Palm Cockatoo Care Guide: All About These Stunning Birds

The palm cockatoo is a rare and expensive pet bird that is increasing in popularity.

Published May 5, 2023
Black Palm cockatoo

If you're searching for a unique pet cockatoo that's unlike any other, the palm cockatoo may catch your eye. These large, powerful birds have stunning black feathers and a very characteristic red mark on their face. But their good looks aren't the only thing that set them apart; the endangered palm cockatoo is incredibly expensive and has specific care requirements. These are not birds for first-time keepers. Discover if the palm cockatoo is the right pet for your household.

Appearance and Size

The palm cockatoo, sometimes called the Goliath cockatoo or black palm cockatoo, doesn't look like most cockatoos. They're known for their dark, smokey appearance. Their feathers can range in color from a dark gray color to a rich black, although all palm cockatoos have vibrant red patches of skin below their eyes.

Unlike a lot of parrots, they are monomorphic, meaning both females and males have the same body size and color. Their large beak is another defining feature of this species, and palm cockatoos have the second largest beak of any parrot (the hyacinth macaw sits at No. 1). These birds reach between 20 and 24 inches tall with a weight of around 2 pounds.


Palm cockatoos are very long-lived birds. In the wild, they're believed to live around 50 years, but in captivity, this species can reach 70 to 80 years or more.

Temperament, Intelligence, and Behavior

Palm cockatoos are incredibly intelligent, but they can be very stubborn. For this reason, you'll need to dedicate a lot of time and patience to your pet in order to train them. Like most other cockatoos, this species demands a lot of attention, although they're not really as affectionate as most parrots. Palms can also become territorial.

An interesting behavior the palm cockatoo exhibits is drumming. They break a stick off a tree or find a seed pod and use it to "drum" against the trunk. Most will whistle along with the rhythmic drumming. This is something male palm cockatoos do as a way to attract the attention of females.

Handling Your Palm Cockatoo Bird

Because of their large size and strong beak, you'll need to take care when handling a palm cockatoo. You can use a towel to gently restrain your bird for things like nail trims, but training your bird to accept handling is the best way to keep everyone stress-free and safe.

Exercise and Enrichment

The smart palm cockatoo needs a lot of enrichment to keep them busy. Bored birds have been known to destroy furniture or walls with their enormous beaks if left alone. Offer your palm cockatoo plenty of toys and provide them with mental enrichment in the form of training and games. You'll also need to give them at least three to four hours of supervised time outside their enclosure to stretch their wings each day.

Care Requirements

If you'd like to keep a palm cockatoo as a pet, know these stunning cockatoos have very specific care requirements. They're known to be finicky, temperamental, and high-maintenance. Plan to dedicate a lot of resources, space, and attention to your palm cockatoo.

Cage Size and Setup

Palm cockatoos need a large enclosure to accommodate their big size. The cage should be at least 10 x 6 x 6 feet, although an entire room aviary is preferable. This is important because your palm cockatoo needs space to fly around and exercise.

It's important to remember that palm cockatoos are less affectionate than other pet birds and need a substantial amount of consistent training and enrichment. These are not beginner birds. They can be difficult and temperamental, and only experienced keepers should think about keeping one.


These birds don't need a lot of grooming, but you will need to bathe them every so often. Aim to give your bird a bath every month to wash away any dander. Regular nail trims are important, too. You can do this at home or have your veterinarian trim your cockatoo's nails.

Fast Fact

Palm cockatoos are powder-down birds, meaning they have specialized down feathers that produce a powder.


Wild palm cockatoos eat a mix of nuts, palm fruits, and seeds, but you can mimic their diet at home. Feed them a diet that's half high-quality cockatoo pellets and half bird-safe fruits and veggies. Water should always be available.

Health Concerns

These cockatoos are prone to a few species-specific health problems, including:

  • Obesity
  • Kidney disease
  • Sarcocystosis
  • Psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD)

Finding Palm Cockatoo Birds

Are you curious about where to find a palm cockatoo? Unfortunately, it's not as easy as going to your local pet store. Palm cockatoos are endangered, and their trade is heavily regulated. You'll have to buy one from an ethical breeder who bred and raised the birds in captivity as opposed to catching one in the wild. Because of this, they can be hard to find and cost upwards of $15,000 or more.

Need to Know

Palm cockatoos are a protected species, so you'll have to acquire a CITES permit to own one.


  • How much do palm cockatoos cost? Palm cockatoos are arguably the most expensive pet birds you can find. You'll need to pay $15,000 to $20,000 or more for a well-bred palm cockatoo from a breeder. If you find one priced for much less, take this as a red flag. It's possible the bird might be poorly bred or may have been illegally acquired.
  • Why do palm cockatoos drum? Male palm cockatoos drum as a way to attract the attention of potential mates. They only do it when a female cockatoo is around, and they'll also whistle and sway along with the rhythm.
  • Are palm cockatoos loud? Like all cockatoos, palm cockatoos are relatively loud birds. They make various noises, like screeches, whistles, and squawks. If you're searching for a quiet bird, the palm cockatoo isn't a good choice.
  • Can they talk? Cockatoos aren't known for being very talkative birds, but the palm cockatoo is an exception. These birds speak better than most other cockatoo species, and they can be incredibly loud when they want to be heard.

Does the Palm Cockatoo Make a Good Pet?

Palm cockatoos can make great pets for the right owner, but they're not for everyone. These birds are expensive, need a lot of space, and require several hours of attention and training each day. If you're looking for a large, impressive pet bird to share your life with and have experience training and handling birds, this cockatoo might be a good choice. But if you're looking for a low-maintenance pet, you should consider a different bird species.

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Palm Cockatoo Care Guide: All About These Stunning Birds