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Palm Cockatoo

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Is the Palm Cockatoo right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Black Palm Cockatoo; Great Black Cockatoo; Goliath Cockatoo; Cape York Cockatoo

Scientific name: Probosciger aterrimus

The basics:
The Palm Cockatoo is the gentle giant of the cockatoo world -- widely admired for its intelligence, sweet personality, and unusual appearance. However, this rare species is extremely expensive, requires a special diet, and is reluctant to breed, so it is recommended only to experienced experts who are able to provide only the best to their pet or breeders.

There are four subspecies of the Palm Cockatoo, including the smaller Aterrimus Palm, P a. aterrimus, and the huge Goliath Palm, P. a. goliath, which is probably the form most often seen in captivity. They range from Cape York Peninsula, Australia, through the big island of New Guinea, and several other smaller Indonesian islands in the area.

The male is noted for his spectacular courting displays. Blushing deep red with excitement, he will mount a large, dead hollow snag and dance with crest raised and wings spread, pirouetting and using a twig or pod held in his left food to drum on the snag. The Palm Cockatoo is also one of the few parrot species that add twigs to the natural cavity nests they choose in old, hollow trees. Like other long-lived species, they are very slow to reproduce, with the female laying one egg perhaps once every two years.

Warning: Cockatoos are powder down birds, and you should not obtain a Palm Cockatoo if anyone in the home suffers from allergies or asthma. They can get rowdy and excited and create some astoundingly loud calls, so they are also not for people who are sensitive to noise or who have nearby neighbors.

Appearance:
The Palm Cockatoo is a large black cockatoo with a striking spiked crest and a bare red face. When the bill is “closed,” the upper and lower mandible don't truly meet, so the unusual black and red tongue is exposed. This is normal, an adaptation that makes it easier for the Palm to crack large nuts.

Weight:
910 - 1200 grams (32 - 42 oz.)

Average size:
51 - 64 centimeters (20 - 25 in.)

Lifespan:
90 years

Behavior / temperament:
Unusual for a large cockatoo, the Palm Cockatoo is often described as gentle or even docile. However, they remain rare and expensive, with demand for a hand-fed baby much out-running supply, thanks to their dilatory breeding behavior. While they are not generally as aggressive as some of the large white or pink cockatoos, there has been an occasional report of a hormonal male harming the female, so you do need to understand parrot psychology and the basic techniques for handling territorial or breeding aggression. If you have any doubts or if you are intimidated by the large beak, get some training from a good bird behaviorist so that you can learn to easily handle and enjoy your pet.

Housing:
The powerful beak of the Palm Cockatoo will make short work of a cheap cage or inadequate locks. A specially constructed walk-in aviary is highly recommended. You will need to provide access to sunshine, which helps enhance the red color of the cheeks, but there must always be a shady place for the bird to get out of hot direct sunlight. Every precaution should be taken to screen the aviary from mosquitoes and to prevent raccoons, rats, or other predators from getting inside. Considering the cost of the birds, a security system is a wise investment to discourage thieves.

A single Palm Cockatoo demands a huge powder-coated metal specialty cage of 60"w x 42"d x 72"h with no more than 1-1/2" bar spacing. Place stout manzanita perches in all places where you don't wish to replace the perches often, but you should also have in stock plenty of toys that the bird can chew to destruction at will. You should also have sturdy perches and play areas around the home, so that you can spend plenty of time with your pet. A Palm Cockatoo placed on your furniture simply won't be able to resist the temptation to chew.

Diet:
Palm Cockatoos have the second largest beak in the parrot family, surpassed only by the Hyacinth Macaw. A glance at the big bill and the colorful tongue, and you can see right away that this bird is a nut-cracking specialist. Offer a high quality cockatoo pellet, with a mixed chopped salad including a variety of fruits and vegetables. You should also offer several large nuts every day, such as walnuts, almonds, pecans, macadamias, pine nuts, or filberts. These birds don't tend to gain weight, so they may also enjoy a high quality seed mix. Never offer avocado or chocolate to your Palm Cockatoo, as these foods are toxic to all parrots.

Written by Elaine Radford