Umbrella Cockatoo (White Cockatoo): Facts, Pictures, Care & FAQs

The white cockatoo Cacatua alba also known as the umbrella cockatoo

Wouldn’t it be nice if our pets could talk? While animals are only known to talk in Disney movies, there is a particular pet that can make your wish a reality.

And I’m not just talking about a normal parrot; I’m talking about the umbrella cockatoo. If you are a newbie to the avian world, the umbrella cockatoo or the white cockatoo might not ring a bell.

Right off the bat, I can tell you that they are the sweetest birds you can own. However, you might have to free up your calendar because they will demand your attention 24/7.

For a clearer discussion about umbrella cockatoos, stick around and let’s explore everything you need to know about these birds.

What Is an Umbrella Cockatoo?

Umbrella cockatoo bird standing on the basket

An umbrella cockatoo is a species of cockatoo bird, one of the 21 parrot families existing in the world today. They are also known as the white cockatoo or the great white-crested cockatoo. Despite being found in the wild, these white parrots make wonderful pets due to their affectionate nature.

Umbrella cockatoos are well-admired for their gentle behavior and intelligence. They can easily learn tricks and imitate human speech.

Like other cockatoos, they expand their crest or head feathers as a defense mechanism or just to impress other birds, especially females.

According to BirdLife International, the conservation status of Cacatua alba, the scientific name for white cockatoos, is categorized as vulnerable.

This was a result of the booming cage bird trade in the 1990s. As of today, conservation efforts are being made to prevent them from becoming endangered species.

Umbrella Cockatoo History and Origin: Where Do White Cockatoos Come From?

The tropical rainforest of Indonesia is home to most umbrella cockatoos. Their species occur naturally in the northern and central islands of Malaku, also known as the Moluccan islands. Over time, they migrated and became widespread across the archipelago.

From the tree canopy of rainforests, they found sanctuary in swamps, mangroves, and open woodland.

Even though they thrive well in the wet climate of the forest, they eventually sought the abundance of food near the rivers and farmlands. 

Since they frequently pick on vegetation and harvests, they are considered crop pests by many farmers. Some even speculated that they were just escaped pets.

Sadly, due to the continuous destruction of their natural habitat, white cockatoos are considered vulnerable.

They are included in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) appendix of protected species. This makes the trading of wild-caught birds, such as all cockatoo species, illegal.

Umbrella Cockatoo Appearance: What Does an Umbrella Cockatoo Look Like?

White parrot umbrella cockatoo appearance

Umbrella cockatoos are easily distinguishable because of their color and markings. They have a pure white body with a distinct yellow coloration on their tail feathers and underside of the wings.

They are also one of the parrot species that can raise their crest like an umbrella, thus their name.

The crest is a bunch of long feathers that sit atop their head and raise when there is a perceived threat or even when they get excited or playful.

The beak and legs of these cockatoos are dark gray. Males usually have a dark brown iris and generally have larger heads and beaks.

Females, on the other hand, develop a reddish iris as they mature instead of dark brown eyes.

Umbrella cockatoos are sometimes mistaken with the Moluccan cockatoo due to their similarity in appearance.

However, upon close inspection, you will observe that Moluccan cockatoos have a pale yellow to peach-colored underwing.

Comparing their crests, Moluccans also have bright red-orange plumes instead of plain white feathers.

Umbrella Cockatoo Size and Weight: Are Cockatoos Large Birds?

Considered as large parrots, umbrella cockatoos can grow between 17 and 18 inches in height and weigh around 1 to 2.5 pounds. When in flight, their wingspan is measured to be approximately 22 inches.

They are large and graceful birds that are considered a couple of inches smaller than their Moluccan cockatoo cousins. These birds measure around 18 to 20 inches tall.

In the wild, the large size of the white cockatoo is a great advantage. They are less likely to be preyed on because of the added intimidation factor.

Their huge wingspan also allows them to fly long distances easily to hunt for food and reach large trees.

Umbrella Cockatoo Speech and Sounds: How Do White Cockatoos Vocalize?

Compared to other parrots, white cockatoos are the least capable of reproducing human speech accurately. However, you can expect them to have loud vocalizations as pet birds.

They emit a grating screech or different noises to communicate, express their anger, or demand attention from their owners.

The ability of a white cockatoo to talk depends on the training they received at a young age. They can learn about 50 words or short phrases on average but their accuracy at imitating sounds is not as good as other species.

Despite this limitation, they won’t hesitate to talk to you and even whistle you a good tune.

Sometimes, they will call you when they get bored or sad, or even when you leave the room. Ignoring these bird calls can make them really anxious so it’s always best to respond.

Hissing is also common to these umbrella parrots. However, it’s usually bad news when you hear your white cockatoo hiss.

They may be feeling intimidated or threatened by other animals or unfamiliar objects in their cage. It can also be because they are not in the mood to socialize or they are suffering from an illness.

Umbrella Cockatoo Temperament and Behavior: Are Umbrella Cockatoos Good Pets?

The white umbrella cockatoos are very affectionate birds with a gentle and sweet disposition. They are observed to be the most clingy of all cockatoo species, demanding frequent cuddles and petting.

They will rarely display any aggressive behavior which makes them ideal pets.

Because of their loving nature, umbrella cockatoos typically form strong bonds with their owner. However, this special bond means that your cockatoo pet will always beg to be spoiled.

Owners should be firm and patient during training in order to avoid raising a hard-headed bird.

In the wild, white-crested cockatoos are known to be inquisitive birds. They normally live in pairs or small groups allowing them to protect each other and easily hunt for food.

During the flight, flock members communicate with each other through screaming.

When mating, bonded pairs normally perform a mating ritual. During mating season, the male white cockatoo attracts the female by expanding its wings and showing off its raised crest. He will then start bobbing his head and dancing around the female bird.

When the male succeeds, the mating pair will be seen grooming each other’s heads and scratching one’s tail.

When it’s time for nesting, the breeding pairs separate from their small flocks to find a suitable nest cavity, usually in large trees. This courtship behavior is common to all cockatoo species.

It’s also worth noting that white umbrella cockatoos are monogamous, meaning that mating pairs become partners for life. Captive birds usually treat their owners as their lifetime mates.

Umbrella Cockatoo Lifespan and Health Issues: Are Umbrella Cockatoos Healthy Birds?

Two umbrella cockatoo preening each other

In captivity, an umbrella cockatoo is expected to live for 40 years. In the wild, their lifespan is reduced to 30 years due to predators, illegal trapping, and loss of habitat. 

However, like other birds, umbrella Cockatoos are prone to several health issues:

  • Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (PBFD): This is a fatal disease caused by a virus that infects and kills the cells of the beak and feather. Since it also affects the immune system, the affected cockatoo may become more vulnerable to other illnesses. PBFD is highly contagious so an exposed bird should be isolated or quarantined to reduce transmission.
  • Parrot Fever: Chlamydophilosis or parrot fever is another illness common in umbrella cockatoos. An organism called Chlamydophila psittaci affects the bird’s organs such as the lungs or liver often causing decreased appetite, weakness, nasal discharges, and difficulty in breathing.
  • Fatty Tumors (Lipomas): Lipomas are benign tumors caused by excessive fat deposits in the bird’s body. They appear as soft lumps of masses underneath the skin, usually under the breast or wings. It is often associated with poor diet and obesity.
  • Fatty Liver Disease (Hepatic Lipidosis): Another health problem caused by poor nutrition is called hepatic lipidosis. An affected white cockatoo will show symptoms such as loss of appetite, excess weight, discolored feathers, and changes in behavior. Proper diet and supportive care can help treat this condition.

Aside from diseases that affect the body, umbrella cockatoos can experience behavior-related issues.

Their dependent nature makes them susceptible to behavioral problems such as excessive screaming, feather plucking, and other forms of self-mutilation.

READ NEXT: Parakeet Lifespan: How Long Do Parakeets Live on Average?

Umbrella Cockatoo Care, Feeding, and Exercise: How to Look After Your White Cockatoo?

Every pet needs proper care to prevent infections and illnesses. Like with other birds, taking care of an umbrella cockatoo is no easy task. They have special requirements for their environment, food, and amount of exercise.

Your white cockatoo will spend most of its life in a cage. This is where they sleep, play, and do most activities. Naturally, it should be kept clean at all times along with their food and water dishes, and even their toys.

As diurnal birds, umbrella cockatoos require 10 to 12 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Like most humans, these birds can’t sleep with any form of light seeping into their cage. Putting a cage cover every night can help them sleep better.

In terms of grooming, white cockatoos should be bathed at least once a week.

They are powder down birds which means that they naturally produce dusty substances on their feathers. This bird dust keeps the feathers soft and silky but can also trigger bird allergies.

Trimming the feathers, nails, and beaks should also be done on a regular basis. Keep in mind to cut only the primary flight feathers. For the nails, use a pet-appropriate trimmer and be careful not to trim too high.

Provide your umbrella cockatoo with safe, chewable toys or natural wood perches and cuttlebones to keep their beaks in good shape.

Like other large parrots, white cockatoos love to indulge in a hefty meal. In the wild, they eat large insects, seeds, grains, and nuts found in forests and fields. In captivity, you can create a nutritional parrot mix that contains the same diet.

Umbrella cockatoos typically feed on fresh vegetables such as celery, tomatoes, carrots, spinach, broccoli, and green beans.

They will also enjoy munching on fresh fruit like apple, banana, orange, pear, mango, or papaya.

Avoid feeding these birds human food like chips and chocolate. Avocado is also known to be toxic to all cockatoos and most bird species.

With regards to exercise, your white cockatoo needs at least two hours of physical activity inside and outside its cage.

They like to grasp objects like toys and even food using one foot and hold onto makeshift branches. Adding perches, ladders, and swings to their cage can promote an enriching environment for your bird.

Umbrella Cockatoo Prices & Expenses: Are They the Cheapest Cockatoo Species?

Umbrella cockatoos are one of the most popular species of cockatoo birds. Their average price in the United States falls anywhere between $1,000 and $3,000. Compared to other cockatoos, they are considered one of the most affordable.

Owning any bird comes with financial responsibility. The expenses only begin once you need to take home your umbrella cockatoo. Make sure to also grab some initial items at pet shops.

The table below shows the type of initial expense and its price range:

Type of ExpenseAverage Cost
High-Quality Food$40 – $80
Treats and Supplements$20 – $60
Cage$100 – $300
Cage Cover$20 – $30
Perches$40 – $60
Food and Water Dishes$15 – $25
Play Stand$30 – $80
Toys$40 – $60
Grooming Supplies$15 – $20
Total Initial Cost$310 – $675

As a white cockatoo owner, you can’t skip buying these products but you can find ways to reduce the total cost. Searching for discounts or doing DIY toys out of household items.

Places to Find Umbrella Cockatoos for Sale or Adoption

White umbrella cockatoo in the park

If you are ready for the full commitment of having an umbrella cockatoo, the next step is to know where to purchase them. As pet birds, they shouldn’t be hard to find due to their popularity.

The following pet shops offer healthy and well-tempered umbrella cockatoos:

  • Golden Cockatoo – If you are located in Florida, reach out to Golden Cockatoo to purchase your umbrella parrot. Because this shop is operated by avian specialists, you can ensure that your bird will be well-adjusted to a home setting. You can also buy different bird supplies or take your pet for grooming service in their facility.
  • Timie’s Bird Farm – This is a small business dedicated to producing hand-raised parrots, including umbrella cockatoos. As hatchlings, all of their birds receive a hand-feeding formula suited for their individual needs. They are also socialized with other bird species and guided until they reach the fledging stage. 
  • Bird Jungle – Since 1982, Bird Jungle has been offering top-quality cockatoos for bird lovers in New York. Unlike other pet shops, they have an unweaned bird policy wherein customers are required to hand-feed a baby white cockatoo. This should be done until the hatchling is matured enough to eat independently.
  • Parrot Stars – For hand-raised parrots, you can visit Parrot Stars in Illinois. They offer a variety of bird species, including the well-loved umbrella cockatoos. As part of their mission, they also contribute a sum of each customer’s purchase to bird conservation efforts and continuous avian research. 

If adoption is a more affordable and accessible option for you, you can check out these rescue websites:

  • Birds and Beaks Rescue and Rehab – This rescue is focused on providing new families for neglected or homeless parrot species like umbrella cockatoos. They also aim to educate the public about proper handling of parrot behavior to avoid situations where owners resort to surrendering their pets. You can find available white cockatoos on their Petfinder profile.
  • Florida Parrot Rescue, Inc. – Another trusted avian rescue you can reach out to is Florida Parrot Rescue, Inc. They have different foster homes in Florida where rescued birds are rehabilitated and taken care of before adoption. They offer lifetime discounts on their pet shop if you choose to adopt an umbrella cockatoo from them.
  • Mickaboo – Based in North Carolina, this foster-based rescue provides a safe and loving environment for all rescued bird species, including white cockatoos. Medical treatment and supportive care are given, especially those with injuries or diseases. Future adopters are required to attend a free bird care class to successfully be approved for adoption.

Whether you buy or adopt an umbrella cockatoo, it’s important to do your own research and educate yourself all about their behavior and needs. Settle your budget and prepare your home to be a sanctuary for your new pet.

Pros and Cons of Owning an Umbrella Cockatoo

Now that we’ve wrapped up everything about umbrella cockatoos, let’s discuss the pros and cons of owning one.

With this information, you can decide whether this species is suited for your experience, lifestyle, and budget.

The first advantage of owning a white cockatoo is its temperament. They are truly affectionate birds that will consider you as a family for the rest of their lives. They are also active and intelligent with friendly personalities.

Umbrella cockatoos are quite easy to train. They can mimic human sounds and perform tricks like handshaking, fetch, or making a sound upon demand.

Aside from having a smart, loving, lifelong companion, you also have a pet with a beautiful appearance.

In terms of cost, these birds are also among the most affordable cockatoo species. The initial and ongoing cost of expenses is comparable to owning a cat or dog.

You will also spend less on vet bills since they are generally healthy given that they are properly cared for.

For the cons, the first thing to consider is the noise. As mentioned, umbrella cockatoos are very loud. They talk to their owners in different ways like screaming, calling, and hissing.

This can be bothersome and definitely not recommended for those who are living in thin-walled apartments.

First-time bird owners are also not encouraged to own a white cockatoo because they are high maintenance.

They require a lot of attention and physical and mental stimulation. Without these, they can develop behavioral issues that can make them aggressive and unpredictable.

If you aren’t ready for this commitment, it’s better to look for beginner-friendly birds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Umbrella cockatoo from islands of Indonesia

Are Umbrella Cockatoos Aggressive?

No, umbrella cockatoos are not aggressive birds. In fact, they are quite known for their gentle and sweet-natured personalities.

Any sign of aggression such as excessive screaming or hissing is often caused by a behavioral problem.

Why Do Umbrella Cockatoos Scream?

Umbrella cockatoos scream to express their frustration, boredom, or hunger. This often signals the owner that it’s playtime or feeding time.

It can also stem from the anxiousness of being alone or not getting enough attention.

What Does It Mean When You See White Cockatoos?

In general, it is thought that a cockatoo symbolizes change. However, when you see a white cockatoo, it could mean that you will recover from a dark period of your life and welcome new light. When seen in your dream, it symbolizes calmness of the soul or rebirth.

Can Umbrella Cockatoos Talk?

Umbrella cockatoos can be trained to talk. Although they are not masters of mimicry like other parrot species, they can learn some words and phrases. They are not big talkers but they communicate by emitting noises.

Are Umbrella Cockatoos Smart?

Intelligence is something highly admired in umbrella cockatoos. Aside from learning how to talk, they can be taught different tricks.

Others can even solve complex puzzles. They can also respond well to commands given proper training.

Final Thoughts: Is the Umbrella Cockatoo the Right Pet for You?

If you are a certified bird lover with a knack for handling parrots, an umbrella cockatoo can be the perfect pet for you.

You can have an affectionate and chatty companion that can easily be trained to do basic commands and tricks.

White cockatoos require a lot of interaction from their owners. They need to be engaged in activities that promote movement and thinking.

Without these, they can become depressed and aggressive. They might even end up hurting themselves.

To have the best experience, these birds should be paired with owners who already have experience in dealing with parrot behavior.

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