Lively and active members of the parrot family, cockatoos have a long tradition of being kept as pets. But the idea that they may outlive their owner is in fact a very real possibility. So, how long are cockatoos expected to live, and is there a big difference in the maximum age of a pet cockatoo and one that lives wild in its native environment? Read on to find out!
On average, cockatoos can live for anywhere between 40 and 60 years in captivity, outliving free-ranging cockatoos by 10 years or more. The precise life span changes from species to species, with some cockatoos recorded as having reached 100 years or more.
Cockatoos kept as pets are safe from many of the threats faced by wild birds, including predation, hunting and trapping for the illegal pet trade, and competition for food and territory in a climate of habitat decline.
Larger species of Cockatoos, like the Black Palm Cockatoo can live up to ninety years
Smaller cockatoos live typically shorter lives, with between 10 and 20 years of age being reasonably standard and the larger, heavier species frequently reaching up to 60 years, even in the wild.
There are 21 cockatoo species, and we take a look at the typical lifespans of some of the most common of these, both in the wild and when kept as pets. Read on to find out what may increase the chances of your feathered companion remaining in prime health as you both approach old age.
When bred and raised in captivity, the life expectancy of a cockatoo can be significantly lengthened. This is due to a constant, safe living environment, absence of predators, provision of adequate nutrition and health supplements, and access to veterinary care when needed. The average maximum life expectancies of cockatoo species when kept as pets are as follows:
Smaller species of Cockatoos, like the Cockatiel, generally live shorter lives, but can still live up to twenty years
In the wild, human activity, natural disasters and predation have impacted the average expected lifespan of every cockatoo species. The maximum life expectancy is up to 70 years for larger species such as the Moluccan cockatoo to 10 to 14 years for the much smaller Cockatiel.
Average maximum life spans in the wild of some of the different cockatoo species are as follows:
Moluccan Cockatoos can live up to seventy years in the wild
Cockatoos are susceptible to various avian diseases and viral infections, including psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD), which affects their immune systems and ability to recover from any illnesses they may contract.
Predation is a leading cause of cockatoo mortality in the wild, as well as hunting and pest control, and illegal trapping or smuggling for the pet trade.
Habitat loss is another major factor in the decline of cockatoo populations in the wild, with deforestation and development having an irreversible impact on the long-term survival of these colorful crested parrots.
Depending on the species, incubation of a cockatoo’s eggs takes anything between 20 and 29 days, in a hollow cavity in a tree trunk.
Once hatched, nestlings remain in the hollow for between 5 and 12 weeks, again, depending on the species – larger cockatoo species take longer to prepare to leave the nest, while smaller types are ready to fledge sooner.
Fledgling cockatoos remain with parents for several months, learning the art of foraging before joining a flock.
Maturity is reached around 4 years of age; cockatoos mate for life and may pair up the year before breeding. The average age for female birds breeding for the first time is between three and seven years.
A pair of nesting Sulphur Crested Cockatoos
Cockatoos’ eggs and nests are at risk of attack from monitor lizards, snakes, possums, and smaller rodents.
Birds of prey, including wedge-tailed eagles, peregrine falcons, little eagles, and spotted wood owls are among the leading predators of cockatoos in the wild.
The Guinness Book of World Records recognized a Major Mitchell’s cockatoo named Cookie as the world’s oldest cockatoo. Cookie, who died in 2016, reached the age of 83 after enjoying a long life in captivity at various U.S. zoos.
A Sulphur-crested cockatoo named Fred, resident at a Tasmanian wildlife sanctuary, reportedly turned 100 in 2014, while anecdotal records of other centenarian birds include Cocky Bennett, another Sulphur-crested cockatoo, said to have reached an incredible 119 years of age at the time of his death in 1916.
The oldest recorded Cockatoo, was a Major Mitchell's Cockatoo
Cockatoos cannot survive for much longer than 2 days without food. For larger species, it may be around 3 to 4 days as an absolute maximum, but in order to remain in good health, a cockatoo needs to eat and drink regularly, and ideally receive appropriate and sufficient nutrition at least twice a day.
While Sulphur-crested cockatoos and Galahs are extremely common, and even considered a pest species in parts of Australia, other cockatoo species are not so numerous and their populations are certainly not considered to be thriving.
One such example is the Yellow-crested Cockatoo, classified as critically endangered since 2004. Another, the Red-vented cockatoo, native to the Philippines, is also critically endangered, with only an estimated 650-1,120 left in the wild in 2016.
Galah Cockatoos are one of the most common species of Cockatoo
Subtle changes to a cockatoo’s appearance can offer important clues as to its age.
As a cockatoo ages, its irises lighten. The rings of skin around their eyes become marked with deep wrinkles, and they become more prone to eye disorders.
The texture of an aging cockatoo’s legs changes from smooth and light, to rough and flaky, and much darker in color. Toenails become more uneven and overgrown, and their feet become bumpy and scuffed. Similarly, the beak of an older cockatoo takes on a worn appearance, also darkening with advancing years.
Behavior changes also allow rough estimates to a cockatoo’s age to be made. Young cockatoos are typically noisy, playful and active, but as they age, they have a tendency to become calmer or more irritable and less willing to interact.
Gang-gang Cockatoo in Melbourne, Australia
For certain cockatoo species, living for 80 or more years is not unheard of, both in the wild and in captivity. Great sulphur-crested cockatoos have an average lifespan of between 65 and 100 years when looked after extremely well.
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