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Rose-breasted Cockatoo

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Is the Rose-breasted Cockatoo right for you?

Species group:

Other common names: Galah Cockatoo; Rose Cockatoo; Roseate Cockatoo

Scientific name: Elopholus roseicapilla

The basics:
Because the Galah or Rose-breasted Cockatoo has not been legally exported from its Australian home in decades, the pet birds offered for sale in the United States and elsewhere should be confident, captive-bred babies with outgoing personalities. They are alert and intelligent, and they crave attention, like any other cockatoo, but they are not so demanding of constant “cuddle time” as some white cockatoo species.

Warning: Cockatoos are powder down birds, and you should not obtain a cockatoo, even a Galah or Rose-breasted Cockatoo, if anyone in the home suffers from allergies or asthma. Most of them are capable of extremely loud contact calls, or early morning “wake-up calls,” and it is strongly recommended against choosing any cockatoo if you live in an apartment or have nearby neighbors.

The Rose-breasted Cockatoo is an Australian endemic species, meaning that it is only found in Australia. Its original home was the Australian mainland, but one of the three subspecies is now successfully introduced to the island of Tasmania. “Galah” is a native Australian word that means “idiot,” which perhaps expresses the frustration that some locals feel when they're invaded by large flocks of these rowdy, destructive, noisy birds. It certainly isn't an accurate summary of its intelligence, and this adaptable species may actually be expanding in population, at the expense of the farmers whose crops it enjoys.

Appearance:
The Rose-breasted Cockatoo captures the eye because of its bright rose-colored face, breast, and underparts, which contrast beautifully with the gray tail and wings.

Weight:
270 - 350 grams (9.5 - 12.5 oz.)

Average size:
35 centimeters (14 in.)

Lifespan:
45+ years

Behavior / temperament:
A Rose-breasted Cockatoo would probably never be alone in the wild, and it might often be found in huge, noisy flocks full of foraging birds. When you take this bird into your home, you have a responsibility to provide it with loving, consistent care. A young pet can easily be spoiled if you provide hours of attention and physical contact for the first few weeks or months and then suddenly cut back drastically on the amount of time you can spend with the bird. You need to be able to provide a reasonable amount of time and attention and then stick with the plan.

As a separate branch on the cockatoo family tree, the Rose-breasted Cockatoo can surprise you by not being as clingy or dependent as many of the white cockatoo species. A properly socialized bird could amaze you with its ability to learn to play with toys, to entertain itself, and even to speak a few words or to perform some entertaining tricks. However, do not expect to house the bird alone for long periods of time. A neglected, inactive Galah could develop any number of health or behavior problems, such as obesity, screaming, plucking, or biting.

An older male, especially a one person bird, could become possessive. Bring your best parrot psychology skills, and don't hesitate to consult with a bird behaviorist if you need to. Cockatoos are probably more often given up for rescue or rehoming than any other bird. Don't be a statistic.

Housing:
The Galah or Rose-breasted Cockatoo loves to chew. Provide a powder-coated metal cage of at least 36” wide by 24” deep by 36” high with no more than 1” bar spacing. Please keep the cage well-supplied with disposable toys that can be chewed to destruction. Have sturdy manzanita perches in areas where you don't want to have to change the perches frequently, but also supply plenty of natural, bird-safe wood perches from unsprayed trees that your pet can chew to its heart's content.

Teach your Rose-breasted Cockatoo to step on an arm or hand-held perch on command, so that you can easily bring the bird to a play gym. Have more toys and chew items in the play space. It may sound a little counter-intuitive, but a highly intelligent cockatoo does not always understand what a toy is for, until you demonstrate by playing with the toy yourself. Remember, the more intelligent the pet, the more it learns from being taught, rather than just going by pure instinct.

If you have an older, aggressive male, it is particularly important to keep the play gym and cage at waist height. Don't allow problem behaviors to develop by giving the Rose-breasted Cockatoo the “top dog” spot. You must manage this somewhat sensitive bird with kindness and respect, and the best way to fix a problem is to prevent it from developing in the first place.

Diet:
The Galah or Rose-breasted Cockatoo is a challenge to feed in captivity because this bird seems to have a highly efficient metabolism that makes it pack on the weight if you don't offer the right diet and exercise. Alas, the Galah doesn't just get chunky if it eats too much. It can also develop uncomfortable fatty tumors on its lower abdomen or around its vent.

The Rose-breasted Cockatoo's diet can't be built around dry seed, even the low fat seeds like millet. For this species, learn how to prepare a good quality commercial or home recipe for a “soak and cook” mix that includes plenty of healthy cooked grains, beans, and vegetables. An alternative diet could be a low fat, high quality brand of pellets. The ideal diet probably contains both the “soak and cook” and the best pellets. You should also learn to make a good chopped salad that contains plenty of healthy fruit, vegetables, and greens to serve to your pet every day. However, keep in mind that the salad must never contain avocado, as both avocado and chocolate are unsafe for parrots.

Nuts and sunflower or other fatty seed should be offered very cautiously, perhaps as part of trick training, as long as the Rose-breasted Cockatoo is not too fat. Such treats might be occasionally hidden in a foraging toy. However, don't underestimate the value of fruits like bits of mango as a treat, especially if you've got a chubby bird.

Written by Elaine Radford

wonderful

cuddle, beautiful birds, lovely vocal sound, smart, excellent mimics, sweet, large vocabulary

challenging

featherdestructive behaviours, allergy, high price tag, significant time commitment, loud squaks

interesting

plague proportion flocks, great parents, toys, good guard bird

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