Different Types of Cockatoos

Black palm cockatoos are not usually kept as pets.
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You can't judge a book by its cover, or a cockatoo by its feathers. While they all sport the same wild punk-rock look on their head, each type has a different personality. Some make wonderful, loving pets, while others refuse to give up their wild ways.

Popular Pet Cockatoos

Cockatoos who are willing to consider you a flock member and settle down into domestic life are the ones you can keep as pets. The most popular types include the Moluccan, umbrella, sulphur crested and Goffin's.

The big boys of this group are the Moluccan cockatoos, soft-pink or salmon-colored birds who often are a whopping 2 feet long. Their size is matched by their big hearts; they are very affectionate with any human they decide to call their own.

Umbrella cockatoos are nearly as big as Moluccans, but have a white body with some pale yellow feathers around the tail and inside the wings. The umbrella variety is what most people picture when they think of a cockatoo. Umbrella cockatoos love attention and learning new tricks.

Sulphur-crested cockatoos are a little smaller, at about 18 inches long. They have white bodies and brightly colored yellow or orange crests that are like a reflection of their personality, since they are the clowns and acrobats of the bird world. They just love showing off to get your attention.

Goffin's cockatoos are among the smallest cockatoos, and at around 12 inches long are close to the size of a cockatiel. Don't let the small size fool you though: These guys have big brains, and can usually learn to speak better than other types of cockatoos.

Other Pet Cockatoos

It's rough when you're not part of the most popular crowd, but these cockatoos take it in stride. They aren't quite as common or popular, but they still make fun family members. These include the rose-breasted, bare-eyed and slender-billed cockatoos.

Rose-breasted cockatoos are a pretty combination of gray and pink, and are small -- about 12 inches long. They are not as social as other types, which will give you a little more time to yourself, but they are are quick to learn new tricks.

Bare-eyed cockatoos have a bare patch around their eyes and look kind of like overgrown parakeets. They are about 16 inches long, and are mostly white. They like to learn to talk so they can chatter away with you.

Slender-billed cockatoos have a long, narrow beak and small head. They don't look much like cockatoos at all, except for the crest on their head. They are usually around 16 inches long, and usually have a light-pink or salmon body with bright, red or orange markings on the face. The bright markings go right along with their bright, cheerful personalities -- they love to play and have fun.

Wild Cockatoos

Too bad for us humans, but maybe luckily for the cockatoos, some types make awful pets. They are not social or loving toward humans, or are too nervous to be happy in captivity. One of the best-known of these is the black palm cockatoo. The black palm is smart enough to use tools, and will bang on logs with a stick to frighten predators away, but this cockatoo does not take well to being kept in a cage. The species also is endangered.

Other common wild cockatoos include the gang-gang, red-vented, glossy black, yellow-tailed black, white-tailed black and blue-eyed cockatoos. While a few of these, such as the gang-gang, are kept in captivity by very experienced breeders, they generally do not make good pets or are so rare that there aren't enough of them to be sold as pets.


Cockatiels look like the younger cousin of the cockatoo, and if you use the term loosely, you could say that's what they are. Technically, they are related to cockatoos but are in a different genus. Scientists have spent years tracing DNA to determine the link between cockatiels and cockatoos. No matter what science says, people link the two together in their minds. These cockatoo relatives are a lot smaller than their big cousins, and only come in a few colors. They are the quieter branch of the family tree and aren't as noisy or demanding, but cockatiels still like to spend plenty of time snuggling and playing with their humans. They don't speak much, but are good at copying sounds.

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