The largest cockatoo that is simply stunning to watch, the black palm cockatoo (or palm cockatoo) is not considered an affectionate bird. It's very sociable, like other cockatoos, needing regular interaction with its owners. However, the size and temperament of this bird make it most suitable for experienced bird owners.
While not an ideal pet for everyone, the black palm cockatoo has its rewarding characteristics. It is strikingly beautiful, and hand-fed black palm cockatoos can make excellent, tame pets. They do require firm training and are not for those who are new to keeping large parrots. These are bold parrots who need bold owners.
Common Names: Black palm cockatoo, palm cockatoo, goliath cockatoo, great black cockatoo, Van Oort's palm cockatoo
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. Populations also exist in New Guinea and Indonesia. Though their population is declining due to habitat loss as well as sport and trade hunting, they are not considered endangered or even vulnerable.
These birds generally inhabit the rainforest and woodlands and nest in hollow trees. A pair will mate for life, and it's common to find them in small groups of six or fewer birds.
Though there is some appeal to these birds in the exotic pet trade, they are not as common as other cockatoos. Generally, they're seen most often in zoos, professional aviaries, and bird shows and much of this is due to their temperament and care requirements.
This bird's long lifespan serves the breed well because it usually lays one egg every two years or so, one of the lowest reproduction rates among parrots.
The black palm cockatoo can be a good pet, but don't expect it to be as affectionate as many other parrots. They require a lot of attention to tame though they are very intelligent and social birds if the owner is consistent and can provide the time and attention needed. Black palms tend to do well in aviaries with other cockatoos as well.
This is one of the very few bird species that will use tools. In their natural habitats, male birds will use a large stick to "drum" against a hollow tree before choosing where to build a nest. It's said that it can be heard 100 yards away and the stick is broken before becoming part of the new nest. This behavior still puzzles many scientists who study birds.
While there's no obvious explanation, some people believe the females listen to the drumming when deciding if it's a suitable nesting spot. Another theory revolves around the male marking his territory.
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. It is as striking as the dark grayish-black beak, giving it a very distinct profile up close.
Somewhat intimidating, their beak is only eclipsed in size by the hyacinth macaw within the parrot family. The size, shape, and the fact that the upper and lower mandibles don't meet make it perfect for cracking open the toughest nuts.
A monomorphic species, there is no visual way to tell males from females. If you're curious about your bird's sex, DNA sexing is necessary.
Caring for Black Palm Cockatoos
A black palm cockatoo is not a good option for bird owners who live in apartments or condominiums. They possess very distinct, extremely loud calls, and you (and your neighbors) need to be able to tolerate loud noises in order to live with one.
Their natural vocalizations have a human-like sound, including their signature "hellow." This does suit them well for learning how to really say words, though. They're considered one of the best talking cockatoos.
Black palm cockatoos should not be left alone for more than eight hours a day, so they're not a good choice if you have a normal work schedule or other obligations. They also require a large cage and plenty of space to play. If you cannot accommodate such a large aviary, it's best to consider one of the smaller cockatoo species.
Before adopting 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 special birds will help you decide if they are right for you. Also, be aware that these rare birds can cost over $15,000.
Be sure that you are not adopting a wild-caught cockatoo as they typically cannot be tamed. This is a protected species, and you will need CITES permit proving its origin in order to own one. Another option is to search bird rescues because many owners give these birds up after realizing that they are a handful.
Don't be discouraged if you find that this bird is a bad fit. It's better to adopt a bird that you can handle. There are plenty of other cockatoos to choose from.
Feeding Black Palm Cockatoos
Like all cockatoos, black palm cockatoos can easily become overweight, so owners should carefully supervise their fat intake. A healthy diet should consist of high-quality pellets, a moderate amount of seed mix, and daily helpings of fresh bird-safe fruits and vegetables.
That will mimic their natural diet and, in keeping with that, some nuts in the shell will exercise their beak as well. Keep these to a minimum, though, as some are high in fat.
Black palm cockatoos are large birds, and 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 and play.
These birds are inquisitive and have strong beaks. They should always be supervised when outside of the cage to prevent accidents and unwanted chewing on your household goods, furniture, or walls.
Toys will keep the bird occupied and out of trouble. Provide plenty of stimulation with wood toys, ropes, and other things the bird can chew on. Always have more readily available to replace toys that become worn out. Playstands, perches, ladders, and swings can also help your bird burn off excess energy.