I was talking with a friend the other day about my African grey parrot and an issue I had been having with the parrot recently.
He told me that he had a cockatoo, and he had experienced a similar problem.
I’ve always had parrots, but never owned any kind of cockatoo, so I was intrigued how else the two species compared.
We started comparing everything else about our parrots and how it is to take care of them, so I decided to compile all of our notes to look at how they compare.
The first thing is they are both rather complex, high maintenance parrots. Even among parrots they are both quite intelligent. They are both larger parrots, and will make a lot of noise, both being quite good talkers. Cockatoos are much more demanding of your time and attention.
So, the differences are numerous, but they are fundamentally similar in many ways.
Both species are not good as a first-time parrot, is the most important point I would make.
They have complex needs and will require a lot of active stimulation and attention, depending on the temperament of your individual bird.
Let’s look into this in more detail.
The main similarity is in their size.
They are both on the larger side, and require a good deal of space to move around and interact with you.
As I’ll get into later, African greys might need less direct interaction, but they both need the same amount of space and essentially to be able to get your attention at any time.
The fact that their behavior can become boisterous and even aggressive if they are not given the level of care and attention they need is the other important similarity.
As I said, these are two highly intelligent species, and they will have serious mood swings if they aren’t getting enough attention or interaction.
That said, their preferred method of socializing is not necessarily the same.
What is important, though, is that you recognize the level of maintenance you are taking on with either of these parrots.
They do have a very similar diet.
Both eat primarily seeds and typical parrot feed like pellets and nuts.
They will also both need a certain amount of fresh plant food, like fruits and vegetables, in their diets.
If you are a first-timer, neither is really a good choice.
They are hard to maintain and become even harder when they don’t have all their needs met.
If you do have a good amount of experience, then either one will be a good choice—so, to help you finally make that choice, let’s look at how they are different.
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Firstly, they come from very different parts of the world.
Cockatoos come from Australia, and inhabit a number of different territories inland like dryland and scrubland.
African greys, as the name implies, come from Africa primarily, and live in a variety of habitats.
The big difference, as I mentioned, is in their temperament and how they relate to you.
Cockatoos are very affectionate and highly social birds, needing direct interaction with you.
They will want a lot of cuddling, playing with you, sharing things with you, and otherwise being near you.
African greys are much less high maintenance in this sense.
They will need to see you regularly and you will need to play with them and provide stimulation, but they are also often quite happy just hanging out beside you.
They are less ‘needy’ in that sense.
That’s good for some people, but this naturally means that they are less cuddly than cockatoos.
African greys can be very affectionate and intimate in this way, but more often than not they are more independent than cockatoos.
Cockatoos, without constant interaction and stimulation, can very quickly become bored and depressed.
So, this is the thing you most need to be prepared for.
If you have a preference in temperament and how much they want to be interacted with, there is a clear line between the two.
But that isn’t all there is to it.
Which one is right for me?
If you’re an experienced parrot keeper, then you will likely be able to handle either one very well.
Think about how vocal you want them to be, how affectionate, and how much time you can spend interacting with them each day.
They both have very different emotional needs, but the fact is you are also going to need to be prepared for their individual personalities.
Because both African greys and cockatoos are so intelligent, they have a high capacity for range in their personality.
You may get an African grey who is much more like a cockatoo, and vice versa.
So, while we can give general advice about the species, you need to be ready for anything.