Do Cockatoos Like To Be Held? Tips on Handling Your Parrot

Cockatoos are unique creatures, known for their intelligence and entertaining antics. They tend to form deep bonds with their human caregivers, leading many people to wonder how they should interact with their pet birds.

Understanding the needs and preferences of these birds is essential to maintaining a healthy and happy relationship. This article will discuss how to safely handle your cockatoo and answer the question, “Do cockatoos like to be held?”

Yes, many cockatoos enjoy being held by their caregivers. However, it’s crucial to approach this interaction with care and patience, as each bird will have unique preferences and boundaries. It is important to learn how to read your cockatoo’s body language to provide a positive and comfortable experience for both you and your feathery friend.

In the following sections, we will explore the different aspects of handling cockatoos, from understanding their body language and communication to safety tips and potential challenges. Let’s dive in and learn more about these delightful birds and how to take the best care of them.

Understanding Your Cockatoo’s Body Language

Recognizing Signs of Comfort

Cockatoos show signs of comfort and relaxation when they trust their caregivers. It’s important to watch for these cues, as they can help determine if your bird is ready to be held.

  1. Preening: When a cockatoo preens itself or attempts to preen you, it’s an indication that they feel at ease.
  2. Fluffing Feathers: A relaxed cockatoo may fluff their feathers periodically, though be cautious as excessive fluffing could also mean stress.
  3. Playing: Playful behavior, such as swinging, climbing, and exploring, signals happiness and contentment.
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Decoding Signs of Stress

It’s equally vital to know when your cockatoo is uncomfortable or stressed. This can help prevent unintentional harm while handling them.

  1. Bite Threats: Lunging, nipping, or opening their beak wide and hissing are indications your bird may feel threatened.
  2. Screeching: Loud and continuous screeching can be a sign of distress or discomfort.
  3. Rapid Breathing: Increased panting usually means a cockatoo is agitated or stressed.

Tips for Safely Holding Your Cockatoo

Approaching Your Bird

When first approaching your cockatoo to be held, it’s essential to maintain a calm and gentle demeanor. Use a soothing voice and approach them slowly, giving them time to adjust to your presence.

Step-Up Technique

When teaching a cockatoo to step onto your hand, gently press your fingers against their lower chest area, prompting them to step up onto your hand. Always reward your bird for stepping up with a treat or praise.

Training Consistency

Consistent, daily training sessions are key to ensuring your cockatoo learns to trust you and becomes comfortable with being held. Allow your bird to set the pace of interaction and avoid pushing them too hard or too fast.

Gentle Touch

When petting or cuddling, stick to the head, neck, and cheek areas, and avoid petting the back, wings, or tail feathers. Inappropriate touching can inadvertently encourage hormonal behavior or cause stress.

Challenges and Precautions

Fearful Behavior

If your cockatoo is skittish or fearful, it is crucial to take extra precautions and ease them into the idea of being held. Building trust through hand feeding, talking softly, and giving them ample space will help.

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Overly Excited Behavior

An overly enthusiastic or energetic cockatoo may accidentally harm itself or its caregiver during play. Use engaging toys and training activities as a bonding alternative to holding.


During the molting period, avoid rough handling, as your cockatoo may be sensitive and irritable due to new feather growth.


Do cockatoos like to be held? Generally, yes – they enjoy the interaction and affection from their human caregivers. However, it is essential to approach handling your cockatoo with patience, respect, and understanding of their individual needs and preferences. By following the tips and techniques provided, you can create a safe and enjoyable experience for both you and your feathery companion.


Q: Do all cockatoos like being held?
A: While many cockatoos enjoy being held, it’s crucial to remember that each bird is unique and may have different preferences. Patience, understanding, and respect are key to building the bond that leads to successful handling.

Q: How can I tell if my cockatoo wants to be held?
A: Look for signs of comfort and relaxation in your bird, such as preening, playing, or approaching you willingly. Conversely, if you notice signs of stress, it’s best to give them space and try again later.

Q: Can holding my cockatoo harm them?
A: If done correctly, holding a cockatoo is safe for both the bird and its caregiver. It’s crucial to follow proper handling and training techniques, be patient, and always respect your cockatoo’s boundaries.

Q: How do I introduce my cockatoo to new people?
A: Slow, gradual introductions are essential when exposing your cockatoo to new people. Allow your bird to observe the newcomer from a comfortable distance before attempting closer interactions.

Q: What are the best treats for rewarding my cockatoo during training sessions?
A: Healthy treats, such as small pieces of fruits or vegetables, nuts, and bird-safe seeds, are excellent options for rewarding your cockatoo during training and bonding sessions.

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