I share my home with five parots: Linus, an umbrella cockatoo; Theo, a Goffin's cockatoo; Libby, a quaker; and Tinky and DeeDee, my cockatiels. Since they will be frequently mentioned in this blog, I think proper introductions are in order.
Linus is a good boy. Of course the term good is relevant because we are talking about an umbrella cockatoo. He is willful and manipulative. He won’t stay perched for any increment of time that is currently measurable. He has an attention span that makes the word “NO!” pointless, and the memory of an elephant – he will never let go of the time I carelessly closed his toes in the cage door. And then there’s that plaster cracking scream…he’s a pretty typical cockatoo. Just when I start to wonder about my sanity, he will bury his head under my neck and fall fast asleep. There is NOTHING like the snuggles you get from a cockatoo.
I can’t account for a great deal of his life. What I do know is that he was wild-caught. Since the importation ban in 1992, no wild birds were allow to enter the U.S. making him at least 17 years old. Putting on my detective hat, I investigated the etched numbers on his quarantine band and learned that he arrived in the U.S. through an importation station in California. After that, the trail is lost until he was found in a shelter by his previous owners, the Womachs. It’s gut wrenching for me to think about the likelihood that he was passed around from home to home before he was placed in a shelter. If the Womachs hadn’t found him I believe his future would’ve been bleak.
Linus lived with the Womachs and their varied flock. As well as being a bird trainer, Dave is an illusionist. His act, which is booked on cruise ships and around the world, is highly acclaimed and includes his birds. Linus was part of this exciting life and loved performing. He is a cockatoo, after all, and needs an audience to continually remind him of how wonderful he is. Once, when being shipped to port, he was lost by an airline for nearly two days. This resulted in an illness and, ultimately, a change in him that would bring about his move to Austin to come to live with me.
I think it’s safe to say that Linus felt betrayed when he was not met by Dave and Jamie at the airport as usual. Of course, he had no idea that he was lost and that his owners had no idea what airport he was at. Following this incident, the Womachs moved to a new house and added to their flock. Sadly, the combination of events had a profound negative effect on Linus, and finally, that huge and heartbreaking decision that he might fare better elsewhere had to be reached. Arrangements were made. You can imagine the outrage when Linus was put on the plane to Austin, and once again Dave neglected to pick him up. Linus let me know pretty quickly that this new arrangement was unacceptable.
Today, he seems mostly healed. He has let go of his issues of anger and mistrust. I will go into depth about our first months together in future pieces.
Theo is also a re-homed bird, but came to me with a very different background. She came from a single home, where she lived 22 of her 23 years. She was very loved and well cared for, but her previous owner didn’t feel she was thriving and also had to make that very tough choice.
When she came to live with me, she was perch bound, had never been caged and was frightened by toys and just about everything else. For entertainment, she would barber her wings. When you pulled them away from her body, they looked like a butterball turkey wing covered in little white feathers.
We (me and my flock , although it was the other birds here who taught her the most) got to work on these issues and as of today her cage is full of well-loved toys and her wings are fully feathered. She, like any self-respecting goffins cockatoo, has learned how to escape her own cage, and dismantle the cages of the smaller birds. I’d like to say, “My work here is done”, but I know it is just the beginning.
A sweeter bird has never graced this planet.
What a joy it is to have a quaker in the house. They are so full of personality, and if there was ever a big bird in a little bird’s body, it is Libby.
Everything you’ve read about quakers is true. They quake. They build cool nests. They also steal. If you are missing something, especially if it is shiny, check the quaker cage – it’s probably there. I have found pen caps, paperclips, and toys from the cockatiel’s cage in Libby’s cage. She managed to carry off a pair of my glasses. Her shamelessness knows no bounds.
Tinky and DeeDee
These were my first birds. It is through them that I developed my deep love for parrots. They taught me much and forgave me for all the mistakes I made while I was learning. For anyone who thinks that the size of the bird determines its intelligence or ability to overwhelm your heart, let me assure you that is not the case. Often the smaller birds take a back seat to the bigger birds simply because they are less imposing. Cockatiels are every bit the parrot that a macaw is.
Me? I’m Patty, and I look forward to sharing tips and information with you and my experiences with the flock.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.