Cockatoo Lifespan: Everything You Need to Know

cockatoo lifespan

If you are looking for the perfect indoor pet that will keep you company for many years, then try a cockatoo. Cockatoos have proved to be great companions and can live for a long time.

However, there have been numerous debates about the lifespan of a cockatoo, with some people claiming that this species of parrots can live for over 70 years. Continue reading to know more about cockatoo lifespan.

What Is a Cockatoo?


A cockatoo is a group of 21 species of parrots belonging to the family of Cacatuidae, which is the only family in the superfamily Cacatuoidea. So, any parrot belonging to this family is referred to as cockatoo. This bird is commonly found in Australia, the Philippines, and Indonesia.

Cockatoos are identifiable by their conspicuous crests and curved bills. They also have a less colorful plumage than other parrots. Their feathers are mostly white, black, or grey with some colorful features in the crest, tail, and cheeks.

Most cockatoos, apart from cockatiel, which is the smallest in the species of cockatoo, are larger than other parrots. Although the phylogenetic position of a cockatiel is still not clear, this group of birds is among the earliest branches of the cockatoo pedigree. The cockatoo lineage has two other branches.

The first one is made up of the five large black cockatoos while the second one, which is the larger branch, is made up of 11 species of the white-feathered cockatoos and the four monotypic types. Cockatoos love seeds, corns, fruits, flowers, insects, and tubers. They normally feed in large flocks, especially when feeding on the ground.

These parrots are monogamous and build nests in tree hollows. So, many of them have been adversely affected by the ongoing loss of habitat as a result of deforestation and wildfires. However, some species are adapting well to these changes and are now considered agricultural pests.

Although cockatoos are among the most famous birds in aviculture, their needs are quite difficult to satisfy. The cockatiel is the only simple cockatoo species that is easy to maintain. That’s why it is the most frequently kept cockatoo. It is also important to note that white cockatoos are more commonly kept in captivity than their black counterparts.

The number of cockatoos is dwindling every day owing to the flourishing illegal trade in wild-caught birds in different parts of the world.

General Cockatoo Lifespan

General Cockatoo Lifespan

Keeping a cockatoo in your house is a lifetime commitment because it will outlive most of your other household pets. This feathery friend can live for many years, provided he is happy, healthy, and adored. It is not a secret that cockatoos can live for an average of 50 to 70 years.

Plus, they require full attention and specialized care. Therefore, it will be very hard for you to have this bird alongside other household pets. With a cockatoo in the house, it will be difficult to have playdates with your cat.

Cockatoo Lifespan by Species

1. Moluccan Cockatoo

Moluccan Cockatoo

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Moluccan cockatoos are almost similar to umbrella cockatoos except for their pinkish tinge instead of stark white. Also referred to as salmon-crested cockatoos, Moluccan cockatoos can live for up to 70 years in captivity. There have been many claims of even older Moluccan cockatoos.

In a paper titled Survival on the Ark, which was published by Young, Hobson, Lackey, and Wright in 2012, it is reported that a Moluccan cockatoo lived for 92 years. Among the 87,777 parrots studied during this research, this was the oldest.

2. Goffin’s Cockatoo

Goffin’s Cockatoo

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Also known as Tanimbar corella, the Goffin’s cockatoo is one of the smallest cockatoo species in the world. Although there is little record of their average lifespan, Goffin’s cockatoos have a shorter lifespan than other cockatoo species.

Some people claim that this species of parrots live for about 26 years, while others put its lifespan at 65 years. Therefore, it will be fair to assume that with proper care, love, and luck, a Guffin’s cockatoo can keep you company for at least 25 years.

3. Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

The Sulphur-crested cockatoo is a courageous and inquisitive species that is commonly found in urban areas in Australia. It makes a perfect pet, but like other cockatoos, it can be quite demanding. There exist many conflicting records of this parrot’s lifespan.

Some sources say wild Sulphur-crested cockatoos can live for about 20 to 40 years, while other records show that Sulphur-crested cockatoo pets can live longer than 40 years. In the Surviving on the Ark research, the oldest Sulphur-crested cockatoo was 73 years.

4. Umbrella Cockatoo

Umbrella Cockatoo

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Also referred to as a white cockatoo, an umbrella cockatoo is one of the species of a cockatoo with an interesting lifespan. Reports from various zoos indicate that this bird can live in captivity for about 60 years. But in the wild, this lifespan is likely a decade shorter.

Other records show the umbrella cockatoo living longer than 60 years, with some people even claiming that theirs lived up to 100 years. For instance, a pet by the name of Duster the Cockatoo is claimed to have celebrated his 89th birthday in 2014. However, some of these reports are a bit dicey because they lack proof.

5. Galah Cockatoo

Galah Cockatoo

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The other name for Galah cockatoo is pink-and-grey cockatoo or rose-breasted cockatoo. This parrot is known for its lovely pink color. It is very common in Australia, where it is kept in captivity as a pet.

The lifespan of a Galah cockatoo is quite impressive because it appears to be longer than most other cockatoo species. This parrot is estimated to live in the wild for about 20 years and over 80 years in captivity.

6. Cockatiel


Image source: Pinterest

Although it is the smallest parrot in the species of cockatoo, a cockatiel is the second most sought-after pet parrot in the world. Despite their small size, these parrots are not worse off when it comes to lifespan as they can live for about 15 years in the wild and 25 years in captivity.

Factors That Affect The Lifespan of Cockatoos


Most of the lifespans indicated above are maximum lifespans. Unfortunately, the average and median lifespans of cockatoos are not very high. For instance, in the Survival on the Ark research, the average median lifespan for salmon-crested cockatoos was only four and a half years.

This means that although cockatoos can live for a long time, many factors determine how long an individual cockatoo lives. Here are some of the factors that determine the lifespan of a cockatoo.

1. Healthy Environment

In their natural habitat, parrots can fly free and eat plants, fresh fruits, vegetables, and other foods they were meant to eat. They will even fly for miles in search of stimulation. This keeps them healthy and happy as opposed to how they live when in captivity.

So, if you want your pet parrot to live a long, healthy life, you have to give it the freedom it requires. You also have to create a safe and healthy environment in your home that will make your cockatoo feel loved and cared for. Remember that cockatoos are very demanding, especially when they grow older.

Therefore, you need to give your cockatoo the attention it deserves. Without a strong interaction with humans and other pets, your cockatoo won’t be healthy. Poor socialization of your parrot will lead to serious self-mutilation and other psychological issues.

Since parrots have very sensitive lungs, they need an environment in which they can always have access to fresh air. So, avoid smoking in the house, nonstick cookware, scented candles, perfumes, aerosols, and cleaning products if you want your cockatoo to live for a long time.

Also, do not keep your cockatoo caged all the time. It needs some out-of-the-cage time so that it can exercise its mind and body.

2. Diet

You also need to give your cockatoo a healthy diet. A poor diet will shorten the lifespan of your cockatoo pet, the same way it can shorten a person’s lifespan.

It might surprise you to learn that parrots too suffer from heart diseases and other fatal health complications when they have the wrong food. What’s worse is the fact that most parrot owners don’t know the right food to feed their parrots.

Sometimes you will find parrot owners feeding them with their leftovers. This is risky because some of the leftovers contain spices and other ingredients that are not good for parrots. Ask a professional veterinarian to help you determine the best diet for your cockatoos.

How to Tell Your Cockatoo’s Age

Your Cockatoo's Age

Cockatoos and other parrot species do not show external signs of aging. However, there are several simple ways to tell the age of your parrot. For instance, you can tell if your female parrot has reached her reproductive age by checking the color of her eyes. When a female cockatoo becomes sexually active, her eyes turn reddish-brown.

Also, a 25-year-old cockatoo is a bit patchy as her feathers continue to push their way into place. As she progresses through the nestling phase, she becomes fully feathered but her wing and tail feathers are still not completely mature. If you own a cockatiel, you can estimate her age by checking her head crest.

The cockatiel is the only small parrot with a head crest. This crest is usually longer with a slight bending curve in mature birds, while it is short and straight in young birds. Also, baby cockatiels have a large eye size and it becomes smaller with age. Ideally, it’s not easy to tell the actual age of a cockatoo past the age of two years. You just have to guess.

In Summary

With this information, you shouldn’t have any doubts about the cockatoo lifespan. You should also be able to take good care of your cockatoos so that they can live longer. Thankfully, these feathery friends can live for many decades provided they are happy and healthy.

Gretchen Walker
Gretchen is a homemaker by day and writer by night. She takes a keen interest in life as it unfolds around her and spends her free time observing people go about their everyday affairs.