Bird Sitting a Cockatoo For 24 Hours

Photo by Dave Location: Sandpoint, ID Excited ones: Rose Breasted Cockatoos "Bondi", "Ace" and "Bandit"  

Some friends asked if I could watch their rose breasted cockatoo, Ace, for a day or so. They were staying at an aunt's and I was happy to look after Ace (whom I hand fed when he was just a youngin' anyway!)  

I was actually really looking forward to seeing if he would remember Bandit, but I don't really think they remembered each other. When they were babies, Bandit was very mellow and Ace was all over the place! You can see some of their early baby videos here.  

Now, before getting Ace I was told that he's quite the screamer, had bitten a bit and was a very picky eater. Well, I was staying at my parents' house with my entire flock so everything was quite shocking for Ace. I immediately introduced him to Bandit and Bondi - he did well with both of them and I let them fly around together for a while to get out all their energy! They seemed to love it though my birds definitely did circles around poor, winded Ace!  

Ace was very fearful of my macaws so I made sure that he spent some time around them but not a lot. He was also very startled by my mom's cats - even though his owners have a cat, apparently the cat he knows hides anytime he comes out so he doesn't really know about her.  

Photo by Jamieleigh Location: Sandpoint, ID Shown: Galahs "Bondi", "Bandit" and "Ace"  

My goals with Ace were:

  • Get him to eat Organic pellets
  • Have him be calm around my parents' animals (3 cats, 1 dog)
  • Try real foods
  • Step up onto my hand without being forced (via pushing up on his chest or cornering him)
  • Fly to me on cue
  • Like everyone else in the house
  • Not scream (unless in celebration in flight)
  • Not bite anyone

Quite a lot of goals for only having him 24 hours!  

Here's how I did it all... first, I set up his travel cage with a bedding of paper towels, gave him a bowl of organic parrot pellets and a bowl of water. I mixed in a little bit of solid brown Mazuri pellets, too. He didn't really touch them and he wasn't hungry when he first got to the house, plus, he was out of his cage most of the time, too!  

After his flying episode where he got to fly around with my other cockatoos and in the presence of my macaws (though they didn't choose to fly) he was ready to come inside the house. I was proud of him because he had already learned to flock with my cockatoos, get along with them both and be OK in the presence of my macaws (though not completely comfortable).  

Inside, I let him hang out on the kitchen counter (my parents have what is called an "island" where just the sink is a lot of counter top space). Ace was pretty startled at first, he saw cats and a dog plus heard my birds all around... and he had a certain call for being scared that sounded like a tazer gun! It was very cute. I was hoping my birds would pick up on it before he left...  

Ace walked around the counter for a while. I asked him to come onto my hand a couple times and he didn't want to so I went back to entertaining myself yet still watching him. Then he finally came over to me and I let him step up. He went onto my shoulder and seemed very comfortable. He got startled at one point in time and ended up flying around and landing back on me and I set him on the counter. This time he didn't want to come to me so I didn't make him, again.  

Well, my mom was in the kitchen and talked to him a bunch in a sweet tone while she was doing her thing aorund the kitchen. Out of no where, he flew to her!  

We were all so excited! So my mom went and sat by the warm fireplace and let Ace sit on her shoulder the whole time. He was tense for a long time but after a while, his crest went down and he perched on just one foot, getting very comfortable on her! We were so happy - and since all the animals in the house love my mom, they were all following her... so Ace was able to get used to the cats and dog while feeling safe on her shoulder.  

At first, he would tense if they came into vision, then just when they were heading in his direction, then only when they got within a few feet... and eventually, he didn't get bothered by them at all!  

Photo by Jamieleigh Banana Chip Eater: Galah "Ace"  

By the time he was content with the other animals, he had gotten hungry. So, I brought out my own cockatoos and gave them all some bread to eat. I know Bondi LOVES bread so I knew using her to show Ace it's good stuff would work. And it did, he dug right into it! I then introduced him to banana chips, nuts, seeds and more...  

Photo by Jamieleigh Pigging out: Rose Breasted Cockatoo "Ace"  

The stuff he tended to like, I had other people give him (my mom, Dave, etc...) which is why you see Ace letting Dave hold him. He got used to everyone in the house and was landing on everyone when the time came for his socializing lesson!  

The next thing I introduced to Ace was creamed corn. I talk about mushy foods as a way to get your bird to eat healthier here. Well, Ace did not like it one bit! But he was keen on the baby formula I was making for the macaws... so I warmed up the creamed corn a little and he LOVED IT! Sometimes it's just as easy as changing the temperature.  

Photo by Dave Eating: Galah "Ace"

So that was 3 goals achieved out of 8 so far. The next thing I worked on once he was full was I tried calling him by name and saying, "C'mere!" in an excited voice. He came and began flying to me, my mom and Dave when we called him! His reward for doing so was hanging out on the shoulder of that person. He had him out for a really long time and he never screamed or bit anyone. My mom was beginning to like him better than my baby Bandit! 

He naturally stepped up without any force because he was eager to be with any of us and I never had to force a hand to his chest. The last thing I had to do was get him to eat organic pellets but that wasn't happening on a full tummy that night. So the next day I came in at the late part of the morning and his organic pellets were eaten! Now, I gave him more than he could eat but he had obviously eaten quite a bit of them. The rest of his tummy I filled with good foods... minus any cucumber because Bondi told him it was gross (thanks Bondi). 

Other than that, he was great! He wasn't startled by the animals, people, or noises in the house or other birds coming in to hang out. He did great and we even sat down and watched a movie with him. 

Ace was honestly one of the best birds I've ever worked with. Probably the easiest!

Article by Jamieleigh Womach. She has been working with parrots and toucans since the age of 17. She isn’t homeless but is home less than she prefers to be. She travels the world with her husband, daughter, and a flockful of parrots whom she shares the stage with.

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