How Do I Know If My Cockatoo Is Happy?

Cockatoos make great companions when their needs are met, they’re both affectionate and comical, however, sometimes they can be subdued with their affection and happiness leaving you questioning whether they’re happy or not. 

Regular pets like dogs or cats can make it obvious that they’re happy, dogs may wag their tails and jump all over you giving kisses whilst a cat may jump on your lap for a bit of attention. A cockatoo body’s language and personality is a little more complex and can be more difficult to read unless you’re an expert.

We’ll be guiding you on things to look out for to know if your cockatoo is happy or not, and also what else you can do to help make them happier in your home. 

How Do I Know If My Cockatoo Is Happy?

Body Language

Sometimes when your cockatoo is after a head scratch or a pet, they’ll bow their heads in front of you as a way of asking for some attention as they’re very fond of you.

Although, this body language can also be mistaken as cockatoos also bow when they’re not feeling well, so try to stay alert to see if they’re displaying other sickness symptoms. 

If your cockatoo is excited or is trying to show off in front of you, then they will raise their crest feathers and move about a lot whilst making loud noises. This just shows that they’re happy and confident around you and want to get your attention so you’ll make a fuss of them. 

Cockatoos may also do this if they’re trying to display how big and strong they are compared to other cockatoos or their humans. They’ll jump up and down and flap their wings to assert their dominance in front of you. This is seen as a positive thing however, be wary that they could grow overly confident and begin to bite you if they feel threatened or if you do something that they don’t like. 

If you’re lucky enough you may even catch your happy cockatoo doing a little dance or bopping around to any music that’s being played. You won’t catch them moonwalking across the perch but you may get to see them bobbing their head in time to the beat and also kicking their legs out to show you that they’re dancing. 

They can be very lively when they want to, so try enticing them to dance by sticking on some good bops and even dancing in front of them to encourage them – they’ll love the quality time they have with you. Instead of dancing, a happy cockatoo may also wiggle their tail like a dog to show its contentment. 

A common sign with birds that they’re content and comfortable in their environment is that they’ll hang upside down from their perch (or trees in the wild). When birds do this they put themselves in a vulnerable position to prey, however, they feel comfortable and protected in your home that they’ll do it. 

Some cockatoos love being on their backs whilst cuddling with you and having their tummy’s stroked. If yours allows this to happen then it’s very evident that they’re fond of you and happy to be around you. They may also snuggle if you to your chest when they’re out of the cage and rest their head on your shoulder. 

You may even be honored enough to get kisses from your cockatoo, sometimes they gently nibble or peck your ear or cheek to show how happy they are around you. Sometimes, they may try to regurgitate their last meal as a sign of affection towards you as this is what they do in the wild for their young. 

If your cockatoo likes being handled then it’s a clear indication that they’re comfortable and happy in the environment you’ve created for them. If during playtime outside the cage, the cockatoo follows you around or tries to always sit on your shoulder, then you’ve got a happy (and needy) cockatoo on your hands.

Birds can control their irises and it is a good way to tell how your cockatoo is feeling. Often when they’re happy or excited to see you, their eyes will flash and pin on you as you approach them, although you should monitor their other body movements to see if this is true as it could also be a sign of aggression and defensiveness. 


If your cockatoo is happy and in a good mood, then you’ll hear them talking, singing, or even whistling throughout the day.

Some may do this to show off to any people near or to get their attention, whilst others may be so content that they want the whole world to know. If a cockatoo hears you playing music or whistling a tune around the house then they may try to join in to get your attention.

Often, if you’ve paid your cockatoo attention after them singing or whistling in the past, then they’ll keep doing it to try and get your attention again in the future. 

Happy cockatoos will chatter away or at least attempt during the day to try and impress you. You may even hear them muttering sayings or words that you’ve said to them in your time together as they’re trying to copy you to try and impress you.

If they’re sitting in their cage and you’re doing chores around the home, you may hear them talking loudly as they try to get your attention so you’ll come near. 

A happy cockatoo will normally make sounds with their tongue clicking against their beak to try and entice you to come over and pick them up. Often when they’re feeling needy and want some affection or petting they’ll make this sound.

However, sometimes this could also be them just entertaining themselves whilst you’re out of the room so it’s not always essential to come over and give them some love. 

Some obvious signs that your cockatoo is not happy are that they’ll growl when approaching them or when you enter a room. This may not be to do with you but could also be something in the environment that you’ve placed them in.

You should not try to pet or pick them up if they continue growling and should leave them be until they’ve calmed down. 

If your cockatoo is screaming or screeching then this is a clear signifier that they are not happy. This could be down to you not paying them enough attention or could also be due to naughty and disruptive behavior.

If you’re ensuring that your cockatoo gets enough attention and time outside their cage throughout the day, then you may need to train them that screaming won’t get your attention.

Don’t approach them when they’re screaming so they learn that this approach won’t work. Once they go quiet, reward them with a treat and pet them so they know that being calm will entail them getting your attention. 

If your cockatoo is older or less confident, then they may not display all these signs so don’t be too concerned if they’re not dancing around their cage whenever they see you, it may just not be part of their personality.

However, cockatoos are commonly very loud birds so if they are being quiet or less active, then it could be a sign that they’re not happy at the moment or something is wrong with them.

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