If there is one thing that cockatoos are known for, it’s their ability to mimic the sounds they hear, especially human words. But hold up!
That is not the only human thing about cockatoos. Apparently, some cockatoo species can even live as long as most of us!
Commonly seen in Australia and some islands around Oceania, cockatoos are a group of parrot species that belong to the family Cacatuidae. They are known to outlive other pets with their lifespan ranging from 40 to 70 years.
However, the length of their lives varies for each species. Other factors such as health condition, environment, and lifestyle determine how long a cockatoo will live. These are discussed, along with some other useful facts, in this cockatoo lifespan guide.
Cockatoo Lifespan in Captivity: How Long Do Cockatoos Live as Pets?
The lifespan of cockatoos varies depending on their species. Some cockatoos can only live for a couple of decades while others have a lifespan that is almost the same with humans. Mostly, their lifespan ranges from 40 to 70 years.
Surprisingly, cockatoos in captivity are observed to live longer than their siblings in the wild.
Most of the pet cockatoos outlive the wild ones for almost a decade. That is of course if proper diet and living conditions are provided.
Here are the average lifespans of each species of cockatoos:
Umbrella Cockatoo (50 – 60 years)
Also known as the white cockatoo, the umbrella cockatoo is famous for its white crest that looks like an “umbrella” when raised.
This adorable white bird is known to have a long lifespan in captivity. Reports show that umbrella cockatoos can live for 50 to 60 years.
Moluccan Cockatoo (70 – 80 years)
The Moluccan cockatoo is native to the islands of the Moluccas in Indonesia. It is one of the largest cockatoo species discovered.
They are alternatively called salmon-crested cockatoos because of their salmon-pink feathers and crest.
The Moluccan cockatoos have a very long life span that ranges from 70 to 80 years. This is of course assuming that they are well maintained and taken care of in captivity.
Goffin’s Cockatoo (25 – 40 years)
Goffin’s cockatoos are one of the smallest cockatoo species. They have a short white crest and blue eye rims. With a proper diet and lifestyle, a Goffin’s cockatoo can live for as long as 40 years.
However, it is safe to say that most of Goffin’s cockatoos live for 25 years at least. Many Goffins in captivity die due to common health issues.
Galah Cockatoo (70 – 80 years)
The galah cockatoo is also famously known as the rose-breasted cockatoo. It flaunts its silver plumages that contrast to the bright pink breast, belly, and face. This cockatoo grows up to 14 inches in its adult years.
With proper diet and caring, galah cockatoo can live a long life and may even outlive you! On average, galah cockatoo’s lifespan ranges from 70 to 80 years.
Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo (40 – 60 years)
Famous for its spirited and enthusiastic temperament, the sulphur-crested cockatoo can live for 40 to 60 years in captivity.
Their crest has yellow pigmentations; hence, the name sulphur-crested cockatoo. This species is native to Australia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, and New Zealand.
Watch these sulphur-crested cockatoos freely roaming in the wild:
Cockatiel (15 – 25 years)
The cockatiel may be the smallest among the cockatoo family but it ranks first in terms of popularity. Despite its small size, the cockatiel has a considerably longer lifespan than other pets.
A well-maintained and cared for cockatiel can live for as long as 15 to 20 years in captivity.
If you own a cockatiel, you should make sure that it receives the nutrients necessary for growth. Malnutrition is a common health issue that shortens the life of a cockatiel.
Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo (40 – 60 years)
Native to inland Australia, Major Mitchell’s cockatoos live for about 40 to 60 years. They are named after Major Sir Thomas Mitchell — an Australian surveyor and explorer.
What makes these cockatoos astonishing are their soft-white and pinkish feathers as well as their bright red and yellow crest.
Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo (45 – 50 years)
Red-tailed black cockatoos have striking black feathers accentuated by their fluffy crest. They are called red-tailed mainly because of the red stripes and panels under their tails.
Nevertheless, red-tailed black cockatoos are notorious for being noisy and talkative. They have a long life span that ranges from 45 to 50 years.
So if you are planning to own one, make sure you are ready for a lifetime commitment.
Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo (25 – 50 years)
The Carnaby’s black cockatoo (also known as short-billed black cockatoo) is endemic to Western Australia.
It is known not only for its black body color contrasted by white panels in the tails but also for its loyalty to its breeding partner.
Carnaby’s black cockatoos have a lifespan ranging from 25 to 50 years. Unfortunately, this cockatoo species is listed as endangered.
Baudin’s Black Cockatoo (25 – 50 years)
The Baudin’s black cockatoo looks very similar to Carnaby’s black cockatoo because they belong to the same genus — Zanda.
This cockatoo species also has black feathers and white panels on its tail feathers. They also have a life span that ranges from 25 to 50 years.
The only difference between Baudin’s and Carnaby’s black cockatoos is the length of the bills. Baudin’s cockatoos have long and narrow bills while Caranby’s cockatoos have short and wide beaks.
Wild Cockatoo Lifespan: How Long Do Cockatoos Live in the Wild?
In general, wild cockatoos live shorter than their pet counterparts. Their average lifespan ranges between 20 and 40 years which is decades shorter than the cockatoos in captivity.
This could be blamed on the hazards and challenges for survival that they experience in the wilderness.
Unlike pet parrots and cockatoos in captivity, the wild ones need to expose themselves to predators and other hazards in finding food, shelter, and mating. They are also subjected to harsh weather conditions and natural phenomena.
Wild cockatoos do not also have the privilege of veterinary attention when they are ridden by common health issues. Hence, they have a lower chance of surviving fatal injuries and diseases.
Cockatoo Lifespan vs. Other Birds: Do Cockatoos Live Longer Than Other Birds?
Some species of cockatoos, both in captivity and the wild, live significantly longer compared to other common pet birds.
With proper care and ample attention, they could even accompany you for a lifetime. Still skeptical about it? See it for yourself!
The table below shows the comparison between the life expectancies of common pet birds and cockatoos in captivity and wild:
|Type of Birds||Life Expectancy (In Captivity)||Life Expectancy (In the Wild)|
|Cockatoos||40 – 70 years||20 – 40 years|
|Lovebirds||10 – 20 years||10 – 15 years|
|English Budgie||7 – 8 years||15 – 21 years|
|Parakeets||6 – 14 years||25 – 30 years|
|Parrots||60 – 70 years||30 – 35 years|
|Finches||5 – 10 years||4 – 7 years|
Among the listed pet birds, cockatoos and parrots have the longest life expectancies both in the wild and in captivity.
It’s interesting to note that most of the listed birds live longer in captivity than in the wild.
Probably, this is because birds held in captivity have a safer environment, are protected against their natural predators, and have access to regular medical care.
What Is the Oldest Living Cockatoo?
Cookie, a Major Mitchell’s cockatoo, is considered to be the oldest bird as well as the oldest cockatoo in captivity recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. Unfortunately, Cookie passed away in August 2016 at the age of 82 years and 89 days.
The real age of Cookie is still unknown. He arrived at the zoo where he was kept in 1934. The management assumed that his hatch date to be 1933 and started documenting its growth.
Meanwhile, an umbrella cockatoo named Duster is also said to be the unofficial oldest living cockatoo. It is believed that Duster was born in 1925. If so, he would be 96 already this year if he is still alive.
The last update we have on Duster was when he was featured in a Facebook video of Florida Parrot Rescue in 2016 when he turned 92.
Factors That Determine the Lifespan of a Cockatoo
Although cockatoos have long life expectancies, there is no guarantee that your cockatoo will live several decades long. There are still other factors that determine the longevity of your cockatoo’s life.
Here are the following factors that determine how long a cockatoo can live in the wild and captivity:
Due to illegal logging, deforestation, and urbanization, the natural habitat of cockatoos has been gradually destroyed.
The changes in the natural habitat and the environment landscape make wild cockatoos more vulnerable to predators and harmful climate.
Extreme weather conditions and natural phenomena also influence the rate of survival and longevity of life of wild cockatoos.
With no trees and forests as shelters, cockatoos are exposed to hazards and dangers; hence, reducing their life expectancies.
Meanwhile, most cockatoos in captivity suffer when they are exposed to pollutants and harmful chemicals used in the house.
Aerosols, fumes, and other chemical products that easily spread in the air affect the sensitive lungs of cockatoos. Poisoning is pretty common for cockatoos so always monitor the things that your bird ingest!
Too much noise also stresses cockatoos. Hence, if you own a cockatoo, make sure that it has a conducive environment that is free from pollutants, harmful chemicals, as well as stressors.
You should also teach other pets (dogs and cats) to interact with your cockatoo lest it becomes prey.
Cockatoos in the wild are exposed to the threats of their natural predators. In the wilderness, these adorable birds are regularly hunted by falcons, eagles, owls, snakes, and large wild feline species.
Illegal poaching and hunting have also contributed to the lowering population and life expectancies of cockatoos in the wild.
To date, some of the black cockatoo species are already considered endangered and are protected by the law.
Just as traits can be passed, health issues are also inherited by birds. Some cockatoo species have common ailments which affect their lifespan.
These diseases range from infections, tumors, genetic disorders, and organ failures.
Cockatoos held in captivity have a higher chance of surviving from the mentioned illnesses because their owners will surely take them to veterinary clinics.
Wild cockatoos, on the other hand, can only rely on their instincts and to the natural flow of life whenever they get sick.
Exercise and Diet
Birds are supposed to fly and roam freely. From time to time, a cockatoo should be taken out of its cage and engage in physical activities. An active lifestyle is proven to reduce the stress of cockatoos.
Playing and doing tasks stimulate the muscles in the cockatoo’s body. They also help in the natural metabolic processes of the body, reducing the risk of obesity.
Diet also significantly affects the lifespan of cockatoos. A healthy diet may lead to vigorous and disease-free long life.
Cockatoos in the wild have access to a wide variety of food ranging from fruits, nuts, seeds, and roots. This diverse diet provides them the various nutrients and minerals their body needs for growth.
Unfortunately, wild cockatoos may become susceptible to malnutrition especially when foods and resources are scarce in the wilderness.
Starvation and malnutrition may be less common than dying from predators, diseases, and extreme weather conditions, but they still significantly contribute to the shortening of wild cockatoos’ lifespan.
Meanwhile, owners should also be mindful of what they feed to their pet cockatoo. Birds held in captivity also need quality and diverse diets.
Aside from premium avian seeds and pellets, owners should consider feeding their cockatoos fruits, berries, and veggies.
If wild cockatoos succumb to malnutrition, captive cockatoos, on the other hand, often end up overweight.
Overfeeding, partnered with inactivity, may lead to an unhealthy gain of weight. You should monitor the amount of food your cockatoo takes in and ensure that it gets to exercise from time to time.
Inbreeding is the process of pairing up two closely related cockatoos. If cockatoos from the same family mated up together, their offspring have a high risk of acquiring congenital disorders.
The anomaly in inbreeding roots from the reduction of the gene pool. When this happens, undesired traits and diseases are more likely to be expressed and developed which can lead to a shortened lifespan.
What Do Cockatoos Usually Die From?
Although we cannot stop the cycle of life and death, we can somehow at least prevent avoidable fatal incidents from happening.
If you are a new cockatoo owner, you might be surprised by how trivial the deaths of pet cockatoos can be. The most common cause of death for captive cockatoos is food poisoning.
Caffeine, chocolate, avocado, onions, garlic, alcohol, and apple seeds are just some of the poisonous food for cockatoos.
Cockatoos that ingested any of the food I mentioned may experience symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, tremors, seizures, and diarrhea. If worse comes to worst, the cockatoo may suffer sudden death.
Intoxication follows the list of the common cause of cockatoo’s death. Heavy metals, harmful chemicals, and household fumes can negatively impact a bird’s health.
Your cockatoo may become weak and eventually die if it drank contaminated water or inhaled household fumes such as aerosol and paint.
Meanwhile, predation is the primary cause of death of wild cockatoos. They are constantly hunted by eagles, owls, snakes, and large cats in the wilderness. Illegal poaching and hunting also cause them to die prematurely.
Egg binding is also a common cause of death for wild cockatoos. This happens when the egg is stuck in the reproductive organ of the female bird.
Unfortunately, this condition requires veterinary help; hence, most wild cockatoos suffering from egg binding die.
Common Health Issues in Cockatoos
Although most cockatoos have long lifespans, it isn’t that they are not susceptible to health issues. Some of these common illnesses can lead to mortality if left untreated.
Here are some of the common health issues that cockatoos may suffer:
- Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD): This is a highly contagious disease that affects the feather and beaks of cockatoos. PBFD causes the growth of dead or abnormal feathers and beaks. It also compromises the immune system of the bird, making it more susceptible to other infections. Unfortunately, there is still no available treatment for this illness. Most infected birds die from secondary infections within 6 to 12 months.
- Bumblefoot: Also known as pododermatitis, bumblefoot is characterized by the lameness and swelling of the cockatoo’s feet. Oftentimes, lesions may also be observed. The most common causes of this condition are diet and the environment. Deficiency in nutrients such as vitamin A, biotin, and calcium can trigger bumblefoot. A dirty cage and perch is a breeding ground for bacterias that may infect your cockatoo’s feet.
- Feather Picking and Self-Mutilation: This behavioral disorder may cause a cockatoo to pluck out its feathers or mutilate its own flesh. Experts believe that this condition is primarily caused by stress, boredom, and frustrations. If you notice that your cockatoo is showing signs of plucking and mutilation, you should seek immediate medical consultation. Feather picking and self-mutilation in their later stages are very difficult to treat.
- Obesity: Pet cockatoos have a high risk of becoming overweight due to the content of the food they eat. An obese cockatoo may develop joint problems, difficulty in breathing, diabetes, heart illness, and fatty liver disease. The best way to prevent your cockatoo from becoming obese is to provide a varied diet. Instead of only feeding it seeds, you should mix your bird’s diet with veggies and fruits. Regular exercise can also help in reducing the risk of becoming obese.
You are one step ahead of death if you are aware of the common health issues that your cockatoo might suffer. Always remember, prevention is better than cure.
4 Proven Ways to Help Your Cockatoo Live Longer
As owners, the only thing we want for our pets is for them to have a long happy life. However, with all of the hazards and illnesses out there, how can we help our cockatoos to live a long life? Worry no more!
Here are the four proven ways to ensure that your cockatoo lives a long and healthy life:
1. Provide a healthy diet
Just like human beings, the health of cockatoos relies heavily on what type of food they eat.
Cockatoos in captivity should be given not only seeds but also vegetables and fruits to supply the body with sufficient nutrients and minerals.
A balanced diet will help in the holistic growth of the cockatoo. Nutritious food also helps in strengthening the immunity of your bird against the common cockatoo infections and ailments.
2. Encourage physical activities
You should let your cockatoo out of its cage to play from time to time. Just like the wild ones, cockatoos in captivity should be able to fly and roam around the house regularly. If your cockatoo is active, it has a lower chance of becoming overweight.
Playing and accomplishing tasks also reduces the stress and boredom of cockatoos. This helps prevent your pet from developing behavioral issues such as feather plucking and self-mutilation.
3. Keep their cage spacious and clean
The cage should have enough space for the cockatoo to fly and move around freely. The perch of the cage should also be in the right size to prevent lesions in the feet or bumblefoot.
You should also regularly clean the cage to prevent the cultivation of bacteria in the fecal waste and food leftovers. Consider buying a cage with a removal fecal compartment for easy cleaning and sanitation.
4. Keep your cockatoo away from harmful household items
Chemicals, heavy metals, and human food that are poisonous to cockatoos should be secured and stored away from your pet’s cage.
You should also keenly monitor your bird when it is out of its cage. A single metallic ball — when swallowed — can endanger its life.
You should also make sure that it doesn’t inhale harmful fumes such as paint and aerosol. These gaseous chemicals can cause harm to the respiratory system of the bird.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Cockatoos Live to 100?
Although rare, cockatoos can live for up to 100 years with proper care and maintenance. Cocky Bennett, a male sulphur-crested cockatoo, is claimed to be the unofficial oldest bird and cockatoo in the world.
He was born in 1796 and died in 1916 at the age of 120 years. Nevertheless, the average lifespan of most cockatoos is between 40 and 70 years.
How Long Do Australian Cockatoos Live For?
Cockatoos native to Australia include galah, sulphur-crested, Caranaby’s, red-tailed, Baudin’s, Major Mitchell’s, and cockatiels. These cockatoo species typically live between 25 and 60 years.
How to Calculate a Cockatoo’s Age in Human Years?
You can easily calculate your cockatoo’s age by doing the following: First, you need to divide the average human lifespan (72.81) by the average cockatoo lifespan (55). The quotient will be 1.323. This means that a year for a cockatoo is equivalent to 1.323 years in human age.
If your cockatoo is 25 years old, you just need to multiply it to the quotient that we’ve got. Hence, your cockatoo is 33.075 in human years.
How to Tell the Age of Your Cockatoo?
Cockatoos do not age the same way humans do. Most birds do not even show signs of aging as they grow old.
Nevertheless, there are still ways on how you can tell the age of a cockatoo aside from counting the grey feathers and wrinkles.
Female cockatoos develop a lighter eye color when they mature sexually. This happens usually at the age of two years. Worn-out feet and beak also mean old age. Juveniles typically have smooth feet and beaks.
If you are looking for a lifetime commitment, cockatoos are definitely one of the best choices you have. They can be your companions for life.
Not only are they affectionate and entertaining, but they are also low maintenance compared to other pets.
However, just like with any other animal, you should be ready to provide all of their needs if you are planning to own one.
Cockatoos are pretty demanding in terms of love and attention. If they feel stressed and frustrated, they might resort to self-mutilation and feather plucking.