French Version

The cockatoos

by Johanne Vaillancourt

Translated by Marlène Picard (Mooghie)



The cockatoo, a luxury item

When asked to write about the cockatoo, my first thought was of a nice, big, luxury car. Similar to luxury car, the cockatoo is increasingly accessible to all (credit being so available), but not everyone can afford to maintain it.Much like a luxury car, the cockatoo has a two-speed personality: charming and exasperating. It requires a lot of care and is easy to damage and/or break.

This parrot model comes in four sizes: micro, mini, medium and super and three colors: pink, white and black, except for the micro (the cockatiel) that is now available, thanks to human ingenuity, in a wider selection of colors. Initially developed from Australia to Indonesia, the birds of the cockatoo family have almost disappeared from these regions due to the plundering of forests and smuggling (here I give the example of the lemon-crested cockatoo, today terribly at risk because of the rampant deforestation in Sumba, Indonesia, the only island where it is found). Consequently, certain models are now produced in series in North America.

To live with this luxury model, it is important to understand one or two little things about its natural life, as a free bird.


At home ...

It is a model that is very well adapted to its environment. Distributed from Australia to Indonesia via the Philippines, it lives in a wide range of habitats, from dense humid jungles to the driest plains.

The cockatoo is able to adjust and to use for his betterment the environment in which it is located. It is terribly intelligent and adaptable, capable of judgment and reasoning. It knows how to make the most of its environment, even use tools. Cockatoos use extensively their hands (feet) to manipulate objects and to prepare and ingest their food (the Rosalbina and the cockatiels are the exception, perhaps because they generally feed on the ground).

The cockatoo is curious, almost from the moment of its birth. Indeed, unlike other species of parrots, the cockatoo is born with the capacity to hear and will immediately receive auditory stimuli in its environment. As soon as it is capable to do so, the young cockatoo will start exploring its environment. These adventures will take the form of digging, exploring shapes and textures and attempted escapes out of the nest. The baby cockatoo will nibble and taste everything that passes near its beak.

The cockatoos usually move in pairs within a group. It is a most gregarious animal, even in the breeding season. It depends on the security provided by the group to survive. It is also monogamous and will choose a partner for life.

The cockatoos spend much time grooming each other. This serves to strengthen the emotional bonds within the couple and maintain cohesion within the group.

The parrots belonging to the same social group take care of each other. They are constantly calling and notifying the group. When a predator appears, they will protect each other as best as they can. Observers note that, surprisingly for a prey animal, cockatoos do not seem to dismiss a member of their group if it is injured or ill, and frequently they will stay near a dying member. In addition, cockatoos will help each other. It is common if a baby falls from the nest to see other members of the group take turns to feed and protect the little one. Such behaviour would indicate a strong emotional bond in this species of parrot, link rarely observed in other social animal species.

Unfortunately, in the wild they are often considered pests, similar to our pigeons, especially by farmers of Australia. Cockatoos are very destructive. They destroy crops, pushing the effrontery to attack grain silos. Their ravages may extend to the roofs of houses, fences and automobiles, in fact anything that comes near their beaks.

The cockatoos have a large strong beak that must be maintained with chewing...Which they do a lot. Far from urban areas, cockatoos are useful. They help maintain ecological forests by helping spread and sow seeds. They also help reduce insect populations thereby providing a beneficial service to the environment. However, near urban areas, they can be real nuisance. Imagine them in our homes...!


In our homes...

This luxury model is very costly... especially in spare parts for the house. It is needless to say that the destructive potential of a cockatoo does not disappear with life in captivity.

The cockatoo is a resolute and persistent bird. When it focuses on an object, it is almost impossible to distract it from its obsession. At one time, I bought telephone wires by the dozen, believing that one day, my cockatoo would eventually understand not to touch them. Finally, I had to abdicate. It was much easier to change the location of the phone. My cockatoo had more willpower than I. This luxury model is equipped with a super microcomputer and a lot of RAM. It never forgets. Better to remove the object of its desires, otherwise, it will return tirelessly to finish what it started.

The cockatoo is a very intelligent bird and defers to the fact that we, humans, will not remember this small detail. This "small detail" has still its importance when you live with a cockatoo. When properly socialized, the cockatoo knows what it is entitled to receive or have in the house, but it is also perfectly aware that the punishment will be short lived. Even if it knows the consequences of its actions, it simply cannot resist. The cockatoo is a bird that lives in the present. It will act first, think (sometimes) later ... In captivity, its life is not in any danger, and the impact of its actions is minimal.

The cockatoo is a nibbler. It loves to chew; it is its nature, a need. It especially likes to remove anything sticking out: shirt buttons, moles, embroidery on a sweater, a small protuberance on a wall (which will become bigger in its care), etc... It is a thief and a cheat who will grab everything within its reach. So be careful, especially if you have two or three cockatoos because if two can get together and start making plans and tactics to achieve their ends, three can take over the house and if you have four. .. they will have your full and unconditional surrender!


Smart strategists ...

For those who like intelligent animals, the cockatoo will provide hours and hours of pleasure and will meet your needs well. The cockatoo is a conqueror; your home, a territory to conquer.

Note: With this model, the floor space can quickly become limited ...

As I have already said, the cockatoo is intelligent but it is also diabolically clever. It can climb everywhere, jump and leap defying your imagination and all models come with the option "open all": dishes, lids, doors, drawers, locks, cages, etc...
Try to confine a cockatoo to its cage and you will understand why Houdini is the name most frequently assigned to this model ... Physical ability combined with a Machiavellian intelligence. Before you have time to react, you will find yourself in conquered territory!


Let me scare you a little ...

The cockatoo likes to have control over its immediate environment and that control is reinforce by the fear that it generates among family and friends. Cockatoos love to terrorize! This gives them a sense of power and I must admit ... flatters their egos! They are extremely observant and if they detect the slightest flaw in their human, they will use it. This type of aggression is just a game for the cockatoo with the exception of when it is in breeding mode. They have fun, they play at being the bad guys and watch out when it works, it is the height of ecstasy. You'll see!

Humans are not the only victims of the terrorizing-cockatoo. Take my dog, a Great Dane of 120 pounds, who refuses to wear her collar inside the house for fear of a cockatoo clinging to it, while perch on its back! Or cats that roam belly flat on the floor, on the lookout for the cockatoo that will spring out of nowhere, crest and feathers extended, with a Tarzan-like scream, ready to pounce on their tail! In most cases, the cockatoo terrifies those around it to get control and also to play, but at other times...


I love you so much ...

The cockatoos, in particular the male of the specie, may have strong and exclusive bonds with its loved human that will lead to aggression, making somewhat difficult the possibility of a long-term relationship. In a relationship, the Cockatoo desires the full control over the human and may become overly territorial. The most difficult to understand for cockatoo are the boundaries of its relationship with the human and where ends possession. With a "human partner", the adult cockatoo may become jealous, possessive, and even dangerous to its human partner and to those close to him.

The cockatoo beak is as sharp as a surgical knife. From an early age, or upon his arrival in your home, it must be taught, the first rule of captivity to not bite. Reminding it of this will be required for the rest of its life.

It is essential that it knows that biting is not a proper means of communicating its desires or emotions.


Tell me that you love me....

Unlike other species who do not appreciate much physical contact, the cockatoo never seems to get enough. It is a sensual bird. This is not a whim but a necessity. With each other, cockatoos spend considerable time caressing each other, preening, feeding each other. This seems to be part of their basic programming. This behaviour, natural between cockatoos, will simply be transposed to humans. With their young, they are very attentive parents. They take care of their offspring without hesitation, feeding them, brooding, pampering taking turns without tiring.

Parents take their role very seriously and will continue to be involved well after fledging. Cockatoos love to get attention from their human partner, lots of it, and any kind of attention! This is not an independent being, it needs a constant presence. This luxury model is very energy-intensive and consumes all of the attention and the care that you can give it (unleaded of course). It is the perfect companion for individuals with socio-affective problems, but it is sure to drive a normal human being crazy. Some species, such as the Moluccan cockatoo, the White cockatoo, the Little Corella and the Eleonora can be extremely demanding physically and emotionally.

This overly emotional bird can only be accommodated by a limited number of parrot lovers. It requires time and high availability in order to satisfy this specie. Better be warned.

If you are under the irresistible charm of a cockatoo and do not have 28 hours a day to give it, opt for a slightly more independent specie (as if independence was part of the cockatoo vocabulary ), such as a: Goffin's cockatoo, little yellow-crested cockatoo, the citron cockatoo or the Rosalbina. However, a cockatoo is a cockatoo and always will be more demanding than any other species of parrot. What a barnacle!


Look into my eyes ...

The cockatoo is sensitive and empathetic bird that will mirror the moods and personality of its human. A human with an aggressive and threatening behaviour may create phobic and aggressive behaviours in a cockatoo. They tend to react strongly to negative energies.

If you have a dispute to settle with your spouse, do not attempt to settle it in the presence of your cockatoo. Never raise your voice in his presence. By controlling your impulses, you will better your marriage and your bird.


Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful cockatoos ...

Fortunately for them, as loving and cuddling, as they are, if they looked like harpies, the potential for caresses would be greatly diminished. The cockatoo is very careful and proud of its beautiful plumage. Naturally, the white model requires more maintenance, but no wax is needed, it is included with the purchase. Indeed, the cockatoo rubs its feathers with a fine powder giving him a soft and fluffy appearance. Nothing is more majestic than a cockatoo with its fabulous crest raised (this model parrot luxury comes with the sunroof as standard equipment); its feathers ruffled, tail spread wide, seeming to say. .. "Look at me, all of you ... I am the greatest and most beautiful." Obviously, the effect is much smaller in the case of a Goffin's cockatoo or a small Corella. Finally, nothing is perfect in this world and it is the thought that counts....

Some species like the white cockatoo want to seduce so much that they coat their bodies with as much powder as a Louis XIV wig. Indeed, this specie is certainly the one that produces the most powder. Those with allergies, please abstain. However, the presence of this powder is a sign of good health among the cockatoos. Sick birds have little or no powder. In a cockatoo, that has contracted the beak and feathers disease this powder is completely absent. This powder allows the bird to keep its whiteness and allows him to care for its beautiful plumage.


Pulling off the petals of this flying daisy...

A big question, should we let our cockatoo fly? Should we trim the flight feathers? Between you and me, and just between us, I must admit that the bird could not care less! Even if you trim the flight feathers ... it will fly anyway! This luxury bird is so agile that to restrict it to a perch, you would have to cut not only the flight feathers, but the beak and the feet as well.

Those who believe that by trimming the flight feathers they will solve destruction of property problems may be very disappointed, once the hurricane gone by, to see their cockatoo intensify its efforts and wait for the most suitable time!

Even with well-trimmed wings, this luxury model remains an ace of the aerobatic. It has an aerodynamic design meant for high speed (while flying, running and climbing). This is what is best in the all-terrain model! No matter how many feathers you trim, it will adapt and will always find a way to achieve its goal. Therefore, if you have time to spare, you can try to trim his flight feathers ... Cockatoos love a challenge!

You can always cut the flight feathers of a cockatoo, but you will never stop it, just barely slow it down. Anyway, if you try to stop it...


Let have a tour of Hell ....

Alas, I do not joke. The lack of freedom for a cockatoo is like the lack of oxygen. Kept in a prison, it will choke. Well... might as well do it with dignity. JAIL MASTERS BE WARNED ... YOU WILL SUFFER!

With an absolutely amazing capacity to emit sounds, especially the larger species, but also equally surprising in the smaller ones (sorry a silencer is optional in this model and must be installed by hand), the cockatoo will drive the toughest to insanity. I advise you not to venture in this direction with a healthy bird!

If your cockatoo manages to rouse the whole neighbourhood on the subject of his detention, give him freedom and he will whisper a thank you!

Cage and cockatoos are antagonisms. The cockatoo does not support any form of restraints. He needs freedom to be able to explore its territory as it pleases, all of its territory! Moreover, it loves participating in the activities of the household, to follow and imitate humans, to act as hosts if you have visitors, to take part in discussions and games, to share meals with the family and most importantly, to capture all of the attention. It must be an integral part of the family. Of course, you will have to educate it properly, otherwise...

The cockatoo has mastered the art of manipulation. It knows how to pull the human heartstring. You, people who, like me, are already living with one or more cockatoos do not know this perhaps, but you are its puppet. IT IS THE COCKATOO THAT PULLS THE STRINGS! Well, as far as it is concern. Do not annoy it. You might as well accept it! You will be controlled for the rest of your life.


ParticipAction ...

This luxury model needs, after a proper adjustment, a racetrack to exercise and burn energy. In its natural habitat, the cockatoo spends hours flying, playing and destroying everything in its path. If in your house, his only occupation is to walk the four corners of his cage, you risk much ... The cockatoo will not tolerate this for long. It is important that it exercises, as it has lots and lots of energy to burn. I think it is best for everyone that it does so with healthy activities rather than to return to Hell ...!


Methuselah among parrots ...

The cockatoo lives old, very old. As old, if not more, than you. Some cockatoos have been known to live a hundred years. One of the oldest known to date is a White Cockatoo in England who died at the venerable age of one hundred and eleven years old. Talk about old!

Unfortunately, its longevity is not an advantage in captivity. It will have to rebuild its life and adapt to new people and new situations several times during its long existence. If we calculate that the average person in the best of conditions, will keep a cockatoo about five years, then a normal and healthy bird will rebuild its life twenty or twenty-five times. We wonder why cockatoos acquire behavioural problems...!


Coco amidst the lunatics...

The cockatoo is a luxury model and therefore, it is fragile, often broken and requires many repairs. It is one of the parrot species that exhibits the most behavioral dysfunctions in captivity. The threshold to insanity is easily crossed.

Unfortunately, in captivity, the cockatoo lives most often on the dark side than the light side. The dysfunctional behaviour the most frequent is the hyperdependency. The chances that you meet a cockatoo independent and autonomous are as unlikely to meet the pope in a synagogue on the Sabbath. I am not saying it is impossible...! The cockatoo needs a companion to function well. He does not know innately how to live alone. It needs to be interactive and relational.

We can try to make a cockatoo autonomous so that he can function fairly well by itself, but it is almost useless. A cockatoo without a human or bird companion is half of a cockatoo.


Feather Plucking

Another problem well known to lovers of cockatoos, which is the nightmare of veterinarians and a great source of frustration for your humble servant, is unquestionably the feather plucking. The feather plucking is a syndrome not a disease. The feather plucking is the name given to all forms of mutilation by the beak, applied to feathers, including the extraction and chewed. Can be diagnosed when the bird damages the feathers, skin or damages the normal development of its feathers. This disorder can be compared with trichotillomania in humans. The feather plucking is not observed in nature, a perfect plumage is a prerequisite for survival.

As easy as it is to diagnose, as it is difficult to treat. There is no miracle cure for feather plucking, each case is unique and there are as many reasons birds do it that there are birds doing it. A sub-problem often occurs in cockatoos who exhibit feather plucking. They turn into pluckers period. The pluckers may feather pluck or not, but will love to pluck other birds. The Goffin's cockatoo is often found in this category. It usually begins with a simple grooming of a mate, followed by the chewing and tearing of feathers.

Obsessive-compulsive, the cockatoo excels in the development of obsessions and rituals. Often, a cockatoo who feather plucks will develop other obsessions - it is common in some birds to consistently repeat a series of movements repetitively in a particular order.


Coco "rated XXX ...

The cockatoo has a libido much above the average in the world of parrots, especially; you have probably guessed ... the males. In breeding season (most of time or almost), some males may be aggressive towards their female partner. If you have the pleasure of fulfilling this role, look out! If you have not taken the time to properly socialize your parrot, you may soon be a statistics in the book of victims of domestic violence.
In the world of cockatoos, is the male who wears the pants, unlike many other species where the female dominates. The male dominates the female cockatoo, she is his and this makes him very jealous. He constantly seeks to dominate her, and watch out if she dares refuse his advances. The male cockatoo is nothing but a stud!

Think you are the proud owner of a beautiful male cockatoo...? Think again, you are owned! Should you decide to provide Romeo with a companion, please ensure that the lady has ample space to be able to move away if our Romeo becomes too pushy or aggressive ...

If you stroke your cockatoo, male or female, and he or she begins to tremble under your fingers that means that he or she is ready. If your parrot does not have another cockatoo as a companion, it is likely that it will set its heart on you. You may well end up playing the role of "sex machine" for as long as the relationship lasts.


In summary

The cockatoo is a bird for people that are considerate. Considerate and ... available should I say. The amount of time and attention you bestow will play a significant role in your cockatoo's socialization and adaptation to life in captivity. The decision to adopt a cockatoo requires reflection and deliberation. It should never be an impulse decision. The difference between a luxury car and a cockatoo is that it is a living being with desires, needs and expectations. It depends entirely on you for its survival and well-being. The cockatoo is not a part-time pet, to be with you only when you need it, it is a separate being that has much to offer and expects to receive much in return.


© Johanne Vaillancourt 2002


You should also visit this website  
All About Cockatoos -


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