. If you can figure out why he's screaming, though, you can work with him to keep it down to something you can live with.
Your cockatoo, other parrots, and birds of many other species naturally announce themselves with a screech first thing in the morning and again in the evening. We humans can't be certain exactly why they do it, but the behavior is common to all cockatoos, whether wild, captured or domestically bred. This type of screaming happens at the same time every day. While the raucous noise is part of living with a cockatoo, you can control and time it a bit with music. When your pal starts his daily screaming routine, turn up his favorite loud, festive music, and let him express himself with it for a few minutes. Then gradually lower the volume and put on softer, calming music so that your cockatoo learns when it is time to calm down and be quiet.
Cockatoos are incredibly social animals. They need constant contact with their flock, whether that flock is human or avian. When you leave your cockatoo buddy alone, he'll get lonely, anxious and upset. He'll begin screaming for you or any member of his family to come back. These lonely calls often lead to complaints from neighbors. Leaving a radio or television on might be enough to keep your cockatoo happy, but he may very much need to spend less time alone. A companion may help, or he may need to go to animal day care if you work long hours.
Even if you're in the same room or nearby in your house, your cockatoo pal knows screaming will get extra attention from you. If you're not spending a lot of time with him, consider this his way of telling you he wants and needs more time with you. It's important, however, to not let him manipulate you with his screams, or you'll have a constantly screaming cockatoo who gets his entertainment out of making you come running. Teach your pal an alternate way to get your attention, such as ringing a bell or uttering some phrase. Make sure you're giving him plenty of attention and exercise too, so he'll be less inclined to spend hours screaming for more.
Joy and Excitement
Your cockatoo is highly intelligent, but he has only a few ways to express himself. Whenever he's feeling happy or excited, he can't help but let it out. These screams are usually a little different, and they have a bit of a sing-song rhythm rather than straight-out screaming. Your cockatoo will likely also be bobbing up and down, flapping his wings, or moving in some way that shows how happy he is. As with the morning and evening screams, there's no stopping the noise of a happy cockatoo, so just remember that it's his way of laughing, and try to enjoy his happiness.
A screaming cockatoo can be better than a burglar alarm if a stranger comes around your home. However, he might also sound his alarm at a cat walking through the yard, a plastic bag blowing down the street, or kids running through the house. Alarm screams usually are easy to identify, because your buddy sounds distressed and anxious. If he is constantly warning you of non-existent dangers, consider placing his cage away from windows and doors, but in an area where he can still interact with the family. You also can teach him to stop sounding the alarm by teaching him a word or phrase that signals everything is okay.