I answer the phone and the person on the other end asks simply if I have any
baby cockatoos available, I can be pretty certain that they are talking about Umbrella
cockatoos. Umbrellas or White Cockatoos (Cacatua alba) as they
are also known, are the most familiar and abundant of all cockatoos in
captivity. Umbrellas are so much more prolific than other cockatoo species that
commercial breeders often refer to them as their “bread and butter” birds.
While most male cockatoos that have been raised as pets have definite problems
relating to females of their species, “umbies” apparently have a stronger
innate sense of themselves. They are the only cockatoo that can boast
significant numbers of hand-raised individuals who have made the successful
transition from pets to breeding birds. It is likely that the availability of
chicks of other cockatoo species will drop sharply as the age of the breeding
imports in this country increases, but there will always be baby Umbrellas.
a good thing, isn’t it? Well,
it depends whom you talk to. Unwanted Umbrella cockatoos make up an inordinate
number of the parrots in rescue and rehabilitation programs around the country.
And that’s not because of any inherent flaws in their pet potential. A
properly raised, well-socialized, happy Umbrella cockatoo can be a wonderful
key word here is “happy”. Cockatoos have one of the most complex psyches of
all birds, and their need for closeness with other creatures makes them both
endearing and difficult pets. It’s not always easy to keep a large, intensely
emotional, in-your-face sort of bird happy.
A buyer who is made aware in advance of the potential difficulties is in
a much better position to determine if he or she is truly up for cockatoo
ownership. Anyone who sells a baby
parrot has a responsibility to make sure it has a good shot at a long, happy
life with the people who are taking it home. And that is doubly important with a
bird as potentially overwhelming as a large cockatoo.
sometimes it’s hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Most people who
think they want a baby cockatoo have good intentions and many will back out
gracefully when you gently point out some of the facts of cockatoo ownership.
One of the facts that aren’t discussed nearly often enough is adequate cage
size. A large cage is one of the most important factors in assuring the
long-term well being of a pet cockatoo.
Committing to a large cage and the floor space it requires will quickly
separate the truly committed parrot owner from the impulse buyer or the person
who just thinks it would be cool to own a big beautiful bird.
cockatoo’s happiness depends to a large extent on interaction with its human
flock, but we all have to deal with events in our lives that can temporarily
affect our ability to give our birds the attention and out-of-cage time that
they need. Most large cockatoos start out as treasured family members until a
new baby, job change, illness, divorce or other disruption takes its toll on
family harmony or familiar routines. There is a direct relationship between a
cockatoo’s willingness to amuse itself for hours in its cage and the demands
that it puts upon its owners. A bird in a large cage with lots of toys and room
to swing, play and work off steam by flapping its wings hard, is in a far
better position to cope with a much-loved owner’s temporary unavailability
without becoming part of the problem. A
big cage can be an effective buffer between a cockatoo and family tensions.
what would I consider an adequate sized cage for an Umbrella cockatoo? No less
than 30 or 36 inches deep by 48 inches wide – always keeping in mind that
there is no such thing as a cage that is too big. Similar dimensions are
recommended by parrot rescue and rehabilitation organizations that see every day
what harm small cages can do.
a large cage is expensive. But so is a large bird and all of the toys, food and
veterinary care it will require over the years. It is grossly unfair to a
cockatoo to sell it to someone, however well intentioned, who plans to buy a
bigger cage as soon as they can afford one. If the bored, unhappy bird begins
screaming or feather plucking while in the small cage, the owner may opt to get
rid of it rather than invest more money.
People often argue that the bird will be out much of the time on its play
stand, so a smaller cage should be sufficient. However, a
cockatoo rarely develops the same level of attachment to its cage or play
area that other species of parrots do, and they can be notoriously difficult to
train to stay put when they are loose. Their reputation for being destructive
insures that they are rarely afforded the unsupervised freedom often allowed
other parrots. At the risk of sounding anthropomorphic, the behavior of a
cockatoo confined for 8 or 10-hour stretches in a cage that is too small will soon
resemble that of a claustrophobic person stuck in an elevator. A large cage is
an Umbrella cockatoo owner’s best insurance that his bird won’t develop
habits such as screaming, feather plucking or repetitive rocking and weaving.
a personal note: No cage can solve the problem if a bird hasn’t been taught to
amuse itself there. However, since I have been enforcing the “big cage”
rule, I haven’t had a single new owner of one of my baby cockatoos call to
ask, “What can I do to get my bird to like his cage?”
or Call @ 419-588-2279
Copyright Hornbeam Aviary 2001