This one is for all my "bird" friends...you know who you are...
Most people don’t understand my unnatural obsession with birds…all birds really, but specifically MY birds, and mostly my umbrella cockatoo who I lovingly named Lola when she came into my life at 12 weeks old.
Lola appeared in our lives sort of haphazardly, but then again not really. I’m pretty sure she had a plan from the moment she laid eyes on me, because as soon as I picked her up she laid her head on my chest and literally cried like an infant. It must have been that “sucker” tattoo on my forehead that she spotted because I was “stick a fork in me” done immediately. I had owned birds for many years, but this pile of white feathers captured my heart with one fell swoop, and I haven’t been the same since. We took her home on my birthday, the weekend of the 2010 blizzard, and she held our hearts hostage. We hand fed her with a 60cc syringe filled with bird formula for over a year. I even began making her bird baby food from a concoction of applesauce, vegetables, sweet potatoes, a dollop of peanut butter, and numerous other things that would go into a blender, then into the syringe. I still make up a mix of fresh food for her every day, and I’m sure I will until the day I die.
We doted on her, played with her, spent a small fortune on toys, bought her a cage that takes up half of my living room, and let her run our entire life. She was thrilled at her ability to make us do her biddings. At the same time, we taught her to play by herself – with her mountain of ridiculously expensive bird toys – and enjoy the company of her feathered brother and sister, Sam and Lisa. Overall she was unimpressed with her siblings, as she is with anything that might possibly take the spotlight off of her, but she found enjoyment in her new surroundings. I contribute her impressive socialization to the fact we encouraged her to “make her own fun” and we hand fed her for so long – something that is not unusual for cockatoos in the wilds of Australia, Malaysia or Indonesia. In fact, parent cockatoos have been known to feed their young well into their second year or until the mommy and daddy bird have another “clutch.” Cockatoos have an inherently strong flock mentality, and they rely on each other for most everything, including emotional support. Yes, they are highly emotional. If Lola were human, she’d be considered a drama queen.
To know Lola is to love her. She’s a brat, a clown, a master manipulator, a skilled snuggler, and about a million other things. No one believes me when I tell them that she crawls under the covers and curls up next to me when I am lying in bed watching tv. She’d attached herself to me with Velcro if she could. She demands all of my attention when I am in the room, and you cannot even believe how hard it is to ignore a pet that can actually say its own name OVER and OVER and OVER to persuade you to pick her up and give her a smooch on the beak or a scratch under her wing. This past week, we left for a trip and she was without us for five days. I had a slew of friends stop over to feed her and talk to her, but I was worried. It was a first, even though she had just turned three years old. Cockatoos can pluck themselves, sometimes to the point of self-mutilation, if they perceive themselves to be lonely, or unloved. Loneliness can turn to neuroses, and that is very very bad for a bird. But we arrived home and there she was, looking especially cute, bouncing up and down, and repeating “HI LOLA!” until I got her out of the cage and covered her with kisses. She was fine. I was relieved. She is an extraordinary bird and I am so proud of her.
I’ve owned pets my entire life. Indeed, I really can’t imagine my life without my “feathered and furry babies” for one moment. I currently have Lola, my blue pionus parrot Sammy, my sweet flighty cockatiel Lisa and my bedroom slipper of a Pekingese Marlen. All of them are so intrinsically woven into the fabric of my being, but Lola more so than the others for sure. Maybe it is because I know she stands a very good chance of outliving me. Thankfully, she is in love with my daughter as much as Bill and me, so I know if something happens to me, she will be loved like no other bird. I find great peace in that fact.
Would I recommend to anyone that they go out tomorrow and get a cockatoo so they can understand these incredible creatures? No I absolutely wouldn’t. Why? Because far too often people bring birds into their homes without understanding all that is involved with these highly social, highly intelligent creatures. No they are not merely “decorations.” Yes, they will love you to death. They will also break your eardrums with their “singing” (I used that term loosely.) They are messy, expensive, demanding, painful if they bite, and incredibly stubborn when it comes to getting their way. We live in their world, not the other way around. And while I have brought my three feathered kids (fids) into my home, the fact of the matter is they are still wild animals – not at all domesticated like a dog or a cat. You cannot predict their behaviour, and you cannot promise that they won’t unexpectedly lean over and take off an earlobe. Lola has yet to draw blood, but I know it is not a matter of “if” but “when.” It will happen eventually, and more than likely it will involve stitches – something I have never had before, and honestly, I am not looking forward to at all. But I will still love her to pieces, and I will still encourage her to be exactly what she is…one of the most glorious, affectionate species of birds on earth. Cheers to the cockatoo – creatures with the intelligence of a five year old and the emotionally reasoning of a two year old, equalling the smartest brattiest most delightful two year old…for the rest of their lives.
If you are looking for information on cockatoos or other birds, please contact me and I will be happy to direct you to where you can find the most relevant and honest information.