Linus’ Vacation

Linus in NM. Photo by Anna Sloan

Q: What is loud, destructive, high maintenance and totally missed?

 – Patty J., Orlando, FL

A: Linus the umbrella cockatoo.

People have been asking how Linus is doing in New Mexico. It’s hard for me to write about it because I think the only way I get through this is by not thinking about it – or trying not to. I am grateful to so completely trust the person taking care of Linus that I never have to worry for his physical well being. That fact is comforting enough that I am able to push him from my thoughts when I start to get teary eyed. I am simply unaccustomed to life without him.

For those of you unaware, Linus is staying at the home of a friend whom I have known for several years. With the return of Jamie and Dave and their flock, we decided that it would be best for Linus to be elsewhere while we worked on some projects. Linus has shown himself to be somewhat uncooperative around the Womachs, perhaps because of a past history they share to which he has taken exception for reasons only a cockatoo understands.

Linus is a temperamental bird – “edgy” describes him well. He is assertive about his rights. He doesn’t like to feel disrespected or disregarded. He will make his opinions known. He is also very fair and very patient, but there is a point where he draws the line, and he needs to be handled by someone experienced who will recognize those signs. When he is handled properly, he is a terrific bird.

He particularly enjoys manipulating anyone who shows themselves to be nervous or uncertain around him.So, of course, when he arrived in New Mexico, his first order of business was to test the mettle of his temporary caregiver to see what he could get away with. He did this by refusing to step up for her and held on to cage bars with an unbreakable grip. My clever friend, knowing how to appeal to the vanity of a cockatoo, sweet talked him into cooperation before he even knew what was happening. She knows that the trick to success with an uncooperative cockatoo is in making them feel that everything was THEIR idea.

It didn’t take long for Linus to realize that her game was as good as his and he gave up testing her at every turn. With this out of the way, they are able to move on with things and really get to know each other.

He is currently being housed in a room with several other large cockatoos whose company he seems to enjoy. It would appear that when gathered together, male cockatoos enjoy competing to see who can scream the loudest. I’m betting Linus has won a match or two.

I talked to my friend today. She said everything is going just fine. Linus has been friendly and cooperative with her and the volunteers at her rescue. And she seemed to be able to hear me during the conversation. That is a very good sign.

Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987. 

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