Male Aggression in Cockatoos


T he problem of male cockatoo aggression has plagued aviculturists for a long time. I am referring to fatal or near fatal attacks on the female, not normal squabbles where neither party gets hurt. A variety of methods have been used with varying degrees of success. It is my purpose to propose a new (radical) approach to solving the problem.

To let you know where I'm coming from, I raise the following cockatoos:

Moluccan Cacatua moluccensis (six pairs), Umbrella Cacatua alba (six pairs), Citron-crested Cacatua sulpburia citrinocristata (two pairs), and Goffin's Cacatua go.ffini (four pairs). I feed Major Mitchell's Cacatua leadbeateri, Lesser Sulphur-crested Cacatua sulpburia sulpburia, Tritons Cacatua galerita triton, Eleanoras Cacatua galerita eleonora, and some extra Goffin's and Citrons with hope of breeding them, maybe next year.

I have personal experience with male Cockatoo aggression. After waiting four years for a pair of Citron-crested Cockatoos to produce, I found the female one morning with the upper mandible ripped off, bleeding to death. I also had a Moluccan starve his female to death by confining her to the nest box and not letting her out to feed. If you have cockatoos, the question is not "if' but "when" you will have similar stories to tell.

What could possibly cause a male cockatoo to one day decide to kill his mate? Obviously this is not a normal activity. It probably rarely if ever occurs in the wild. After all, females are a limiting resource without which the male will not have a genetic future.

How do Cockatoos mate in the wild? Please note the corresponding factor in a proposed nonviolent cap-.


tive setting.

Detailed field research reports are scant at best. But we may make some assumptions from what we do know.

Factor 1:

Compatible Mate Selection

Mate selection takes place under flock conditions. Birds growing up together form a pair bond over a period of years. During this time they are also socialized as proper members of their flock and learn their place in it.

Factor 2:

Large Available Space

Once the pair is formed, they share a large space where they can get touching close together or many yards apart, at will.

Factor 3:

Leisure Time Activity Outlets

When the pair is not actively courting, both male and female spend hours in trees nipping leaves, flowers and branches. Some (Galahs, for instance) even peel the bark of trees around their nest. Also, during egg lay-


ing and incubation the male is busy feeding, incubating in some species, guarding the nest site, but much of the time chewing up branches and leaves.


Provide Multiple Food Sources When the pair is feeding in a tree they will feed on different branches or different flowers or fruits. On the ground they may feed on neighboring patches, not dig at the same tuber in the same hole.

Factor 5:

Provide Multiple Nest Boxes

When the pair is ready for breeding they select a cavity suitable for their nest, perhaps after rejecting several sites as being too low or too high, too big or too small, facing the wrong direction, or being in the wrong location. If they can't find a suitable site many will not breed at all.


Remove Irritations and Challenges The birds hang around and usually the male defends the nest site against


a. no line of sight to other similar cockatoos. 1-5

b. no irritations whatever they might be. 1-5

7. Remove young when fledged or weaned. 1-10

8. Break up pairs who fight too much. 1-10

9. Remove nest boxes after the breeding season. 1-10





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