Though they’re not as large as some other species, cockatoos are considered the world’s loudest parrots. There are 21 different species of cockatoo, and none of them are considered to be quiet.
The loudest cockatoo is the Moluccan, which has an average decibel range of between 120 to 135 decibels. Citron-crested cockatoos are the quietest of the species, but they aren’t quiet. Cockatoos are also known for their ear-splitting screeches. They make this sound when they’re scared, over-excited, in pain, ill, ignored, or looking for a mate. They also mimic sounds and songs that they hear and whistle.
Cockatoos aren’t suited to small homes or apartments, as the noise that they make will upset your neighbors. They need plenty of space and a pleasing environment to prevent them from vocalizing too frequently.
Are Cockatoos Noisy Pets?
Cockatoos are fun, affectionate pets, but they’re very noisy. They make ear-splitting sounds that are often too loud for owners to tolerate for very long. In the wild, cockatoos vocalize to survive. The sounds they make enable them to find their flock mates and alert each other of incoming dangers.
As mentioned, Moluccan cockatoos are the loudest of all cockatoos. They have a decibel range of 120 to 135. In fact, this makes them the fourth loudest parrot species in the world, bypassed only by nanday conures, mealy Amazon parrots, and sun conures. To put these decibel figures into context:
- Human laughter: Equivalent to 65 decibels.
- Average talking voice: Equivalent to 60 decibels.
- Thunderclap: Equivalent to 120 decibels.
- Air raid siren: Equivalent to 135 decibels.
- Jet engine or fireworks: Equivalent to 155 decibels.
Citron-crested cockatoos are the quietest of the species, with Galah cockatoos not too far behind. But this doesn’t make them quiet birds – the noise they make is just more tolerable than the others.
Cockatoos aren’t suitable apartment birds, regardless of the subspecies. They’ll upset your neighbors and cause a nuisance, making you unpopular.
Are Cockatoos Loud At Night?
While cockatoos sleep at night when it’s dark, they can sometimes stir in the night. That’s because cockatoos, like all birds, are capable of unihemispheric sleep. This is where only one hemisphere of the brain is awake at one time.
As described by Nature and Science of Sleep, the primary purpose of unihemispheric sleep in birds is so that they can watch out for predators. You can usually tell when your parrot’s in unihemispheric sleep because one eye will be open.
Similarly, some parrots are prone to night frights. This happens when they get scared of something at night. If something bothers them, they’ll start screaming and thrashing around in their cage.
This behavior stems from the wild. When parrots spot a predator, they vocalize to alert their flock mates and then fly away to escape danger. In captivity, they’re unable to flee and instead react in fear.
Cockatoos can hurt themselves by doing this, so you must attempt to make your parrot feel more comfortable when the lights go out. If you hear your parrot vocalize at night, try to calm it down. Cockatoos can get scared by:
- Car headlights
- Insects flying past the cage
- Unfamiliar sounds
- Dog walkers
- Other animals, including cats and dogs
- People, particularly if they pass the cage in the dark
- Sudden lights
Cockatoos that are suddenly startled are likely to scream and may not quieten down until it feels calm and safe. Placing a cover over your cockatoo’s cage could help it settle down after dark, but all parrots respond differently to this – in some, it may make their night terrors worse.
What Are the Different Noises Cockatoos Make?
Cockatoos make several natural sounds, but they’re also capable of mimicking words and basic phrases. This means each bird vocalizes differently. Cockatoos are also influenced by their owner’s vocalizations and the sounds within their environment. Cockatoos in noisy homes are likely to be louder, while quiet homes breed quieter parrots. However, cockatoos share several noises in common, including:
Squawk And Screech
Cockatoos are famous for their loud-pitched screeches. They make this sound when danger’s nearby. Most cockatoos squawk and screech every day. While it can be hard to bear, it’s an essential part of their communication profile and is entirely natural.
Cockatoos also commonly experience a screaming session just before they go to sleep. If you have multiple cockatoos, they’ll set each other off. Umbrella, Goffin’s, and Moluccan cockatoos are more likely to scream than others, but all are prone to doing so. It all depends on their personality and how happy they are within their environment.
Cockatoos are capable of making melodic whistling sounds. Parrots with owners that whistle frequently will copy them and mimic their melodies.
If you plan to teach your cockatoo how to mimic words, do so before you train it to whistle because it’s far easier and more fun. This means your bird might lose the desire to learn to mimic.
Thankfully, whistling is a sound of a happy, contented bird. It’s also relaxed and recognizes that danger isn’t nearby. However, it could be bored and trying to get your attention. If so, entertain your parrot with games and toys.
As mentioned, cockatoos can say plenty of words. It can be challenging to train cockatoos to say words, but they speak in a soft, sweet voice when they do. This is what makes them popular pets, as other parrots mimic in harsher tones.
Outgoing birds are more likely to speak than shy cockatoos. However, most are social creatures who thrive on interaction with their owners and other birds.
If your cockatoo whistles and talks, it’s also likely to sing. Similarly, if you play a lot of music or frequently have the TV on, your parrot’s likely to copy the songs and sounds it hears. Singing is very similar to talking, but cockatoos only really sing if they’re happy and in a good mood.
As described by Scientific American, cockatoos can sing lower notes than smaller birds when they’re kept as pets. This enables them to mimic human speech more accurately.
Cockatoos hiss, but, unfortunately, it’s not a good sound. That’s because they hiss when they feel threatened. If you’re not careful and don’t heed the warning, your pet will proceed to bite you. Your cockatoo is likely to hiss because:
- It’s intimidated by another bird
- There’s an unfamiliar object in its cage
- It doesn’t want to be touched or petted
- It’s in a bad mood
- It’s feeling anti-social
Hissing is also a sign of fear. Several factors can cause your parrot to become scared, so try to keep your parrot’s environment safe and secure to keep it comfortable and happy.
In the wild, cockatoos make calling sounds to find a mate or locate their flock mates. Pet parrots learn their calls from their owners in captivity and call out to their owners when they’re unsure of where they are.
Calling can be a sign of anxiety and loneliness. If you hear your cockatoo calling out to you, reveal yourself to put it at ease and give it some attention. Ignoring your parrot can cause distress, so try not to do it too often if you can.
Why Do Cockatoos Scream?
Screaming is an unpleasant sound that all cockatoos make. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell why they do this, but it’s likely because of the following reasons:
Pain or Illness
Pain or illness is a likely reason for your bird’s screaming, especially if it’s prolonged and frequent.
Parrots spend most of their lives standing, so a foot or leg injury can cause a significant amount of discomfort. To be sure, look for other signs of pain, such as bleeding or the inability to perch properly.
Similarly, if you suspect your cockatoo has an illness, you might notice that it refuses to eat, develops dull feathers, or loses weight. Signs of illness vary significantly depending on the cause, but if you see any changes to your parrot’s appearance or demeanor, take it to a vet for an examination.
We’ve mentioned how fear can cause your cockatoo to scream. Worry brings out different reactions in birds, but one of the most common is screaming. This is mainly because cockatoos must warn their kin of danger, but it’s also an instinctual reaction that they can’t control.
Cockatoos are intelligent birds. If they learn that screaming gets them attention, they’ll vocalize when they’re being ignored. This can turn into a behavioral problem if you allow it to continue.
However, screaming is also a sign of genuine anxiety from being ignored. Cockatoos that enjoy being around their owners like to know where they are and panic if they cannot locate them.
If your cockatoo often screams because it feels ignored, it’s a good idea to put its cage in a communal location where it can receive plenty of attention.
Like us, cockatoos suffer from off days. They can’t be happy 100% of the time and will vocalize their mood by screaming. However, an unsuitable environment, predatory pets, or an inadequate diet can cause unhappiness and make the screaming worse.
Over-tiredness is another scream-inducing factor. While it would make more sense for tired cockatoos to quieten down, parrots that need sleep may become destructive and vocal. Not all cockatoos react in this way.
Cockatoos scream and screech as they look for a mate. This is normal, but it can be persistent. Similarly, parrots become hormonal during the breeding seasons. While short-lived, these hormone surges can be triggered by a range of things in captivity, such as petting and over-abundant feeding. In some cases, cockatoos develop a sexual attraction to their owners.
You mustn’t allow your cockatoo to become over-excited; otherwise, it’ll scream and vocalize excessively. Pandering to your bird also increases the risk of this behavior becoming normal.
When cockatoos become over-excited, they become animated and overwhelmed. While this might not sound like a problem, there’s a very fine line between excitement and aggression, and it won’t take long before your parrot becomes ill-behaved.
As soon as your cockatoo starts screaming and becoming overly excitable, leave it to calm down for a few minutes. This should prevent further problems from arising and prevents you from getting bitten or hurt.
How Many Decibels Is a Cockatoo Scream?
As mentioned, Moluccan cockatoos are thought to be amongst the loudest screamers of all land animals, reaching an impressive 135 decibels at their highest. Most other cockatoos don’t reach these levels, but they still scream loudly. For this reason, cockatoos don’t make good apartment pets.
Are Macaws Louder Than Cockatoos?
Cockatoos have a louder vocal range than macaws. We’ve already talked about how loud cockatoos can get, but the noisiest macaws reach around 105 decibels. To put this into context, 105 decibels is equivalent to a helicopter that’s close by or a large drum. So while macaws aren’t quite as loud as cockatoos, they still produce a significant amount of sound. Instead of screaming, macaws prefer to:
Owning a cockatoo is a rewarding experience, but their impressive noise levels are sometimes too much for owners to bear. Before choosing a cockatoo, consider your environment and how close you are to your neighbors, as this will undoubtedly affect your decision.