Joey Bird boy has been my companion bird since 1990 something when I adopted him. Click here for his story. We have been together for over 20 years and he will always be a wild Umbrella Cockatoo. Notice that one of his nails is missing and the band on his leg. He came to me this way. I have no idea how he lost that nail.
I don’t think he was handled very much before he came home to live with me. He didn’t trust perching on my hand, didn’t know how to balance on my hand, didn’t know how to “step up”, and generally very dangerous because we aren’t talking a hand fed here. He was lightning fast when he decided to bite and so I had to be very attentive and not have him near my face. Over time, he learned my ways, he began to trust perching on my hand vs on the upper forearm.
Oh yes, he has given me many reminders when I wasn’t really paying attention. And when he does, it was my error. He is very good at reading my body language and will nail me if it suits him to do so. In order for me to be interacting with him, I too must stand and observe him first. I must assess if it is safe for me to pick him up or wait until his attitude changes. (This is where a squirt bottle comes in handy to mist him a bit) If I just pick him up without doing this step, he is prone to biting. Like the one in the photo. A cockatoo bite has three puncture holes and really hurts.
I know when I must maintain eye to eye contact when he is around me. This is a safety issue with a wild cockatoo. Eye level to his species is key. To increase my birds calmness, i will perch him on top of his cage in a subdued light. If he is too aggressive, I will set him lower than my eye level. When I carry him with me from room to room, he is on my right hand and at a lower eye level. This tells him I am the leader and gives me time to react should he decide to go for my face. (Yes, he has gotten my face a couple of times.) My counter will be to allow him to drop to the floor. I will pick him back up and do a few “step ups” on the way to his cage. (his room)
I taught him the step up exercise some years ago; but, he has taken a few years to be really ok with it. He used to be insecure and rest his head against my chest while stepping to switching hands. He is so proud of himself now. This exercise calms him and places him in a zone. It is also for safety. Should there be an emergency, giving the ‘step up’ command can save his life.
Body Language. When he looks all fluffy with his feathers all out away from his body and his umbrella is down, this would be a great time for interaction. If his feathers are tight to his body and his umbrella is up and flared out – this is not a good time at all. The only time I approach him like this is if it was an emergency. As I approach him, I am looking into his eyes and also looking at his posture and feather placement. He is also doing the same with me. He assesses me and he is very good at reading me. I can now read people the same way and I had a natural teacher.
Placement of his cage I found an ideal place. He is away from windows but he can see out and get light when I have the curtains open. He is away from the heaters. He isn’t located near my front door. The reason for that is if I put his cage there he would be on guard duty. It would be a cruel thing to do; so, I don’t. His cage sits his outstretched body plus 1 in. away from the wall. If he gets to the wall, he will peel the paint away and won’t stop until he gets through the wall. (I think my landlord would frown on that) So, now he is comfy. I have no mirrors. He is most relaxed while perched because he can see me, has no drafts, gets light, and has a wall behind his back. I hear bird owners say they cover the cage at night. Not an option for me. Joey will eat through whatever is covering his cage.
Sounds. When I leave the room for too long, he calls to me. When I am on the phone he starts to call to me or will begin making loud noises with his toys. He might even start banging his swing against the cage. At sunset, he is vocalizing (shown in the photo). If he doesn’t like the way something looks on my TV, his tail will flair the umbrella comes up and out with a loud scream. At dawn he will make medium clucking noises. If I don’t wake up, he will sound like an alarm clock. A very loud alarm clock. When children make a lot of noise going down the hallway, he will call to them. When the pizza person shows at my door, he will wait about 10 seconds to make a loud short burst of noise. He thinks this is funny. I think my laughter reinforced this quirk when we both watch the person jump. Laughing over bad behavior actually reinforces the behavior.
Speaking about laughter.When I worked, I kept the television on to keep him company. Some of those shows have canned laughter. I watch cartoons and comedy shows and of course he hears me laughing. One day I was on the phone with a friend of mine. Joey was perched on the arm of the couch close by. I giggled at something and stopped to talk once again. I heard laughter and it was coming from Joey. My friend asked me what I was laughing about and I said that it wasn’t me, it was Joey. His laugh is mine. Since then, he laughs with me, when audiences laugh, when a person laughs, and when a person cries. It occurred to me that laughing and crying sound the same to him. Imagine crying during a touching scene in a movie and hearing laughter coming from the bird. Just view one of my videos on my YouTube Channel. He is really funny.
I will keep documenting my life with this beautiful bird. He can be so sweet and gentle with me. One of the videos I made was with him running his beak along my arthritic knuckle. You can watch it here. He makes it hard to record because he stops doing what he is doing when he notices me with a camera.