How to Stop Your Cockatoo From Screaming for Attention

Cockatoos are vocal birds, but captives shouldn't be constantly screaming for your attention. To keep your cockatoo happy, provide her with opportunities to entertain herself, like fun toys to play with and yummy foods to eat. Ignore her constant calls for attention, and interact with her only when she's quiet to let her know her that screaming won't get her the results she's looking for.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Cockatoos are social birds who enjoy your company because they see you as part of their flock.
credit: PanuRuangjan/iStock/Getty Images

Enrich Your Cockatoo's Environment

Cockatoos are intelligent birds who need to be kept busy during the day -- otherwise they will get bored. A bored cockatoo will scream for your attention until you interact with her. Keep your avian friend occupied by providing her with various toys to play with, especially when she's by herself. Rotate toys every few days to prevent Tweety from becoming bored with them. Meanwhile, make her work for her food by hiding it in specialized foraging and puzzle toys. Cockatoos enjoy eating a wide variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables and nuts; place these tasty treats within avian puzzle toys to keep your bird busy foraging for them.

Interact With Your Cockatoo

Don't keep your cockatoo in a rarely used back room -- keep her right in the center of things with the rest of your family. This way, she won't feel isolated and start calling for you to interact with her. Play with her using a lightweight ball or stuffed toy, encouraging her to fetch it for you and to catch it when you gently throw it to her. If she gets at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise and interaction with you each day, your cockatoo won't be screaming for your attention because she'll be tuckered out.

Ignore Your Screaming Cockatoo

Teach your cockatoo that loud screaming won't summon you to her. When she screams, simply ignore her until she quiets down. Once she's been silent for at least five seconds, go interact with her and give her treats. Pretty soon, she'll learn that screaming won't result in what she wants, which is interaction with you. Never scream at your cockatoo when she vocalizes because this can actually negatively reinforce her behavior and frighten her.

Redirect the Unacceptable Behavior

Teach your cockatoo to perform tricks on command that she can't do at the same time she's screaming, such as picking up a favorite toy or saying a phrase like "pretty bird." Reward her with treats when she successfully performs these actions consistently on command. When Tweety starts screaming for attention and won't stop even when ignored, say the command to perform one of these tricks, recommends expert Jenny Drummey in the winter 2009 issue of "The Phoenix Beakin'," a publication of the Phoenix Landing Foundation, a parrot welfare organization. This will stop your bird from screaming and redirect her attention onto a more acceptable activity, which you can reward her for.

Reassure Your Cockatoo

Make a note of when your cockatoo calls for you the most during the day and evening. Prior to her normal calling times, take the initiative and call out to her with a reassuring phrase like "Hi, Tweety!" to let her know that you're around and that everything's OK. After hearing from you, your feathered friend won't feel the need to scream out for your attention, recommends avian consultant Sam Foster.

No Snuggling

While some cockatoos enjoy being snuggled, a cockatoo who is frequently cuddled may start to view you as a mate, which can lead to behavioral problems and excessive calling for your attention.