Can a Cockatoo Bite Your Finger Off?

As this writer can attest, cockatoos are beautiful and highly social. They have an obsessive need to be around the people in their lives. A cockatoo is a demanding but very loving bird.  Cockatoos are one of 21 parrot species.

Few birds could bite with enough force to sever an adult human finger. But a cockatoo can cause nerve damage and crushing injury. An angry cockatoo could bite a child’s finger off or break it at the very least.

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Why Would a Cockatoo Bite?

Biting is a common problem in companion parrots, including cockatoos. A parrot, or cockatoo, is a wild animal with the instinctual traits of a wild animal. These traits will remain even if they have been hand-reared.

Biting is a natural behavior for birds. Anyone who is planning to own one needs to understand this. Here are some reasons why a cockatoo bites:

Fear or distrust

An adult cockatoo will see some family members as their “flock” and consider them trustworthy. However, anyone your parrot doesn’t know or trust could get bitten.

It is possible that your cockatoo is afraid or simply doesn’t like certain members of the family. Your bird may not like you and will attack and bite out of fear.


Overstimulation or playfulness may cause a bird to bite. Cockatoos or parrots are prone to this behavior. You must know how to read your bird’s body language and avoid handling him if excited.

It would help if you remembered that parrots, like people, are all different. Body language can vary from one bird to another. Observe your cockatoo learn his body language to avoid being bitten.


All parrots will bite if tired or stressed. Parrotts generally need 12 hours of quiet in the dark to be fully rested. If your pet didn’t get a good night’s sleep, he would be tired and cranky enough to try and bite.

Illness or injury

Just like us, our feathered friends are not themselves when in pain or sick. An injured cockatoo may bite you, even if you are his favorite human. Be careful when handling a sick bird.

Territorial behavior

Many parrots can exhibit territorial behavior around their cage or favorite person. If a bird is territorial of his cage, he will try to bite if you attempt to take him off his perch.

Your cockatoo may become territorial of you and try to bite you or a rival for your attention.

Hormonal changes

Sexually mature parrots go through hormonal changes brought on by the breeding season. However, cockatoos are affected by hormonal changes more than other parrot species.

There is no way to stop hormonal biting or general aggressiveness, so avoid handling your pet when it appears his hormones are surging.

Like other animals, your cockatoo will not try to bite without giving warning signs first. Once you understand what triggers this behavior, you can avoid being bitten by reading your parrot’s body language.

Warning signs your bird may bite

  • Hissing
  • Lunging
  • Feather ruffling
  • Eye pining
  • Head bobbing

Don’t ignore these signs. Try to distract your cockatoo by talking calmly. Then wait a few minutes before trying to handle your bird.

If you do get bitten, don’t yell or quickly pull back. Give your pet a firm “no” or “no biting” command. Put the bird down and withdraw your hand slowly, repeating “no.”

What to do if your cockatoo bites you

Always remember that parrots are wild animals. They can injure your face or hands when being handled. There are no incidents of a cockatoo removing a finger; however, larger birds could cause serious injuries. A properly placed bite can draw blood or cause pain.

It would be best if you washed the wound thoroughly if the parrot bite draws blood. Apply antibacterial ointment. Bites caused by larger parrots may require an emergency room visit for stitches.

Larger cockatoos and birds can cause fractured fingers. You may be at risk of permanent injury without the proper treatment. If in doubt, see your doctor and get it checked out.

If the bite gets infected, you may need antibiotics to avoid parrot flu or psittacosis.

What is psittacosis?

An uncommon infectious disease is transmitted to humans through exposure to infected birds, especially parrots, cockatoos, and similar pet birds. Psittacosis affects the lungs and may cause pneumonia.

When a bird bites you, what does it mean?

Cockatoos use their beaks to grasp things and maintain their balance. Perhaps when your pet bites your hand, you are not being bitten, but beaked. Aggression and biting isn’t a natural fighting behavior for parrots.

Are birds bites dangerous?

All parrots have sharp, strong beaks that can cause damage to the skin. If the bite causes bleeding, medical attention may be needed, and in some cases, you may require stitches. Be careful when handling your feather friend, as larger parrots can break finger bones.

Why would my cockatoo suddenly become aggressive?

Not enough socialization, jealousy, hormonal changes, or other factors can make your bird aggressive. Introduce your bird to new people and situations to prevent fear of strangers and territorial behavior. The hormonal changes will pass after adolescence.

Is a cockatoo the right pet for you?

Cockatoos have outgoing personalities and soft feathers. They are great pets, especially for experienced and committed bird owners. But they require diligent care.

Ensure you are comfortable with their quirks, personality traits, and long life expectancy before you get a cockatoo. Consider the following:

Can you commit the time to care for a cockatoo?

Make sure you have enough time in your schedule for care for your cockatoo. You need to check on your bird in the morning, spend 30 minutes to an hour feeding and playing with it. Later in the day, you will need to interact with it again.

Interaction with your bird will allow you to bond with it and create an emotional attachment. Cockatoos are happiest when they can connect, verbalize, and play with their owners. Committing to this daily ensures the cockatoo will remain happy and healthy. Cockatoos that do not get enough social interaction can develop behavioral issues, such as feather plucking.

You will need 30 minutes a day to clean the cage, then one to two hours once a week to do a thorough cleaning.  Block out time to care for your pet each day, making sure it will fit in with your existing commitments.

Cockatoos have a long life. Some can live up to 80 years. Keeping this in mind, it is essential to make provisions for your pet after your passing.

Consider the cockatoo’s personality

If you like smart, friendly birds, a cockatoo is for you. Not only are they intelligent, but observant in their everyday interactions. They have a lot of personality for a small bird.

But it would be best if you prepare for the noise level. Cockatoos are chatty birds and will “talk” to their owners by screeching and squawking, especially when they need attention. A cockatoo may not be the right pet for people who do not like noise or live in close quarters. But if you live alone or with those who do not mind bird noise, go for it!

What do I feed my cockatoo?

Your cockatoo will require regular feeding with a seed mix containing sprouted seeds. He can also be fed fresh fruits and vegetables. To increase the amount of calcium in his diet, give your bird a calcium block.

When determining the amount of money you have in your budget to care for your pet, factor in the cost of seed mix and fresh foods for your bird.

You will need a cage and accessories

Set aside space in your home for the birdcage. He will also need accessories like a birdbath, perch, and other toys in addition to the cage. Over time, you will need to buy new toys or other cage accessories for the cockatoo. Your pet will need an annual vet checkup, which can cost between $50 and $100.

Bird Grooming

Cockatoos self-groom as most birds do, using the birdbath in their cage. You can also set up a perch in your shower to allow them to bathe. You may need to trim the bird’s wings if you do not want them to fly around your home. You can cut the wings yourself every few months or take them to a professional groomer. Its beak and nails may need to be trimmed as well.

Protect your feathered friend

If you have other pets, like dogs or cats, you should be prepared to keep the cockatoo separate from them. Depending on your other pets’ disposition, you may have to wait to see how the bird interacts with them. You will need a countertop or table for the cockatoo’s cage.

Recognize the difference between female and male cockatoos

Male cockatoos are more vocal than female. They whistle and talk more often to the owners. The females will lay eggs if they are around a male, so keep this in mind if you do not want cockatoo babies. Cockatoos are better in pairs due to their social and outgoing behavior. Perhaps start with a single bird, then add another one of the same or opposite gender.

What does a cockatoo cost?

There are many cockatoo species, so prices can vary greatly—plan on budgeting around $800 to $3000 for an average purchase. But for a rare species, the cost can be much higher.