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Choosing a Red-vented Cockatoo

By: Dr. Susan Clubb

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Red-vented cockatoos are active, high-energy birds. They are gentle, playful and very affectionate. Due to their critical conservation status, available birds should be utilized for breeding rather than pets.

Red-vented cockatoos (Cacatua haematuropygia) have become extremely rare and are considered the most endangered bird in the Phillippines other than the Phillippine eagle. The range is now limited to a few of the smaller islands including Palawan, which is their last stronghold. It is heavily dependent upon coastal mangrove but also found in lowland forests. They feed on seeds, nuts, fruits and berries.

Appearance and Personality

Red-vented cockatoos are small white cockatoos with a short white recumbent crest. The under-tail coverts are red and the beak is almost white. The underside of the flight feathers are yellow.

Red-vented cockatoos can live up to 40 years. Precise data on life span of the average red-vented cockatoo is poorly documented. Many succumb to disease or injury rather than living for their potential life span.

Red-vented cockatoos can be difficult to breed in captivity. Wild caught pairs may take years to adapt and become reliable breeders. Breeding age can be as young as 2 years but, due to difficulty in adaptation of first generation birds, few captive birds are being bred. Breeding life span is not precisely known.

Red-vented cockatoos are inquisitive and love to chew objects in their surroundings but are not as destructive as other cockatoos. They should always be provided with toys, blocks of wood or branches that they can chew. They need to have some space for flight.

Feeding

Cockatoos should be fed a formulated (pelleted or extruded) diet as a basis for good nutrition. The diet should be supplemented with fresh fruits and vegetables daily to add variety and psychological enrichment. Feed approximately 1/4 cup of a formulated diet and 1/4 cup of fresh fruits and vegetables daily. Monitor food intake. Overfeeding leads to pickiness, selective feeding and wasteful throwing of food.

Adult and juvenile red-vented cockatoos are efficient in utilization of calories and are picky eaters. Try to ensure that the food that they eat is nutritious and avoid feeding large quantities of high fat seeds such as sunflower and safflower. Vitamin supplements are not needed for birds that are eating a formulated diet.

Housing

Red-vented cockatoos are very active and should be provided the largest cage that space and budget allows. Ideally the cage should provide room for flight. One inch by one inch by 12 or 14-gauge welded wire is a good choice for cage construction. A suggested size is 4 feet wide by 4 feet tall by 6 feet long suspended 4 feet above the ground or floor. Durable cage construction is not as critical as red-venteds are not such strong chewers. Many are adept at opening cage latches. Locks or escape proof latches may be necessary on cages. The cage should be as large as possible but must allow at least enough room to fully spread their wings. Ideally the bird will have an outdoor cage as well to allow playtime in the fresh-air and sunlight.

Breeding

Red-vented cockatoos can be difficult to breed in captivity. In North America red-vented cockatoos breed predominantly in the winter and spring. Clutch size is typically 2 to 3 eggs.

Double entrance nest boxes are often used to reduce the chance of the male trapping the female in the box. Grandfather style wooden boxes can be used and red-vents tend to like a deep, narrow nest. Size should be approximately 12 inches by 12 inches by 36 inches or deeper.

Incubation period is approximately 24 to 26 days. Chicks will usually fledge at approximately 8 to 10 weeks of age. Red-vented cockatoos are relatively easy to hand-rear. Most hand rearing formulas can be used successfully.

Male cockatoos frequently become aggressive toward their mates. Cage construction and management should take into consideration techniques to reduce mate aggression. Clipping the wings of the male prior to the breeding season will help the female to escape in case the male becomes aggressive. Aggressive behavior may occur in compatible breeding pairs.

Red-vented cockatoos are not as noisy as the larger cockatoos however when breeding cockatoos, noise and proximity to neighbors must be considered. If housed outdoors cockatoos often call at night especially during a full moon. In southern states outdoor caging must be protected from opossums to prevent exposure to the parasite Sarcocystis falcatula which can result in a fatal lung infection.

Common Diseases and Disorders

Cockatoos are relatively healthy birds but are susceptible to the following:

  • Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease (Common in wild birds and has devastated much of the wild population)
  • Feather-picking
  • Psittacosis
  • Poor eating habits
  • Bacterial and fungal infections
  • Sarcocystis
  • Mate aggression
  • Toxicity, ingestion of metals

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