The largest cockatoo, the black palm cockatoo or goliath cockatoo, is strikingly beautiful. This species is not naturally affectionate. However, with extensive training, hand-fed black palm cockatoos can make excellent, tame pets. This species thrives when it is socialized. Like other cockatoos, it craves regular interaction with its owners. This bird's large size, beak strength, and uneven temperament make it most suitable for experienced bird owners. These bold parrots require a fearless owner to match.
Common Names: Black palm cockatoo, palm cockatoo, goliath cockatoo, great black cockatoo, Van Oort's palm cockatoo, black macaw
Scientific Name: Probosciger aterrimus
Adult Size: 22 and 24 inches, weighing between 2 and 3 pounds
Life Expectancy: Between 40 and 60 years in the wild; up to 80 to 90 years in captivity with proper care
Origin and History
The black palm cockatoo is native to Australia, particularly the very tip of northern Queensland. Also, this species now lives in New Guinea and Indonesia. These birds generally inhabit the rainforest and woodlands and nest in hollow trees. It is common to find them in small groups of six or fewer birds. A pair will mate for life. Though their population is declining due to habitat loss as well as sport and trade hunting, they are not considered endangered or even vulnerable.
The black palm cockatoo can be a good pet, but don't expect it to be as affectionate as many other parrots. To tame this species, the bird requires a lot of attention and consistent training. It is a brilliant and social bird, so if you are persistent, you can get this bird to follow your commands. You can teach this species to perform many simple tricks with time and positive reinforcement.
This is one of the very few bird species that will use tools. In their natural habitat, male birds will use a large stick to "drum" against a hollow tree before choosing where to build a nest. This drumming can be heard for up to 100 yards. When the stick breaks, it becomes part of the new nest. This behavior puzzles many scientists who study birds. Some scientists believe the females listen to the drumming, then decide if it's a suitable nesting spot. Other scientists believe it is the sign of a male marking its territory.
Speech and Vocalizations
This bird's natural vocalizations have a human-like sound, including their signature "hello." Their vocal ability is well suited for learning words. They are one of the best talking cockatoos.
A black palm cockatoo is not a good option for bird owners who live in apartments or condominiums. It makes very distinct, deafening calls, and you (and your neighbors) need to be able to tolerate loud noises to live with one.
Black Palm Cockatoo Colors and Markings
The black palm cockatoo is a very dark, smoky gray color that appears blacker on some birds than others. The same color appears on their very long crest, as well as their feet and legs.
This otherwise single-colored bird has bright red patches of bare skin on their cheeks, which change colors when the bird gets excited. Their cheeks are as striking as its dark grayish-black beak, giving it a very distinct profile up close.
The size of its beak makes it look intimidating. Within the parrot family, their beak is only eclipsed in size by the hyacinth macaw. The size and shape of the beak, and the fact that the upper and lower mandibles don't meet, makes it perfect for cracking open nuts. Their strong beaks can cause injury. This species is not recommended for families with children.
This bird is a monomorphic species, meaning there is no visual way to tell males from females. If you want to determine sex, genetic or surgical sexing is necessary.
Caring for Black Palm Cockatoos
Though there is some appeal to these birds in the exotic pet trade, they are not as common as other cockatoos. Generally, they are seen most often in zoos, professional aviaries, and bird shows. This exclusivity is mostly due to their temperament and extensive care and training requirements.
Black palm cockatoos should not be left alone for more than eight hours a day. This species is not the right choice if you maintain regular obligations outside of the home for long periods.
The black palm cockatoo requires a large enough cage to accommodate flight and play. The cage should be at least 10 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 6 feet high. If you cannot accommodate a cage this size or an aviary, it is best to consider one of the smaller cockatoo species.
These powder-down parrots enjoy baths and should regularly get the opportunity to get wet. The natural dust shed by this bird can coat the nearby surfaces and trigger allergies for those sensitive to dust or animal dander.
This bird's long lifespan serves the breed well because it usually lays one egg every two years or so. Among the parrots, it has one of the lowest reproduction rates.
Common Health Problems
Though it is a large bird, it is light for its size and prone to obesity in captivity. Other common ailments that can affect these birds include kidney problems, bacterial infections, and psittacine beak and feather disease (PBFD), a viral condition.
If the bird does not receive sufficient mental stimulation, it can develop behavioral issues such as feather plucking or excessive screaming.
Diet and Nutrition
In the wild, black palm cockatoos often feed in the early morning hours. Its native diet is palm fruit, nuts from the kanari tree (Java almond), stringy eucalyptus tree bark, and tree seeds. Their strong beak can open the toughest nuts.
Like all cockatoos, black palm cockatoos can easily become overweight, so owners should carefully supervise their fat intake. Half of its menu should consist of high-quality pellets, and the other half should be fresh bird-safe fruits and vegetables. Occasionally feed nuts in the shell; this will exercise their beak. Keep nuts to a minimum, though, as most are high in fat.
Start by offering your bird 1/3 cup of pellets and 1/3 cup of fruits and vegetables daily. Increase the amount as needed. Never feed chocolate or avocado; these foods are toxic to birds.
Being large birds, they need lots of exercise to maintain their physical health. Make sure that your bird is allowed a minimum of three to four hours outside of its cage each day so it can stretch its muscles, play, and socialize with you. These birds require regularly scheduled time for training.
These birds are curious. Make sure you supervise them when outside of the cage to prevent accidents and unwanted chewing on your household goods, furniture, or walls. Be mindful of electric wires around the house; these are potentially hazardous if your bird chews on them.
Toys provide enrichment and will keep the bird occupied. Provide plenty of stimulation with wood toys, ropes, and other things the bird can chew on. Always have more toys readily available when they get destroyed. Rotate toys in and out as the bird loses interest. Playstands, perches, ladders, and swings can also help your bird burn off excess energy.
Beautiful, impressive-looking bird with unique drumming ability
One of the best speaking cockatoos
Can learn to do many tricks
Can be noisy, not well-suited for apartments
Requires at least 3 to 4 hours of supervised out-of-cage time
Emits powdery down that can aggravate allergies
Requires a room-sized cage or aviary
Where to Adopt or Buy the Black Palm Cockatoo
Purchase a black palm cockatoo from a reputable breeder or adoption agency. Before getting a black palm cockatoo, contact breeders to see if you can spend some time with them and their birds. Getting to know someone that has experience raising these unique birds will help you decide if they are right for you. Also, be aware that these rare birds can cost about $20,000.
Be sure that you are not adopting a wild-caught cockatoo as they typically cannot be tamed. This bird is a protected species, and you will need CITES permit proving its origin to own one. Another option is to search bird rescues because many owners give these birds up after realizing that they are a handful. Some online sources where you can find black palm cockatoos include:
Make sure that the bird you want to take home is alert, active, and exhibits all the signs of a healthy bird, such as bright eyes, clean feathers, and full crops.
More Pet Bird Species and Further Research
Other similar pet bird species you might want to consider include:
Otherwise, take a look at more species in the cockatoo family.